Pretoria - On Sunday President Jacob Zuma filled up his executive positions, expanding the number of portfolios by one, but adding, subtracting and merging. Here are five things you should know immediately about the new Cabinet:
1) Women actually have positions in the executive
Last week the ANC announced its premier selections, along with the DA releasing its Western Cape cabinet, featuring a grand total of four women for 19 possible positions (Premier Sylvia Lucas of the Northern Cape, Premier Helen Zille of the Western Cape, Western Cape MEC for cultural affairs and sport Nomafrench Mbombo, and Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schafer).
Zille joked about a “200% increase” in women in her formerly all-male cabinet, but credit must go to her for finding more than zero capable women in the province.
President Zuma's Cabinet falls short of gender parity, but closer than the aforementioned, with 15 women ministers versus 20 men, and 16 women deputy ministers compared to 20 men.
2) Top performers were retained
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi will continue running the health ministry. While he may exercise overreach at times, he remains effective in his position, particularly after the shenanigans (euphemism, I know) in this important department under former President Thabo Mbeki. Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane also retains her position.
Although Pravin Gordhan has been relieved of his role in the finance ministry, he remains in government atop the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs. This department is meant to manage the relationship between the levels of government and Gordhan’s task will be to sort out the myriad financial problems caused at local and provincial (cough Limpopo cough) level.
3) It pays to be on Number One’s good side
If you stay on President Zuma’s good side, you keep a job without actually having to do it particularly well, such as Tina Joemat-Pettersson who was moved from agriculture, forestry and fisheries to energy. Or you get protected after being disregarded by your own province, like former Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who will now head up the new water and sanitation portfolio.
It also does not pay to be on the president’s bad side. Paul Mashatile, who opposed Zuma’s re-election to the ANC presidency at Mangaung, was tossed out of government from the ministry of arts and culture (he also lost his spot on the National Executive Committee at Mangaung), while Nathi Mthethwa (after a controversial term) was shunted downwards from police to Mashtile’s former position.
Former minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, whose reign has been horrid after a bright beginning, will take over the women’s ministry (the children and people with disabilities are going elsewhere), which will be folded into the presidency. Although this is seemingly a demotion for Shabangu, it can’t be that difficult to do a better job in this portfolio than former minister Lulu Xinwana. In fact it is impossible to do less.
4) Economic continuity
The South African Communist Party will continue to hold onto economic development, and trade and industry, as both Ebrahim Patel and Rob Davies keep their jobs.
There is a rotation in the finance ministry with Pravin Gordhan off to co-operative governance. He will be replaced by Nhlanhla Nene, who you undoubtedly know in at least one sense. Although new in this position, Nene has served as deputy finance minister, and, like Gordhan, has maintained that government needs to keep inflation and borrowing within goal, and bolster investment. Not much is going to change here, except Nene graduates to top dog in the perpetual fights with the Tripartite Alliance’s left wing.
5) Changes in security personnel
This caught many pundits by surprise, with the thinking being that Zuma would continue to protect himself by keeping his security cluster intact. Jeff Radebe moves from justice to minister in the presidency, Siyabonga Cwele from state security to the new telecommunications and postal service, and Mthethwa from police to arts and culture. There’s certainly more to this story.