Ramaphosa compromises on Cabinet but prioritises economy

2018-02-27 06:00
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in deep discussion earlier this year. (Photo: Gallo Images)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in deep discussion earlier this year. (Photo: Gallo Images)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet was an unavoidable compromise that he will now have to explain and put into perspective for the nation, analysts say.

"To my mind there are two things he didn't get wrong and that is the appointment of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprises minister," says political analyst, Ralph Mathekga. "The rest is a disasterous compromise. He will really have to explain this to the nation."

Ramaphosa on Monday night announced sweeping changes to Cabinet, including the appointment of controversial Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza as deputy president. Ministers who got the axe include Mosebenzi Zwane, Fikile Mbalula, David Mahlobo, Faith Muthambi, Lynne Browne and Des van Rooyen.

Bathabile Dlamini was moved to minister of women in the Presidency and former finance minister Malusi Gigaba was moved to the ministry of home affairs, a portfolio he previously held.

"This Cabinet is the real consequence of Ramaphosa winning the ANC election at Nasrec without the support of the greater majority. The transition from Jacob Zuma to a better government will run for many years and the positive gains made could even still be reversed," says Mathekga.

Political analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela says although Ramaphosa had to compromise in several portfolios, it is a positive step that all the Gupta-linked ministers were fired with the exception of Gigaba.

"Ramaphosa's presidency is going to be all about the economy. His priority will be the finance and public enterprises portfolios and there he did not make any compromises," he says. "All the other appointments are of lesser importance and he was able to compromise on them, but he made the right appointments in the economy portfolios."

Mabuza, the new deputy president

Despite widespread speculation that Ramaphosa would opt for a woman deputy president in the form of either Lindiwe Sisulu or Naledi Pandor, Mabuza ended up being the preferred candidate.

"This is the big compromise Ramaphosa had to make," says Melanie Verwoerd, former ANC MP and political analyst. "Mabuza still has to be sworn in as an MP on Tuesday and it's a bit of a messy thing as Parliament hasn't even sent out the formal notification for this."

According to Mathekga, Mabuza's appointment was crucial to Ramaphosa's survival in the ANC.

"It is clear that Ramaphosa has been Mabuza's candidate all along and because Ramaphosa doesn't have outright support within the ANC, strategically he needs Mabuza to back him as deputy president. He also needs to reward him for his support. South Africans will just have to learn to love Mabuza. At least he is the only person who saved South Africa from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma becoming president," he says.

Another consideration might be to give Mabuza the time before the 2019 national elections to build up his public profile as a national leader.

"Despite the fact that he has been linked to all kinds of scandals, the significant part is that he's not linked to the Guptas. This interim Cabinet provides him the opportunity to build his profile as a clean politician. It also opens up space for contestation in Mpumalanga, where Ramaphosa would like to see his supporters take the leadership," Mkhabela says.

Dlamini survives yet another reshuffle

Dlamini's survival in Cabinet has raised the ire of many critics, who say that her ministry's gross failure to manage the social grants distribution system should've seen her pack her bags. But moving her to the Presidency to be in charge of women affairs might have been a strategic move on Ramaphosa's behalf.

"It is not surprising that he kept her in the name of unity in the ANC," says Verwoerd. "She is president of the ANC Women's League and it would've been very difficult to get rid of her completely. But make no mistake that her new position is a definite demotion. It is an appropriate portfolio given her position in the Women's League and also the place where she can do the least damage."

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  anc  |  cabinet  |  cabinet reshuffle

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