What the cabinet reshuffle says about Zuma

2011-10-24 15:42

Cabinet reshuffles in South Africa say more about the reshuffler than those who are being reshuffled.

It was obvious who had to go:

» Sicelo Shiceka has been making a mockery of government since 2008, when he used government money to visit a jailed girlfriend in what turned out to be a rather expensive booty call.

» Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde went against legal advice to award overpriced leasing contracts to a well-connected businessman. A no-brainer.

» To suspend Bheki Cele is hardly political craftsmanship – his involvement in the lease deals previously mentioned is as clear as daylight.

The surprise is therefore not what Zuma did, it is the fact that he did it. Although he reshuffled cabinet before, acting decisively has not been his strong suit of late. But now he gives us an opportunity to again get to know our president, and these are the lessons we learnt about him today:

» He clearly doesn’t want more people to get used to the good life that ministerial positions bring. In his reshuffle he did not appoint a single new person who was not part of the executive already. Two MPs – Stella Ndabeni and Lechesa Tsenoli – were called to higher office from Cape Town, but they became deputy ministers (communications and rural development respectively), not cabinet members. Perhaps Shiceka has shown him how ridiculous people get when the Ministerial Handbook is their daily reading.

» Zuma showed he responds to pressure, eventually. He took a while and probably waited to make sure he has done the political mathematics before he made any sudden moves, but in the end the pressure worked. Now everyone, from Cosatu to the DA, can claim they can make the elephant move – referring to the ANC, which is an elephant that moves slowly but decisively, cadres would tell you.

» Zuma knows how to create the perfect frenemy by suspending police commissioner Bheki Cele with full salary and all the frills. By keeping future enemies on your payroll you keep them close. And Zuma obviously knows the old adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. As youth league bigwig Stella Ndabeni never made a secret of the fact that she was no Julius Malema fan. She paid for this with a suspension last year from the ANC Youth league national executive committee. But as a competent and hard-working parliamentarian she showed that youth and brains can get you somewhere in the ANC.

» The final lesson we’ve learnt is that Zuma never learns. Again the Gupta-owned newspaper is the one that had strategically leaked information about the reshuffle. Did Zuma not remember the tearful Fikile Mbalula at the NEC meeting at St Georges Hotel in Centurion, asking him why he (Mbaks) learnt about his promotion last year to full ministership through the Guptas, and not through the president himself?

With the Guptas around who needs Mac (Maharaj) and Jimmy (Manyi) and Jackson (Mthembu)?

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