When ministers meet

2012-01-17 17:54

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel smiled politely when asked how he felt about the resignation this week of his deputy, Enoch Godongwana, but he didn’t comment.

Next to him, Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale, who greeted us with a hug across the table, and who is a master of media relations, joked that Patel should call a press briefing to tell journalists how he felt.

Godongwana’s resignation, with effect from yesterday (Monday) “to pursue personal interests”, was announced by President Jacob Zuma this week.

There has been speculation that his resignation was related to his business dealings as it came against a backdrop of an inquiry into the disappearance of millions of rands from the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union pension fund.

There have also been reports that he didn’t get on well with Patel.

Patel and Sexwale are attending the annual cabinet lekgotla which kicked off this afternoon in the three-star Bela Bela Forever Resort – a much humbler venue than last year’s plush Legends Golf and Safari Resort in the Waterberg, also in Limpopo.

Zuma, who entered the lekgotla venue with a cellphone glued to his ear, with his cabinet and provincial premiers are set to mull over what they have achieved in the first half of their five-year term. They will also decide on government’s priorities for the next year, which will be contained in Zuma’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament on February 9.

The government leaders were in high spirits as always at the start of the year, but unlike other years, journalists were kept well apart from the leaders and were only allowed into the meeting room for about five minutes to take pictures.

In the large convention room, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was seated next to his predecessor as ANC Youth League leader, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, at the long tables set out for the meeting.

The two are said to be in different camps and engaged in a low-key rivalry, with Mbalula wanting a change of ANC leadership at the party’s elective conference in December.

Small bowls of Nestle mini chocolate bars and Endearments, as well as jars with water, were set out on the meeting tables as reinforcements during the four-day meeting.

Ministers are set to stay over in the resort until Friday. The lekgotla was last year held outside of the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria for the first time.

It came in for some criticism because of the extra costs incurred in a time of belt-tightening. The state defended the R2.5 million cost of the lekgotla, saying the fact that the lekgotla was outside of Pretoria meant ministers couldn’t slip away to do other things.

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