Zuma’s juggling act: Why Cabinet looks the way it does

2014-05-26 05:00

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President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet appointments represent a juggling act of keeping the ANC’s and Zuma’s allies happy and appointing competent people who can “improve and speed up implementation” of “progressive policies and programmes”.

Breaking up is hard to do

Zuma showed courage in breaking up his security cluster, which has shown political support and loyalty towards him over the last few years, especially during the saga surrounding the high spend on security upgrades at his Nkandla home.

It is, however, interesting that he has not fired them altogether. He made sure they were retained in Cabinet, albeit in less important positions.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was moved to arts and culture and replaced by Nathi Nhleko, the director-general in the department of labour and formerly portfolio committee chair of public service and administration in Parliament.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele was moved to the new ministry of telecommunications and postal services and replaced by little-known public servant David Mahlobo from Mpumalanga.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who is also the ANC’s head of policy, was moved to the Presidency, where he now heads planning as well as monitoring. He was previously rumoured to go to defence.

Radebe is replaced by Mike Masutha, who heads the new justice and correctional services ministry. This is a massive promotion for him as he served as deputy science and technology minister from 2013, before which he was a senior MP.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was retained in the position, which she has occupied for a year and a half.

Loyalty counts

But Zuma showed that loyalty counts for him when he decided to retain former agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was found guilty of several irregularities by the Public Protector. She now heads energy.

He also essentially saved Nomvula Mokonyane’s career after it appeared she would be out in the cold after failing to retain the Gauteng premiership.

Mokonyane, now water and sanitation minister, has been a key ally of Zuma in a province where he is not highly regarded. However, eyebrows would be raised as to whether Mokonyane, who famously told protesting Bekkersdal residents that the ANC did not need their “dirty votes”, would be able to deliver in a key service-delivery portfolio. The party received a lot of complaints about water shortages during the elections campaign.


One of the biggest surprises is the appointment of Mahlobo as state security minister – a complete stranger on the national stage and not considered an ANC heavyweight. Mahlobo is, however, close to Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza.

Mcebisi Jonas, former economic development MEC in the Eastern Cape, was appointed deputy minister of finance. He is new to national Parliament and previously supported Tokyo Sexwale in his initial bid to unseat Zuma in 2007, but he is a capable appointment.

Pravin Gordhan is moved from finance to cooperative governance, which at first sight appears to be a demotion. It is, however, a key position ahead of the 2016 elections, following the ANC’s drop in support in the recent general elections. It is expected that Gordhan would have a tight grip on municipal finances, an issue that has caused protests over allegations of corruption and non-delivery.

Lynne Brown, former Western Cape premier, was appointed minister of public enterprises and her ally in the province, Mcebisi Skwatsha, deputy of land reform. Both belong to the faction opposing the leadership of ANC provincial chairperson Marius Fransman in the Western Cape. Fransman is out of the executive after he only appeared on the province’s elections list as premier candidate.

Rewards for allies

Another surprise was the appointment to agriculture of Senzeni Zokwana from the National Union of Mineworkers, which appears to be a nod to a staunch ally in the labour movement. Former police commissioner Bheki Cele is his deputy, and it is yet unclear how much goodwill they would command from white farmers, who play a big role in the agriculture industry in the country.

Buti Manamela’s appointment as deputy minister in the Presidency similarly seems like a reward to the Young Communist League for their support. The portfolio now also includes youth, which perhaps explains Manamela’s appointment.

Kebby Maphatsoe, who heads the MK Military Veterans Association, was appointed deputy minister of defence and military veterans. He will be responsible for military veterans, a difficult portfolio responsible for the welfare of this group of people.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande was retained as higher education minister and Jeremy Cronin, also from the SACP, was retained as deputy public works minister.

Cronin might, however, have expected to move up in Cabinet, as would Obed Bapela (deputy minister responsible for traditional affairs).


Zuma retained ministers in most of the ANC’s key portfolios. These are Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Nzimande, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

Déjà vu

Lindiwe Sisulu was moved from public service and administration, where she was appointed a year and a half ago, back to human settlements, a portfolio she occupied before 2009. In the public service portfolio she managed to calm tensions between government and the unions and she introduced tough laws about public servants in politics.

Naledi Pandor is returned from home affairs, where she served from 2012, to science and technology. Malusi Gigaba, previously a deputy in the portfolio, takes her place.

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