Cabinet’s new blood

2011-11-16 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize’s mid-term reshuffle was met with tears by some of those most affected by yesterday’s decision, and relief by those who have been waiting for the axe to fall for more than a year.

Among those left out in the cold was party spokesperson and Scopa chairperson Makhosi Khoza, who was overlooked for a third time for a cabinet post. Khoza, who earlier this year threatened to leave politics after her ambition to become eThekwini mayor was scuppered, was given the job of legislature chief whip.

Insiders said Khoza was in tears about the latest perceived snub.

Instead of rewarding Khoza, Mkhize opted to appoint former ANCYL national executive committee member Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha, to his executive. She was deployed from the national Parliament to the legislature three weeks ago.

Mkhize demoted two MECs who will return as ordinary legislature members. They are Human Settlements MEC Maggie Govender and Agriculture MEC Lydia Johnson. Govender is replaced by ANC chief whip Ravi Pillay, who is seen as a “straight swap” to maintain minority representation in the executive.

Both women have been in the firing line for over a year, especially from the ANC Youth League.

While there was pressure from some allies to fire Social Development MEC Meshack Radebe he survived with a sideways shuffle to agriculture to fill Johnson’s shoes. The move has raised eyebrows among pundits given the problems in Social Development involving three heads of department on Radebe’s watch, as well as allegations of corruption and non-delivery.

Like Sibhidla-Saphetha, Radebe is regarded as an ally of President Jacob Zuma.

In her reaction, Khoza said: “I have no comment on my new position … it came as a shock to me as I know nothing about the position. I cannot say I am happy or unhappy about the new deployment.”

But she said she believes she had made a positive contribution as Scopa chairperson. Former teachers’ union firebrand and MPL K.K. Nkosi is expected to succeed her.

Party insiders said Khoza was too vocal as Scopa chairperson and spoke openly on corruption taking place in Msunduzi. “She was not toeing the line.”

Govender did not issue a statement yesterday, although those close to her said she was relieved given the pressure she has been under for some time.

Radebe said he had no reason to be unhappy about his redeployment. “In the ANC we are deployed, we do not apply. All I have to do is work. It is a new experience for me and since I was born in the rural area, I grew up around agriculture.”

He said there is a lot that needs to be done to ensure his new department serves people.

Attempts to get comment from Johnson were unsuccessful at the time of going to print, and Thusi is out of the country.

Mkhize said yesterday the reshuffle was motivated by the ruling party’s vision to improve delivery and had nothing to do with the youth league’s calls for “heads to roll”.

He also announced the suspension of Social Development’s head of department, Bheki Nkosi. This follows an ongoing fraud investigation and deteriorating relations between Nkosi and Radebe.

KZN analyst Protas Madlala said he is surprised at Govender’s axing. He knew her well and had worked with her in informal settlements where she was meticulous and dedicated to her work.

“She inherited two problematic departments and perhaps it was her no-nonsense style that made her unpopular. It has been months now that the ANC Youth League has been baying for her head. I don’t know why the premier gave into that pressure.”

Madlala said he was surprised that Radebe was moved to another department and not axed like the two women.

“For months there has been talk about the problems in his department, which seemed far worse than the others,” he added.

UKZN political science lecturer Dr Lubna Nadvi said it is useful to have cabinet reshuffles every now and then as it shakes up the political landscape.

“Whatever the reasons, we look forward to a fresh new appointments who have a chance to prove themselves. Who knows, this reshuffle may prove to be healthy; we will have to wait and see.”

The Ingabadi Group’s Nhlanhla Mtaka said the reshuffle was about the balance of forces, with Mkhize trying to keep everyone on board.

“Going forward, the face of provincial government is women, multi-ethnic and young.”

Mtaka said the shifting of Radebe to agriculture would energise that department.

“While others see it as a negative move, it can have a positive spin-off.

“While agriculture may seem a small department, it had huge challenges, including the inter-personal relationship between the MEC and her head of department. Evidently Mrs Johnson tried her best, but not enough,” Mtaka said.

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