Four in Zuma’s shuffled pack have deep roots in KZN

2013-07-10 00:00

THREE Maritzburgers and a Durbanite are among those who benefited from the promotions to minister and deputy minister’s in President Jacob Zuma’s latest cabinet shake-up yesterday.

Yunus Carrim, previously deputy minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, takes over the post of Communications minister from the controversial Dina Pule, who has been axed from the cabinet. Pule was at the centre of a media storm over allegations of cronyism and maladministration.

Former Pietermaritzburg activist John Jeffery moved up from being a Member of Parliament to deputy minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Ben Martins moves sideways in a straight swop from being minister of Transport to Energy minister. The former incumbent in the position, Dipuo Peters, became the new minister of Transport.

Lechesa Tsenoli, a Durban activist in the 80s, will be the new minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Interviewed after the announcement, Carrim said he will attend the 40th reunion of his Woodlands High School matric class in October, showing his ties to Pietermaritzburg remain strong.

Carrim said Communications was a hugely challenging portfolio. “I obviously will need to find my feet in the nine months left before the next election,” he said.

He said he planned to work closely with his deputy, Stella Ndabeni, department officials, other public sectors in the portfolio and civil society organisations.

He felt the sector had been through a great deal of fractiousness and it was time to move to a more co-operative ethos.

“The challenges are huge and the time is too limited, but if we do have the fullest co-operation among all stakeholders and collectively work together, we will be able to move along,” Carrim said.

He is no stranger to the world of communications, having trained as a sociologist and journalist. He had been a regular columnist in The Witness and managed and edited publications for the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Carrim admitted that his first love was local government.

However, he was always up for a challenge and looked forward to learning new skills to adjust and lead a new sector, he said.

Jeffery hails from the Cape and came to study at the then Natal University’s Pietermaritzburg campus in 1982, where he joined the students’ representative body. From there he moved to join the UDF in the late 80s and when the ANC was unbanned in the 90s, he joined the party’s regional interim committee of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and later the ANC’s provincial executive structures.

Jeffery, the constituency head in the Mooi River area, said he was called to the president’s office yesterday morning and informed of his new deployment.

“I am pleased with the confidence shown in me by the president and I am quite eager to work in that portfolio.”

He said while there were challenges, he was not intimidated.

“I have worked in that portfolio committee and, therefore, I am quite familiar with the challenges there,” he said.

Commenting on the spat between the ANC and the DA over the remarks he made about DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, he stopped just short of saying the incident had been blown out of proportion.

He said: “That was one line out of the whole speech. Nobody paid any attention to the rest of the speech.”

Last month, he caused an uproar when he made a joke about Mazibuko’s weight during a debate on the Presidency’s budget.

He was reported to have said: “While the honourable Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable.” The DA took issue with the remarks and Jeffery later withdrew them.

Former Transport Minister Ben Martins said it was the prerogative of the president to decide in which departments ministers should serve.

He said the transport portfolio had been “interesting” with its many challenges.

“I’m told that the Energy Department has different challenges, but I’m ready for those,” said Martins.

Asked if his redeployment to the department of energy was a sign of the president’s lack of confidence in him due to the strikes against e-tolling, Martins said: “It’s not a matter of one minister deciding whether there should be e-tolls or not.

“It’s the function of the cabinet to decide and the minister in that particular portfolio implements the cabinet’s decision, so being sent to another ministry has nothing to do with the strikes against e-tolling.

“In fact, come the end of the month the project [e-tolling] will be up and running. Nothing will change,” said Martins.

Tsenoli, like Carrim and Martins, is also a senior and long-standing member of the SACP. He is also a former member of the Lamontville Youth Organisation in Durban.

He was active in the Durban Civic Forum and was a founder member of Sanco.

Tsenoli also has a journalism background, having run a community newspaper called Ukusa in the 80s, and was a founder member of the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa.

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