Zuma seen as cosying up to the Reds

2012-06-14 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma is seen to be cosying up to the communists with his appointment of Ben Martins, the SA Communist Party’s central committee member, as Transport minister.

This is the view of Professor Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, who said the appointment of Martins was Zuma’s strategy to consolidate his relations with the SACP’s Blade Nzimande.

“It must be noted though the president has not sent a clear message about his cabinet reshuffle, it is clear that he is consolidating his strength in the SACP by appointing Martins,” said Friedman.

Political analyst and SA editor of the Southern Africa Report Karima Brown also found Martins’s appointment the most significant. However, her focus was more on the e-tolling saga.

“One needs to take into consideration how [Sbu] Ndebele handled the e-tolling saga. Surprisingly though, Zuma didn’t make a move that could be interpreted as a purge of those opposed to his second term aspiration,” said Brown.

Another change that had analysts puzzled was the move of former Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to head the Department of Public Service and Administration.

Brown said in her new appointment, Sisulu had a tough job ahead of negotiating with public service unions in the run-up to strike season.

“This will require negotiating skills and given the fact that she will be the face of government during the negotiations, she will need more of the skills as she will be negotiating with ANC allies, the unions. Also, she is not easy to develop good relations with, and this was evident by the criticisms she got when handling matters involving her employees as Defence minister,” said Brown.

Durban-based political scientist Dr Lubna Nadvi said that by replacing Ndebele with Martins, Zuma was trying to send a message that he wanted a new head with a different vision to handle this portfolio after the e-tolling saga.

“Public opposition to this matter has been so strong that no matter who handles this ministry, it is unlikely that the efforts to revive the e-tolling project will be successful.

“Other reshuffles are a reflection that the president is taking cognisance of the gaps in various ministries and hopes the public will have greater confidence in him if they believe that he is trying to bring in new blood into various portfolios that have been riddled with some controversy,” said Nadvi.

Deputy registrar at the University of South Africa, Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, said Ndebele gave it his all in the Transport portfolio but where it mattered most was the issue of the e-tolling. “The e-tolling has turned into a political hot potato so the president had to do something,” he said.

“On Sisulu, the president might still have confidence in her. The Defence Ministry has been under criticism after her handling of unions representing the soldiers, so the president must have felt the need to shield her and the department from more criticism. The only winner here is Martins because his is a clear-cut promotion,” he said. — WR.

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