Zuma’s team down to business over breakfast at new venue

2009-05-21 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Same breakfast, new venue.

The venue for President Jacob Zuma’s debut as cabinet chairman yesterday had to be changed from the customary cabinet chamber in Tuynhuys to the Goeie Hoop building next to the president’s office because the cabinet is now too large for the usual venue.

While the Goeie Hoop Hall, which was used as the president’s council’s meeting room in the days of the Tricameral Parliament, is now the new cabinet chamber, the fare was the same as before, and ministers feasted on the buffet breakfast.

While some of their colleagues avoided the buffet table, ministers Membathisi Mdladlana (Labour) and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Correctional Services) tucked into the pork sausages and eggs.

Near them, planning commission head Trevor Manuel stood with his hands in his pockets doing the early morning sunshine shuffle, soon to be joined by Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin.

Manuel, a favourite target of the ANC’s leftwing allies when he was Finance minister, and Cronin, a communist known for his reserved nature, became involved in a protracted — albeit one-sided — conversation. While it was unclear what they were talking about, Manuel was going to a lot of trouble to explain something very carefully.

Cronin was not the only red to tackle Manuel. Dr Blade Nzimande, the minister of Higher Education, also spent a long time at the planning boss’s table, listening to Manuel with an earnest expression on his face.

Zuma took his seat early at one end of the chamber. where his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe (who led the previous cabinet meeting), soon joined him.

The new head of state did not participate in the zealous embraces and handshaking of the rest of the executive authority members.

Tokyo Sexwale (Housing) wandered around with a broad smile, welcoming every black suit; Pravin Gordhan (Finance) reminded Richard Baloyi (Public Service and Administration) that they have to discuss public servants’ salaries; while Sue van der Merwe (deputy, International Relations), wearing a snazzy suit, dispensed kisses all round.

An uncomfortable Dr Pieter Mulder, deputy minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, also stepped away from the festive atmosphere to pay a lone visit to the tea table. He later briefly consulted his departmental head, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

CAPE TOWN — The new cabinet held its first fortnightly meeting under President Jacob Zuma yesterday.

Briefing the media afterwards, government spokesman Themba Maseko said the primary purpose was to prepare for the cabinet lekgotla from May 26 to 28.

Maseko said the cabinet also noted the progress and challenges in implementing the new government structure, and approved a proposal on setting up cabinet committees and clusters. The clusters are infrastructure development; economic sectors and employment; human development; social protection and community development; international co-operation, trade, and security; governance and administration; and justice, crime prevention and security. The clusters had started work yesterday, he said. — Sapa.

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