Room for Ramaphosa to make bold moves - economist

Cape Town – Within his first one hundred days, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave himself room to make strategic and bold moves to reconfigure Cabinet and government itself, economist at Economic Research Southern Africa Raenette Taljaard told the audience during a panel discussion on the new president's administration.

When Ramaphosa delivered his first State of the Nation Address in February, he told the National Assembly that a review of Cabinet would take place to reconfigure the executive, hinting at the possible amalgamation of departments to reduce the size of Cabinet.

Taljaard said during a panel discussion at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School for Business that by taking over from former president Jacob Zuma as soon as he did, Ramaphosa clinched an opportunity to change the leadership of national government for the better.

“We are less than a year away from elections. (Ramaphosa) can retain Cabinet and afford a review of significant scale. He can avoid rattling the structure too much, keep some people in, restore people back to pension rights and restructure Cabinet and government,” said Taljaard.

Taljaard said as a politician Ramaphosa would not lose much as he would have time to engage in a broader discussion on Cabinet and the structure of government and that, if it is done strategically, there will be little to lose.

Political analyst Daniel Silke said Ramaphosa managed to consolidate power in government despite having an ANC National Executive Committee emerge from the party’s December conference that was not firmly behind him.

“This is about Ramaphosa winning a mandate that he does not have from the people. The ANC comes from a low base from 2016. Ramaphosa must show that he can restore the support base of the ANC to well above 60%,” said Silke.

Silke said this will give Ramaphosa the license to look at more ambitious and risky policy ahead of the national elections. The last thing he needs is a break or schism in unity, but Ramaphosa has a chance to keep everyone in Cabinet happy even though risks abound, he said.

Regarding the potential risks of Deputy President David Mabuza to Ramaphosa’s ambitions, Silke said Ramaphosa would have to live with Mabuza for some while, as Mabuza was the king maker that handed him the ANC presidency.

“Allegations against Mabuza will continue to bubble under and bubble over. He and Ramaphosa are considering the lines of succession. If Ramaphosa cannot perform his duties for whatever reason, Mabuza would likely become acting president and go on to become president after the elections.

“It is possible that politicians with checkered history can rise above (it). But there is too much doubt around someone like Mabuza. If a leader emerges that is not trusted as much as Ramaphosa seems to be, then what are the chances that the checks and balances exist to stop them in their tracks? That is why I am worried about amending the Constitution now, even in the name of redress,” said Silke.

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