ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has stepped in to mediate in a brewing “misunderstanding” between Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and his portfolio committee chairperson, Makhosi Khoza.
Radebe had written to Mantashe complaining that Khoza had “a personal vendetta” against him. The feud stems from a recent portfolio committee meeting where members, including Khoza, were critical of Radebe’s department of planning, monitoring and evaluation.
“Whatever I said in the committee was not personal,” Khoza told City Press this week. “I do not think there is anything wrong or un-ANC with what I said or did [and] I also do not understand why am I being singled out, [because] I was not the only one who was speaking out in the committee.”
Mantashe would only say that he had put in place an intervention to resolve this matter and he did not want it to be “messed up”.
He was expected to soon call the two parties together to resolve issues.
Those close to Radebe said the matter was “a simple misunderstanding”, pointing out that Khoza had always rated Radebe highly.
If it were up to Khoza, “Radebe would be a prime minister” so that he would be better able to rein in ordinary ministers who do not do their jobs as expected.
Adding on her assessment of Radebe’s department, Khoza said: “Ideally, [the department] would be given to someone like a prime minister, who is not at same level as ministers. Otherwise, how does one minister monitor others and tell them to account to him?”
She said the department “must be central, even in assisting Treasury with cost-cutting measures,” citing as an example lack of clarity in terms of priorities, such as where Stats SA got a 13% budget cut – despite being central in influencing the flow of foreign direct investment – while the public service salary budget continues to grow.
“This department must be the brains of government planning. It should know exactly where the weakest points are,” Khoza said.
She said that Radebe’s department should also police noncompliance with the National Development Plan (NDP), like when President Jacob Zuma branded the thousands of people who marched for him to step down as “racists”.
She said such messages impacted negatively on the NDP’s objective for “social cohesion” and that government should always strive to ensure that its communication is aligned with the country’s long-term vision.
Khoza said the department must also be able to track progress made in implementing the NDP so that it informed government planning regularly.
Radebe said during a media briefing last week that the NDP’s objectives were reflected in the medium-term strategic framework of government.
“A total of 54 evaluations are now completed or underway, and the results are coming through regularly to Cabinet,” he said.
“Cabinet is taking these seriously and ministers are reading the reports carefully.”
Radebe’s presence in the presidency and his high-profile role as Cabinet spokesperson have earned him some enemies in government. This got worse after the departure of presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj, who was both highly visible and a senior ANC veteran. At one point, City Press heard, he had been accused of behaving like a prime minister, which offended Zuma’s backers.
Recently, he was accused of calling unnecessary Cabinet briefings when releasing a statement would have been more effective, which was seen as an attempt to promote his presidential ambitions.
Earlier this year, when the SA Social Security Agency was hauled before the Constitutional Court to explain why it would be unable to pay social grants, others in the presidency insisted that questions should also be directed to Radebe, as his department should have picked up the crisis before it spiralled out of control.
Asked about the criticism, Radebe said that he had always done what Zuma appointed him to do. ANC activist and former student leader Sipho Masuku, among Radebe’s chief campaigners for the ANC leadership, said the ANC needed leaders of a high calibre such as Radebe to recover from its recent electoral losses.
Masuku said those who may have issues with Radebe could be “personal, but not political issues”.
“He has served so diligently in the last 23 years under all ANC presidents that headed government,” he said.
Masuku said Radebe was “not factional” in his leadership style. He said the only downside about Radebe was that “he tends to be too disciplined – sometimes to his own detriment”.
“We have already started telling him that he needs to start taking charge with much more vigour in his department.
“He has taken too much of a back seat and he needs to be central and give clear directives, even to ministers, to advance the programme of socioeconomic transformation in our country,” said Masuku.