Mbalula: Ramaphosa is 'rigorous', but he didn't kick me out of Cabinet meeting

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
  • Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula denied reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa kicked him out of a Cabinet meeting for allegedly being unprepared.
  • Mbalula said Ramaphosa asked him to find outstanding information for his meeting memorandum, so he could properly brief the meeting.
  • Mbalula said the government remained committed to accountability for resolving South Africa's challenges, including the lasting legacy of the state capture.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says that President Cyril Ramaphosa is "rigorous" when it comes to holding his Cabinet ministers accountable, but denies reports that the president kicked him out of a Cabinet meeting for being unprepared.

Mbalula made these remarks as he closed government's official launch of the draft White Paper on the National Rail Policy in Kempton Park on Thursday.

He was responding to a report by the Sunday Independent in May, which claimed that Ramaphosa asked Mbalula to leave a recent Cabinet meeting when the minister was unprepared to read his meeting memorandums.

Cabinet has also denied the report

Mbalula's remarks come at a time when Ramaphosa and his Cabinet are facing criticism over several crises, including record levels of unemployment, record levels of load shedding, and continued economic fallout from the recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal. 

These crises prompted the DA to initiate a motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa as well as his Cabinet in Parliament. This motion was defeated in March.

READ | Hang on, Cape Town's rail takeover needs my say so first - Mbalula

In off-the-cuff remarks closer to the White Paper launch, Mbalula told an audience of investors, government leaders and reporters that Ramaphosa was merely allowing him to cover some outstanding questions about the White Paper that his department was launching that day.

"When we went to Cabinet to present the rail policy, we were turned back the first time. I hear people say we were unprepared. I'm always prepared. But let me tell you about the president.

"He's not the kind of fellow who you dump a Cabinet memo on, and he sleeps on it, and you move on, then his Cabinet makes a decision ... He doesn't do that. He reads everything, and that is what efficiency is all about," Mbalula said.

Mbalula said it was not accurate to say that he was kicked out of the Cabinet meeting. Instead, he said, the president was giving him a chance to find the information he required so that he could brief Ramaphosa afresh.

"We delivered the policy, and he asked us about the cost. He didn't dismiss [us]. He said, 'go and strengthen this because we need to understand the costs and implement'. The last time I had a president behave like that, I don't know where it was," said Mbalula.

READ | E-toll decision is imminent, says Mbalula

State capture happened to us

He said government was accountable to the people of South Africa and was open to constructive criticism regarding the country's challenges, including the years of state capture that occurred under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.

"It is only in South Africa, and not anywhere in the world, where a government looks at itself in terms of corruption and looks to address it; [where it] looks at itself in the mirror and says that [it had] what is called state capture in this country. Our entities - good entities - were also affected and became victims of this state capture," said Mbalula.

He denied claims that he was an opportunistic turncoat, saying that his focus was on the work in his portfolio. Mbalula said he warned Zuma about the controversial Gupta family that scored lucrative government contracts under his Presidency.

"I hear people say that we are a failed state. It is not for us to argue with them but to do what we can to undermine any possibility that South Africa will become a failed state.

"When it comes to [Ramaphosa], people say I sing for my supper. Well, they are right because I am a minister. But for the record, I have never backed the Presidency for a job. I told ... Zuma that the Guptas would bring him down. I did not know if I would remain a minister after that, and I survived," Mbalula said.

Mbalula said Ramaphosa's Cabinet was leading South Africa "in a very different environment" after a number of challenges locally and globally, including the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, left state capacity depleted.

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