PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s appointment of former Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda as his parliamentary counsellor was the president’s way to mend fences with potential political foes and keeping them close to him, analysts said yesterday.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi interpreted Nyanda’s appointment as the president’s attempt to avoid a rift with the powerful uMkhonto weSizwe veterans’ structure where Nyanda still enjoys considerable influence. He is a former chief of MK.
Nyanda has effectively swopped roles with new Public Service and Administration deputy minister Ayanda Dlodlo, herself an MK veteran who was until her appointment Zuma’s parliamentary point person.
MK veterans played an important role in pushing Zuma to power at the ANC’s conference in Polokwane in 2007. Many of its members are in important security and intelligence agencies, thus making fall-out with them politically risky.
Zuma has requested National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to appoint Nyanda in this position in the Assembly with immediate effect, the presidency said in a statement yesterday.
Nyanda would be Zuma’s personal representative in Parliament, keeping him abreast of developments and providing advice.
Another analyst, Prince Mashele, presented a different view. “It’s is storm in a tea cup … It is about mending fences with Nyanda,” he said, adding that historically a parliamentary counsellor had never been a position of any serious influence.
But another source with knowledge of ANC dynamics who asked not to be named said Nyanda’s new position may be Zuma’s compromise to the former minister, because being a presidential counsellor allows Nyanda to continue with his business ventures. As a cabinet minister he had to resign from all his private businesses.
Political analyst and academic Adam Habib said he was not surprised by the proposed appointment, saying Nyanda is a high-profile figure in the ANC and following the cabinet reshuffle that removed him as a minister, he had to be appointed in a senior government position.