SA’s Cabinet is now a Wardrobe that needs to perform

Published Jul 2, 2024


South Africans breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday night after a Cabinet was announced that was a mix of good and bad, and came a whole month after the election results.

And although South Africans are well known to relish the finer details of political arguments and hold a robust debate, on the whole, the entire nation was getting fatigued waiting for the Cabinet announcement.

And per usual, media and citizens were fed up by the “normal” delay once more in waiting for the actual announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The delays once more tell a cautionary tale of how implementation of policy by the Government of National Unity (GNU) is going to be difficult.

The joke of the day was that South Africa didn’t elect a Cabinet, it got a wardrobe. Too true…

Now while I admit to a secret foible to often watch in fascination Hollywood stars reveal their millions of dollars worth of bling in their walk-in wardrobes, the South African Cabinet is just not so glitzy.

Yet it comes with a billion rand price tag and is bloated out of necessity. Even the DA who has vitriolically lashed the ANC for its overspending on Cabinet is keeping mum. It is actually a bit funny and a sign of things to come.

This marriage of a GNU is going to be the marriage of different partners that will match the good old days of the “Jerry Springer Shows” once the honeymoon ends.

And there is always a honeymoon period.

It reminds me of many a wedding one has attended where you sit on the sidelines just waiting for the fallout while falsely congratulating the couple.

However, it has to be said that I am so happy to be a South African and not experience the geriatric face of politics that the US is coping with, as septuagenarians former US president Donald Trump and US President Joe Biden’s recent CNN debate descended into name calling.

This as the UK faces a political crisis as it goes to elections. Three prime ministers in three years with the Conservative’s Rishi Sunak looking like he may be dethroned.

In essence it has been a torrid time for politicians, and South African politics in comparison to some of its international peers has come off lightly.

However, the scorecard of South Africa in policy implementation under the former 6th ANC-dominated administration left a lot to be desired, hence, the 7th administration is getting its publicity moment as being good for investment due to the inclusion of the so-called market-friendly DA.

It reminds one strongly of the former “Ramaphoria” narration after Ramaphosa was elected in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma, which became a very cracked and scratched record, especially after Phala Phala raised doubts about the president’s reputation.

Yet markets and economists are reassured by Ramaphosa at the helm, even if South Africans are concerned. Hopefully in the next five years a bit of Ramaphoria can return with coherent policy and implementations in the GNU.

The reality is every Cabinet member owes their allegiance to putting the welfare of South African citizens ahead of party politics (although that is a naive hope in practice as politics always trumps). The Cabinet has to combat the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. It also needs to plan ahead better.

Looking at a few of the economic portfolios, it was welcome news that Enoch Godongwana was reappointed finance minister. He has been a very good communicator of policy and is well liked. Once more Business Report (BR) extends an invitation to Godongwana to write an opinion article in BR.

Parks Tau as the trade, industry and competition minister has a good reputation for sharp financial acumen and understanding of economics. It is a bonus that he knows the interface well between national and provincial politics, so that is a plus. I look forward to seeing him in action.

And the reappointment of Electricity and Energy Miniser Kgosientsho Ramokgopa comes as a relief. It is to his credit and the team at Eskom that the country is finally getting its energy act together. It is really hard to balance the need for energy sovereignty while implementing the Just Energy Transition (JET).

However, the recent track record of a sensible Eskom management approach to maintenance, while driving JET and bringing in much-needed investment is promising.

The vacuum of a public enterprises minister is going to have to be carefully monitored. Pravin Gordhan lost his once good reputation when he was finance minister, when he became public enterprises minister. Under this watch – whether intentionally as some say or unintentionally – public enterprises crumbled to a crisis point.

The SAA debacle was a public embarrassment. The shambles of Eskom and Transnet a disgrace. This as one has to keep an eye that politicians’ buddies and families aren’t getting those privatisation deals underhandedly.

So the announcement that there will no longer be a public enterprises ministry after Gordhan retired is very interesting.

Ramaphosa said, “The coordination of the relevant public enterprises will be located in the Presidency during the process of implementing a new shareholder model.”

Politics has always sickened state-owned enterprises and not given the management teams room to turn around these ailing enterprises. Something had to be done.

The country will be waiting to see how this shareholder model works. Getting our parastatals working and infrastructure in good nick is of the highest priority.

In the days and weeks ahead, labour, business and the GNU have their work cut out. Only through a concerted effort and fresh thinking can South Africa halt the decay, and show its true colours.

There is so much going for the country that is often wasted just like water poured into a desert. Those green shoots, if carefully cultivated can once more bloom. So despite political differences, the ground is now freshly tilled for growth. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Let SA Inc get in on the action.

It is time to do deals and take advantage of this boost in sentiment towards the country that can generate much-needed jobs and investment. We can’t afford to waste time.

The fillip in the mix is inflation is taming and we are well past Covid that has given our last administration a tough time.

This gives the new Cabinet firmer ground to gain traction.

Business Report and its team wishes the new Cabinet success in its endeavours and the road ahead.

Philippa Larkin, the Executive Editor of Business Report.