Cape Town - February has come and gone and President Cyril Ramaphosa is yet to announce his anticipated Cabinet reshuffle – despite ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula’s recent promise that the changes would’ve been announced by now.
Mbalula is widely reported as having told a February 20 press briefing at Luthuli House that the Cabinet reshuffle would be wrapped up by February month-end.
Ramaphosa opted to appoint Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi to act in the vacancy left by former public service and administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo when she resigned to take up a World Bank executive position in April 2022.
Nxesi has been saddled with two major departments at a time when the unemployment rate is pegged at 32.7%, while unions and the Public Service and Administration (Ministry) and Treasury are deadlocked on wage negotiations that were supposed to have been wrapped up early last year, leading to several pickets and protests.
According to recent reports, Ramaphosa had consulted with the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP, at the weekend, after which Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana was sworn in as MP.
This as speculation swells that Presidency infrastructure czar Kgosientso Ramakgopa is to head the newly-announced electricity ministry as a non-MP. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson didn’t respond.
There has been no word on whether Mbalula had resigned as transport minister after his election as ANC secretary-general in December. Queries sent to Transport Department spokesperson Lwazi Khoza went unanswered.
Notably, Mbalula, who is now a full-time office-bearer in Luthuli House, appears to have even stopped signing parliamentary responses relating to the Transport Department.
At least four parliamentary questions addressed to the transport minister returned with unsigned answers on Tuesday.
Khoza was asked by the Cape Argus whether Mbalula had resigned as minister yet or whether he was awaiting the expected Cabinet reshuffle, and why he was no longer signing parliamentary responses.
The same questions were put to Mbalula, but the queries went unanswered and his phone went to voicemail.
Deputy President David Mabuza recently resigned, making it three key political offices in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet that face leadership uncertainty and a vacuum for months.
Political analyst Mike Law said the question as to why there was no reshuffle as yet had become common.
Law said: “The fact of the matter is that the ANC secretary-general (SG) is a full-time position. Straight after Mbalula was elected (at Nasrec), he did a presser where he said: ‘if it was up to me, I’d resign tonight’.
“He wanted out at that point and he understood that in his new job as SG, it is unacceptable to have a minister being paid for another full-time position.
“We basically have a situation now where the secretary-general of the ANC is moonlighting as a minister.”
Law said it’s hard to explain why there was a delay in appointing the electricity minister, adding that Ramaphosa was “dithering”, “indecisive”.
Build One SA leader Mmusi Maimane said the delay confirmed that Ramaphosa neither had a plan nor the “best players” as he tried to placate factions while he mulled Cabinet changes.
“When I look at the ANC NEC, which is where the president is to pick from, there aren’t a lot of people there who are going to create the South Africa we want,” Maimane said.