President Cyril Ramaphosa being sworn in. Picture Cindy Waxa/ANA
OPINION - A political leader is generally judged by what he or she does in the first 100 days in office. But it took Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s fifth democratically elected president, just over 10 days to bring some level of normality back to the government.

It started with Ramaphosa winning over Parliament and the nation with his now famous “Send Me” inaugural State of the Nation Address.

Last night, he stamped his authority on the executive by making several strategic appointments.

By bringing back Nhlanhla Nene to the finance portfolio, Ramaphosa showed his commitment to justice and simply doing the right thing.

His appointment of Pravin Gordhan as the minister of public enterprises was a master stroke.

Gordhan has been at the forefront of the battle against state capture and his appointment demonstrates Ramaphosa’s commitment to ending corruption.

Bheki Cele messed up when he was the national commissioner of the SA Police Service, but he did build up a reputation as a no-nonsense crime fighter. Under him, South Africa made strides in the fight against crime and many will welcome his appointment as the minister of police.

One of Ramaphosa’s biggest challenges will be the matter of the Ingonyama Trust, headed by King Goodwill Zwelithini. The trust administers about 60% of land in rural KwaZulu-Natal, land the government now wants to take back.

The appointment of Zweli Mkhize as the new minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs therefore makes a lot of sense. Mkhize is from KwaZulu-Natal and has a personal relationship with the king. If anybody can manage this issue, Mkhize can.

While some of Ramaphosa’s appointments were made to improve the work of government, others hid a well-worked political strategy.

Ramaphosa indicated early on in his address that the government had begun a review of the configuration, size and number of national ministries and departments.

Put differently, expect a few ministers to be fired in the months ahead as a leaner, meaner cabinet takes shape.

Many of those who have been sent to posts that could be culled are people who supported the Jacob Zuma camp.

They include Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Bathabile Dlamini, who were both deployed to the presidency, where Ramaphosa can presumably keep a close eye on them, until they are made redundant.

Another Zuma loyalist, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was sent to rural development and land reform, a department that is also likely to change in the months ahead.

Ramaphosa didn’t have much option but to appoint David Mabuza as deputy president of the country. But anything can happen in the months ahead, bearing in mind that a former deputy president of the Republic was fired from office.

Ramaphosa’s new-look cabinet makes two things clear: he has consolidated his power within the ANC and is now keen to get South Africa working again.

Aakash Bramdeo


Daily News