President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The ANC-led alliance has defended President Cyril Ramaphosa amid criticism from opposition parties over his decision to keep embattled ministers in his Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.

Ramaphosa announced that the shake-up to his Cabinet was aimed at filling vacant posts left by the late former minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa and former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba who resigned under pressure last week.

Former telecommunications and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele has replaced Gigaba while former communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane has replaced Molewa.

But opposition parties have slammed Ramaphosa for not firing Dlamini and Mokonyane - both had left their previous departments in shambles.

Earlier this month, the DA launched a court application in a bid to have Ramaphosa’s decision to keep Dlamini and Gigaba when he reshuffled his Cabinet after taking over from former president Jacob Zuma declared invalid.

This was because both have been found to have lied under oath.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa’s decision to spare Dlamini the axe yesterday meant that he was intending to defend the former social development minister from the court bid to have her appointment declared invalid due to her being declared to have lied to the Constitutional Court.

The apex court had declared Dlamini to have been “reckless and grossly negligent” in the handling of the social grants crisis which threatened the payment of grants.

It also said the National Prosecuting Authority must investigate her for perjury for giving the court false testimony.

“It is inconceivable that such a person could hold Executive office in any constitutional democracy," Maimane said.

“Bathabile Dlamini deserves to be fired, and President Ramaphosa’s failure to do so suggests he endorses her conduct."

SACP national spokesperson Alex Mashilo said it was disingenuous for the DA to expect Ramaphosa to fire Dlamini in his reshuffle, as the party had chosen the court process and not the political one.

“This was more of the filling of a vacancy by the president than a reshuffle. But there is a problem with those calling for the removal of ministers by people who have already gone to court to have them removed. Let them allow the legal process to run and reach its conclusion,” Mashilo said.

Ramaphosa also announced his decision to merge the communication and the telecommunication and postal services departments into one and has appointed former deputy communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as the new minister to head the ministry.

The administrative part of the departments would, however, be allowed to operate separately until after next year’s elections, when more trimming of the Cabinet would take place, Ramaphosa said.

“The decision to merge the two ministries is in line with the work that we have been undertaking in line with the announcement that I made during the State of the Nation Address that we are going to look at realigning government,” he said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams, who is also part of the Eastern Cape ANC provincial executive committee and is its spokesperson, had been central to Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign ahead of the party’s national conference in December last year, which saw the province being the biggest block behind his candidacy.

Thursday’s reshuffle was notably different from Ramaphosa’s first Cabinet shake-up when he assumed the Presidency, which saw him removing a number of ministers linked to Zuma and the controversial Gupta family, including Faith Muthambi.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said it was the prerogative of Ramaphosa to change his Cabinet. “What we appreciate most is that the president is acting on his promise to the country that he has the intention of reducing many departments and the structure of the executive,” Mthembu said.

Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said there had been an exaggerated expectation of what Ramaphosa could do to clean up the ANC after the removal of Zuma.

“He has no constituency in the ANC and depends on power brokers. If he were to take action now against some of the discredited members of his Cabinet, he will give them time to regroup and de-campaign him ahead of next year’s elections, and there are those who are already eyeing 2022 to remove him.”

Political Bureau