A Wits professor says what Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel does can be done by the dti. Picture: Brenton Geach
Johannesburg – The increase in the size of South Africa’s cabinet, and the composition thereof, over the last 23 years has had to do with “political expediency” and fostered “inefficiency” in government’s work.

These were the views of policy analysts who analysed the structure of the country’s cabinet composition in whether the steady rise in cabinet ministries over the years has led to efficiencies in the way government has conducted its work.

The number of ministries has increased from 27, when late president Nelson Mandela appointed the first democratic cabinet in 1994, to 35 in President Jacob Zuma’s current administration.

Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana of the University of Johannesburg’s Pan African Institute contended that the composition of South Africa’s government since 1994 has always been based on “political expediency” in order to satisfy “lobbyists, constituencies and all other people who want to see their interests represented in the functions of government”; adding the efficiency of governance has “always been a secondary consideration”.

He cited the creation of the Economic Development and Small Business Development ministries, created in 2009 and 2014, respectively, as evidence of government’s dithering in implementing policy for the industry and financial sector departments.

“I haven’t come across a valid argument as to why we need to have the economic development department. For example, what (Minister of Economic Development) Ebrahim Patel does can be done by dti (the Department of Trade and Industry).

"For that ministry to be created, they (the ANC) had to cull off some of the functionaries that were previously located within the dti,” Ndletyana said.

“The same could be said about the creation of the Small Business Development ministry; that still could have remained as a directorate within dti.

“But the strong lobby from black business wanted an emphatic focus on small business. So that was a carrot thrown at black business to create an impression that the president was attending to their needs.”

Lumkile Mondi of the University of the Witwatersrand School of Economic and Business Sciences argued that South Africa’s economic policy has progressively deteriorated since the launch of the Growth, Employment and Restitution (Gear) policy in 1996, saying state expenditure has ballooned since 2009, while economic growth has continued to decline.

“We have been recording government budget deficit of more than 3% since 2009, whereas Gear achieved its intention of reducing the overall budget deficit and the general levels of government dissaving,” Mondi said.

According to a 2013 report from the SA Reserve Bank, amounts drawn on government guarantees went from being R63 billion at the end of March 2009 to R154bn at the end of March 2012.

“Amounts drawn down by non-financial public corporations increased from R46.9bn in fiscal 2008/09 to R126bn in fiscal 2011/12.

"These increases in financial guarantees were on account of increased spending on infrastructure projects by public corporations, which would be financed through borrowings guaranteed by national government,” the report added.

The Star