President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa walked a tightrope in composing his Cabinet, resisting calls to drop Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan while ensuring he retained David Mabuza as his deputy to avoid a palace revolt in the ruling party.

He dropped Bathabile Dlamini from the Presidency, risking unhappiness from the ANC Women’s League after trimming ministers from 36 to 28. Emboldened by the governing party’s election victory, Ramaphosa appointed to his executive team some ANC leaders who were associated with former president Jacob Zuma, in a move to neutralise his foes.

They include former Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, Lindiwe Zulu and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Njabulo Nzuza, Nathi Mthethwa, while not touching the Finance Ministry and the Public Enterprise portfolio.

Ramaphosa also surprisingly appointed leader of the GOOD party Patricia de Lille as Minister of Public Works. The president announced a reconfigured executive to ensure efficiency in the state.

Trade and Industry is combined with Economic Development, Higher Education and Training is combined with Science and Technology, Environmental Affairs is combined with Forestry and Fisheries and Agriculture is combined with Land Reform and Rural Development.

Ramaphosa also noted that Mineral Resources is combined with Energy, Human Settlements is combined with Water and Sanitation while Sport and Recreation is combined with Arts and Culture. “It is critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources,” Ramaphosa said.

The president said that he would sign performance agreements with all the ministers, which he will closely monitor. He said action would be taken against those who don’t perform.

“In the election of May 8, South Africans provided this administration with a clear mandate to accelerate inclusive economic growth, act with greater urgency to tackle poverty, improve government services, fight corruption and end state capture,” he said.

Ramaphosa had been faced with the daunting task of deciding whether or not to drop Gordhan – viewed as his key ally – from his new Cabinet after being found guilty of improper conduct by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over his 2010 approval of former SA Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and payout.

Mabuza, who was finally cleared and sworn in on Tuesday, triggered speculation that Ramaphosa would either pick Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Dlamini Zuma or former Higher education minister Naledi Pandor to deputise him at the Union Buildings.

Pandor was last night appointed International Relations Minister. Ramaphosa’s snubbing of Mabuza would have seen the latter returning to Luthuli House, where ANC secretary-general Magashule is a dominant player.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa was expected to announce the Cabinet, but this was delayed by the ANC integrity committee’s interviews with 22 ANC leaders flagged to have put the party into disrepute, including Mabuza.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa is emphatic that the new executive must possess requisite skills, experience, representivity and a commitment to the public services that will take the work of the sixth administration forward,” the Presidency said in a statement.

Ramaphosa risked a palace revolt by excluding Mabuza from his Cabinet. The EFF had also indicated that they would target him should he retain Gordhan in his Cabinet. Gordhan had received support from ANC ally Cosatu and civil society organisations including Freedom Under Law.

Ramaphosa’s balancing act included ensuring that he doesn’t rock the boat in his party while appeasing investors, big business and rating agencies. Ramaphosa had indicated ahead of the general elections that one of his first tasks would be to trim his Cabinet which had been bloated under his predecessor Zuma.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, who served from 1999 to 2008, had 50 members of the national executive, which comprised 29 ministers, Zuma as his deputy as well as 20 deputy ministers.

When he took over from Mbeki in 2009, Zuma immediately increased the size of his national executive to 73 members, with his deputy, 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers.

Political Bureau