Parliament - President Jacob Zuma's latest cabinet reshuffle was a self-serving bid to consolidate power with a view to the ruling party's elective conference, with no consideration for the good of the country, trade union leader Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.
"It is about Jacob Zuma first and the country last. It is not about advancing any revolutionary agenda. It also has nothing to do with advancing the republic," said Vavi, the general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions.
"It is about consolidating power in Cabinet, It is also about consolidating power in time ahead of (the ANC conference in) December 2017 and the elections in 2019." he added.
Vavi said shifting loyalist David Mahlobo from the state security to energy portfolio was a blatant attempt to push through contested plans to build new nuclear power reactors.
He said he doubted the firing of South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande as higher education minister would prompt the SACP to walk away from the tripartite alliance. The time for the junior partner in the alliance to do so was the firing of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in May, and it had chosen not to do so.
"He knows they like the perks and they are unlikely to walk in solidarity," he said.
Vavi added: "Zuma is very smart as footwork." The president had named National Secretary of the Young Communist League of South Africa, Buti Manamela, as deputy minister of higher education in a divisive move meant to make the SACP think he was not acting against it as a whole, he said.
Vavi was speaking on the sidelines of a parliamentary briefing by the Government Employee Pension Fund.
Meanwhile the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution said that the reshuffle was a "carefully calculated manoeuvre" aimed at advancing a nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia.
David Mahlobo, a Zuma ally, was appointed as the country's new Energy Minister in a statement by the presidency which also announced various other cabinet changes.
"It seems its clearly all about the nuclear deal, putting in place a trusted lieutenant in David Mahlobo to the department of energy," said Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo.
"We know that Mahlobo has accompanied the president on several trips to Russia in recent times and one can now presume that was in order to lay the groundwork for this nuclear deal that I think is going to be the final signature on Presidnt's Zuma's tenure as president."
Naidoo said the axing of South African Communist Party secretary-general Blade Nzimande as higher education and training minister was not surprising.
"I think this is something that has been in the pipeline for some time. I think the interesting thing is that he's only fired Blade and not other SACP-aligned ministers so one would have to see how the party responds to that."