South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announces his Cabinet reshuffle. PHOTO: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ ANA
With new political leadership, there comes a change of guards at many government departments. That is always expected but, in some instances, ministers are removed when they are perceived not to be toeing the line and following the mandate of the head of state. 

Some of these departments are of strategic importance and control of them gives those in power access to many things. 

Since the era of former president Jacob Zuma, five departments have caught the public eye with the number of ministers who have been axed and appointed.

The most glaring of these has to be the Treasury, the one department that controls South Africa’s purse. Zuma’s tenure was marred by allegations of State Capture and the use of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to enrich a few and at the core of it all was the fight to control Treasury.

Here is a break down of how it all unfolded.

Finance Ministry:

Alarm bells were raised when Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene from the position and replaced him with little known Des van Rooyen. The decision saw the Rand tank and the markets reacting negatively. 

He remedied the situation after lengthy discussions with his own party members and appointed Pravin Gordhan. That steadied Rand and the markets approved but he did not last long. 

He was sacked at the height of State Capture allegations and replaced with Malusi Gigaba. There was an uproar but Zuma was not moved.

A change in the African National Congress and the country saw him removed and replaced with Nene who made a comeback thanks to new President Cyril Ramaphosa.


The police department has been another hotly contested department. It has seen Nathi Mthethwa occupy the position but was later replaced by Nathi Nhleko. 

Mthethwa oversaw one of the biggest tragedies in post-democratic South Africa, the Marikana Massacre where protesting miners were shot down by police officers who were trying to disperse them. 

Nhleko, on the other hand, will be remembered for labelling a swimming pool at Zuma’s house a fire pool. Following that scandal, he was replaced with Fikile Mbalula but he was also shown the door when Zuma stepped down as the president of the country. 

 Bheki Cele was appointed to replace Mbalula.

State Security:

The department that is responsible for the country’s intelligence is another hotly contested terrain. It saw Siyabonga Cwele occupy the hot seat. He was replaced with a Zuma ally, David Mahlobo. 

He will be remembered for his statement that they knew about the situation in Vuwani before it erupted but failed to act. He was also sacked and moved to the department of energy and replaced with Bongani Bongo. 

He was also embroiled in a scandal when he allegedly tried to bribe the evidence leader into state capture case.. Bongo was recently replaced by Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba..

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta):

This department is key in controlling and ensuring stability in the country. 

Demarcations and boundaries are a thorny issue in the country and recent developments in Vuwani and Malamulele are a testament to this. Who can also forget the 2013 protests in Zamdela when there was a suggestion of merging Sasolburg into Ngwathe Local Municipality. 

The control of this vital department has seen it headed by Pravin Gordhan who was later removed and replaced with the rejected finance minister, Des van Rooyen who was termed a weekend special. 

He held the position until he was axed by Ramaphosa and replaced with Dr Zweli Mkhize.


The department controls and shapes the narrative for the country. The individual put in that position also oversees the operations of the SABC. It also controls and manages the terrain of pay TV. 

Many have in the past seen the SABC as controlled and receiving orders from Luthuli House. 

The Hlaudi Motsoeneng saga also added fuel to this notion when he was protected despite the former Public Protector finding his appointment should be overturned and he should be fired. He also issued a directive that the public broadcaster should stop covering protests. 

The ministers in the position were changed four times in the last two years. Faith Muthambi was at the helm but was removed following the disastrous tenure of the board which was led by Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe. 

Ayanda Dlodlo was roped in to steady the ship but she did not stay long. She was replaced by Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. 

She also served for a short while and was later replaced by Nomvula Mokonyane.

Sunday Independent