Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan. File picture: Ian Landsberg

Johannesburg - It’s all hands on deck in preparation for the 2016 local government elections, and the ANC’s appointment of Pravin Gordhan to the Local Government and Traditional Affairs Ministry indicates the ruling party means business.

Gordhan is the most senior appointment to the ministry ever, after the dismal Sicelo Shiceka, who was sacked after the Public Protector found him guilty of wrongdoing, and the under-performing Richard Baloyi.

This year’s national and provincial elections exposed the country’s metropolitan areas as soft targets for the party, with the ANC scraping by in the metros of Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane and in Johannesburg.

Last year the auditor-general reported that only 5 percent of municipalities received clean audits, showing the ANC’s crisis is not power, but credibility, and it will be Gordhan’s task to turn perception and reality around.

His appointment coincides with another big milestone: the country’s first black African finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, in a country still grappling with complex racial hang-ups from over a century of combined colonialism and apartheid.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the country’s finance ministers, under the able Trevor Manuel and Gordhan, were, however, not black African, the country’s ethnic majority.

But the economic outlook remains identical.

Both Gordhan and Nene share the same ideological outlook, meaning macro-economic policy is unlikely to shift.

President Jacob Zuma’s economic cluster is therefore almost identical to that of the 2009 cabinet, with Rob Davies being retained in Trade and Industry, and Ebrahim Patel retained as Minister of Economic Development.

Former Western Cape premier Lynne Brown, however, takes up the critical portfolio Public Enterprises, which is key to the country’s R1 trillion infrastructure plans.

Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, who headed up the ANC’s election campaign and is regarded as a rising star, was moved to Home Affairs, where the now AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma laid a solid foundation.

Poor performers were also dealt a hefty blow on Sunday evening.

Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa was demoted to Arts and Culture, while former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele was handed the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Service.

Both Mthethwa and Cwele have been controversial politicians.

As police minister, Mthethwa presided over several high-profile incidents of police brutality, not least the deaths at the hands of the South African Police Service of community activist Andries Tatane, as well as poor public policing at protests.

The most damaging of these was the deaths of 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana in 2012, shot dead by public order police.

Cwele oversaw the passing of the Protection of State Information Bill, which faced sustained protest and condemnation from civil society, community activists and media freedom practitioners.

Former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu has also been shown the door for inaction during the four-month strike on the platinum belt which has taken place with her at the helm.

This is the longest mining strike since democracy.

Shabangu takes over from the much-criticised Lulu Xingwana, as Minister of Women, while the Department of Children, Women and People with Disabilities has been done away with after years of being the butt of many a joke.

Former communications minister Yunus Carrim, former human settlements minister Connie September, former correctional services minister S’bu Ndebele and former energy minister Ben Martins were others who didn’t make the cut.

Long-serving deputy international relations minister Ebrahim Ebrahim also doesn’t return, nor does former deputy minister of agriculture Pieter Mulder from the Freedom Front Plus. - Political Bureau