Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to trim the national executive to save government money is under the spotlight following the announcement of his Cabinet on Wednesday.
A closer examination of the new national executive - Cabinet and deputy ministers - shows it is not significantly smaller than former president Jacob Zuma’s team.
Ahead of the May 8 general elections, Ramaphosa slammed the size of the country’s national executive and vowed to cut it.
Zuma had swollen its size to 72 in 2009, up from 50 after taking over from Thabo Mbeki in 2008.
With Deputy President David Mabuza earning R2.8million per annum in the 2018/19 financial year, while 36 ministers and 34 deputy ministers individually cost R2.4m and R1.97m respectively, the state spent R156.5m on the national executive.
On Wednesday night, Ramaphosa announced that he had slashed the number of ministers to 28 to align them with the merged departments, while deputy ministers remained at 34.
This meant the total cost of the national executive would only be marginally reduced by R19.7m from R156.5m to R137.3m.
DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said the number of the reduced ministers were too few to consider Ramaphosa’s Cabinet revamp “trimming the fat”.
“In fact, the ministers, their deputies, their luxury vehicles and the cost of VIP security will cost the people of South Africa more than R1billion per year.
“It is hard to believe that the return on investment will be of value. (We) maintain that the Cabinet should be reduced to 15 ministries,” he said.
Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said Ramaphosa had failed to deliver on his promise of both trimming the fat and reconfiguring departments.
“First, when you speak of reconfiguration, you speak of re-imagining the way government departments work, instead of merging them just because they look similar, which is what he said,” Mnguni said.
He added Ramaphosa’s commitment to reconfiguration was also hampered by the failure to unveil a written plan of how he envisioned reconfigured departments to work, including how the fat would be cut and efficiency maximised.
“All we’ve been having has been off-the-cuff, mid-air conversations about this planned reconfiguration and this is confusing because the president had a team that was advising him on this.”
Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Finance ministers have in the past warned that the public service’s big wage bill was crowding out service delivery.
Cosatu said while it welcomed the changes, it would reject retrenchments.
“Dislocated workers need to be accommodated during this period so that their livelihoods are not negatively affected,” it said.
On Wednesday, the EFF rejected Ramophosa’s Cabinet, saying it was deliberately kept bloated to satisfy the factional demands of the ANC.
“Putting (in) more deputy ministers after reducing ministers and telling us you’ve reduced Cabinet is an insult to the intelligence of South Africans,” the party said.
Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet, was, however, hailed as balanced by alliance partners and the opposition as it saw 50% of women appointed and younger political leaders being given responsibilities, including Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, 36, who was the youngest member of the ANC’s national executive committee.