Ramaphosa’s new GNU cabinet announced, but no minister will do as they please. Here is why

The members of the 7th administration in the Government of National Unity (GNU). Picture: X / South African Government

The members of the 7th administration in the Government of National Unity (GNU). Picture: X / South African Government

Published Jul 7, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new ‘inclusive’ Cabinet after several weeks of heated negotiations between the ANC and 10 other parties that constitute the Government of National Unity (GNU).

His cabinet now consists of 32 positions and out of the 11 parties in the GNU, seven are represented in the cabinet.

His ANC has 20 cabinet portfolios, which include key ministries of the Presidency, Police, Defence, Justice, and Finance.

Eleven ministers and 10 deputy ministers in the cabinet are not from the ANC.

The eleven parties to the GNU include the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Patriotic Alliance (PA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Good Party, Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), Freedom Front Plus (FF+), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Al Jama-ah, Rise Mzansi and the United Africans Transformation (UAT).

How will the Government of National Unity Operate including on policy issues?

On Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni addressed the media after the swearing-in ceremony of the Deputy President, Ministers, and Deputy Ministers of the seventh administration on Wednesday.

The briefing was to clarify roles and policies that will be followed in the GNU.

While announcing his cabinet, Ramaphosa said: “The establishment of the GNU in its current form is unprecedented in the history of our democracy”. He also clarified that “the GNU would be bound by certain fundamental principles and would undertake a basic minimum programme of priorities as articulated in the Statement of Intent”.

Cabinet members are responsible for:

- Implementing national legislation unless the Constitution or an Act of Parliament provides otherwise.

- Developing and implementing national policy.

- Coordinating the functions of State Departments and administrations.

- Preparing and initiating legislation.

- Performing any other Executive function provided for in the Constitution or national legislation.

Who calls the shots in the GNU?

Since this is the GNU, no one has the authority to operate as they please, but decisions will be made collectively.

The programme of action is only for the government.

“It should be stressed that both the President and individual Ministers are duty-bound to take to the Cabinet issues of policy, significant decisions, such as decisions with financial consequences exceeding a department’s approved budget and any matter the Cabinet has decided should be referred to it.

“Failure to do so could undermine the validity of such a decision,” Ntshavheni said.

According to Ntshavheni, no minister can expropriate a decision of the Cabinet or that policy decision to themselves because then that policy will not be valid in terms of the laws of the Republic, as provided for in the Constitution.

She further emphasised that as head of the National Executive, Ramaphosa “exercises the executive authority of the Republic together with other members of the Cabinet, and members of the Cabinet are only ministers.”

Setting Government’s Priorities and Programme of Action

Usually, the government’s priorities and programme of action are articulated in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) which is guided by the election manifesto of the governing party, in the case of the GNU, governing parties.

The choice of priorities is guided by their alignment to the attainment of the goals of the National Development Plan (Vision 2030) as adopted by Parliament in 2012.

The Director-General in the Presidency is hard at work analysing the manifestos of parties to the GNU and will submit a proposal at the Cabinet Lekgotla.

Meanwhile, the ministers of the 7th administration will only adopt their priorities at the Lekgotla scheduled to take place next week between Thursday and Friday.

But for now, they will be receiving briefings from the various departments and also consult on how to shape the direction of the discussions at the Lekgotla.

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