There is no Cabinet to reshuffle, says Moeletsi Mbeki
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Cape Town - The deadly riots which rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is the clearest indication yet that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet are missing in action and out of touch with the mood of the country, say some of the country’s political analysts.
Against the background of mounting anger and pressure on Ramaphosa to act decisively against ministers within the country’s security cluster for the government’s catastrophic failures in pre-empting the unrest, political economist Moeletsi Mbeki says these failures have proven that there isn’t a Cabinet to reshuffle.
According to Mbeki, a fit Cabinet would consist of ministers who engage with each other on matters concerning the country and seek ways to improve the state.
“It does not matter who enters the Cabinet because there is no Cabinet. Each minister is working in his or her own silo without consultation or co-ordination with other ministers. This came out very clearly during the recent events in KZN and Gauteng. The president said there was an insurrection, the minister of defence (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) said it was criminality and thuggery, the minister of intelligence (Ayanda Dlodlo) said that she had informed the police minister of the coming insurrection, the minister of police said he was not informed… so it shows there is no Cabinet. This was a major security threat, but there was no discussion of the nature of the threats and what should be done with it. What this showed us for the first time is that there is actually no Cabinet in South Africa,” said Mbeki.
During a tour of vaccination sites in Gauteng last week, Ramaphosa confirmed that he was mulling a “reconfiguration” of his Cabinet.
”The issue of reconfiguring the Cabinet is an ongoing consideration by any president. You look at how you deploy the people you are working with, and how you place those people to execute various tasks. So it is an ongoing process of evaluation and all that. It’s not something that we would say is an outlandish process. We continue to look at it,” he said.
However, since making these remarks, the status quo has remained, fuelling speculation that Ramaphosa is indecisive and is reluctant to act against his ministers.
In addition to the security failures at the time of the civil unrest, Ramaphosa is also under pressure to replace Health Minister Zweli Mkhize who was placed on special leave after he was embroiled in a graft scandal linked to his department’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Commenting on the difference between the terms reshuffle and reconfiguration, political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe suggests that Ramaphosa tends to give a “new name to things which don’t exist”.
According to Seepe, this occurred after the unrest occurred in the provinces resulting in Ramaphosa dubbing it an “insurrection”.
“This has now become a word to describe looting, but when you analyse where there have been coups, you will find that the coups are gained largely by the military. When the military is discontent, it is those who tend to take over and target the power, but Ramaphosa has given a concept of looting a new name. Whatever he means by saying ‘reconfiguration’ it will have no meaning until we see what he announces.”
Seepe said this reshuffle, or reconfiguration, is Ramaphosa’s way of responding to pressures which he is faced with.
The Cabinet is expected to be reduced, with certain departments merging. Seepe said this is where the concept of reconfiguration comes in.
“Bringing the departments which are closely linked to each other together means there will be one minister. The pressure on the president is that he needs to bring in ministers who are competent and also balance his political interests and survival. He needs to make sure that the people in his Cabinet are people he can rely on and that will support him.”
Another political analyst, Protas Madlala, said boosting investor confidence in the country should be one of Ramaphosa’s top priorities.
“He can’t even send anybody to talk to investors abroad until he has cleaned his house. I would be one of the people who supports Ramaphosa’s decision to remove (Bheki) Cele and Dlodlo from office. We do not have an effective crime intelligence agency in this country, let alone the South African Police Service. It’s sad for South Africans because all we see is just uniforms. I don’t see why he should save them. Cele claims he didn’t know, but as a layman… I could foresee.”
“Our president is in an unenviable position. He is facing pressures from all sides – the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. All these pressures are part of the crisis and things one doesn’t foresee. It never rains, but pours for him,” said Madlala.
However, the University of the Western Cape’s Professor Bheki Mngomezulu warned Ramaphosa to take his time before he axes ministers in the security cluster.
He said that while Ramaphosa should have reshuffled his Cabinet after the death of Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu earlier this year he should tread carefully with the justice, crime prevention and the security cluster.
Mngomezulu said Ramaphosa should avoid acting promptly despite the security cluster ministers giving conflicting messages to explain the unrest.
He said the president should have acted quickly after Mthembu died.
”It is wise not to rush things and apply his mind. In the security cluster you don’t just chop and change,” he said.
He called on Ramaphosa to effect any changes from an informed position and not bow to pressure from the public and opposition parties.
The SA Communist Party (SACP) also weighed in on the possible reconfiguration or reshuffle.
SACP spokesperson Dr Alex Mashilo said the party has been firm on due process, including meaningful consultation on all major decisions, policy formulation, implementation monitoring, evaluation and performance assessment on an objective basis.
”There are issues that belong to this process, which the SACP will raise at an appropriate time within the process, taking into account the medium-term strategic framework, the budget and other important considerations.
At this point in time, our message to all the ministers and the entire Cabinet is: do your best to serve the people wholeheartedly,” he said.
During its three-day special central executive committee meeting this week, Cosatu condemned the looting, the destruction of vital economic and community infrastructure that swept through parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last month.
”The meeting expressed concern about the sloppy response and the overall poor political leadership by the security cluster during these riots and demands political accountability,” the federation said.
According to Cosatu, the government’s austerity framework needs to be reviewed if the nation is to diffuse this ticking time bomb of unemployment and ensure that law enforcement agencies deliver on their mandate without fail.