President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS.

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma and the ANC’s top brass meet today to thrash out the look of his next cabinet, following the party’s election victory.

Party second-in-command Cyril Ramaphosa is set to be appointed deputy president of the republic, signaling the end of Kgalema Motlanthe’s six-year tenure in office.

This comes against a small but determined push inside the party for national chairwoman Baleka Mbete to be appointed as a second deputy president, to send the right signals for a female candidate as the next president.

It is understood that the president sought legal opinion on the matter over the last few days, but that there is currently no appetite in the ANC for the constitutional gerrymandering a second deputy would require. With just over 62 percent of the vote, the ruling party also significantly lacks the two thirds majority the party would need. Without it, the ANC would need the support of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). ANC heavy weights consider the option of being in hock to Malema undesirable.

The constitution states: “The cabinet consists of the president, as head of the cabinet, a deputy president and ministers.” It goes on to state that the president must select a deputy president “from among the members of the National Assembly’’.

It is understood that the National Planning Commission might become a cabinet sub-committee to be chaired by the president or his deputy. Ramaphosa was the deputy of the commission and one of the architects of the National Development Plan.

There is debate over the future of Pravin Gordhan, the outgoing finance minister. It is understood there are two contenders for Gordhan’s post, his deputy Nhlanhla Nene and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni. The latter was roundly rejected by the ANC’s alliance partners.

Even those who share Mboweni’s economic outlook say he is a tough sell because of his bombastic manner. It is understood that the push for Nene, who enjoys “professional and collegial” relations with his colleagues, is being pushed by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC’s left alliance partners, while not entirely happy with Gordhan prefer him to either Mboweni or Nene.

A senior ANC official told The Sunday Independent there was a desire is to keep cabinet small and lean and not to expand it. However, a new ministry for small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME) is being mooted, either as a stand alone or a major entity of the existing economic development ministry.

There appears to be debate over whether Malusi Gigaba remains in Public Enterprises, but a source said he would stay in the economic cluster of ministries.

Zuma’s second term will stand or fall on his administration’s ability to rollout the multi-trillion rand infrastructure rollout plan.

Insiders told The Sunday Independent that while Zuma was negotiating with the NEC and alliance leaders on who should be deployed to the executive, the president would exercise his sole discretion on at least seven cabinet positions, largely in the security cluster.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is vulnerable and could be the only minister replaced in this sensitive cluster. Ngoako Ramatlhodi has been touted as a possible replacement for Mthethwa.

Also vulnerable is Communications Minister Yunus Carrim, who could be replaced by Lindiwe Zulu, who heads up the party’s NEC sub-committee on communications.

While the ANC’s 62 percent victory at the polls provides some breathing space, there is still a delicate balancing act that will shape the look of the next cabinet, including the following considerations:

n Balance of forces within the tripartite alliance.

n The need to strengthen the state’s ability to deliver before the local government elections.

n The return of many former ANC leaders from Cope.

n The divisions within Cosatu.

A senior alliance leader said efforts by the ANC to mediate the conflict within Cosatu could include offering Zwelinzima Vavi a senior post. This is significant because it signals a departure from the hardline position coming from Vavi’s detractors in the alliance’s left.

The threat of a Numsa breakaway and the more than 6 percent garnered by the EFF off the back of left rhetoric, are the drivers for the change in attitude.

“It’s all in Vavi’s hands,” said the senior alliance leader.

Attempts to get comment from Vavi were unsuccessful at the time of going to press.

The consultations involving the president, members of the national executive committee of the ANC and its alliance are likely to continue into early next week by which time Zuma will have had enough time to weigh up the various factors which ultimately inform him on who and what to trade off on.

On the provincial side it is understood that South Africa’s economic heartland will see no change in its premier despite Nomvula Mokonyane not making it onto any party list prior to the election. Phumulo Masualle looks poised to become premier of Eastern Cape, while Tina Joemat-Petterssen could be redeployed to lead the Northern Cape as premier.

Speaking from the IEC results centre in Pretoria this weekend, Mokonyane said the president was the only person that had a guaranteed position in the government at the moment.

“Any other person will be after the national executive committee. When they (NEC) will convene I don’t know,” said Mokonyane.

Zuma will most likely announce his executive once MPs are sworn in and he is inaugurated. - The Sunday Independent