Johannesburg - Returning Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan calmed a political and economic storm on Monday but President Jacob Zuma’s second bid to deploy the little-known backbencher David van Rooyen is threatening to be as controversial as his first, at least locally.
Cosatu and political analysts were unanimous on Monday in their criticism of Zuma’s redeployment of David van Rooyen to the Ministry of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).
Cosatu was scathing of the decision, describing it as nothing more than patronage and an act of “blocking holes when the water is rushing in”.
“This kind of bungling (by Zuma) isn’t politically and economical helpful to our course,” said the labour federation’s spokesman Sizwe Pamla.
He said that when a ship is traversing difficult waters, “you don’t want to give an intern a chance to steer it”.
Further lashing out at Zuma for his dramatic about-turn and a direct swop of Van Rooyen for Gordhan, Pamla said: “The whole thing has actually deteriorated into a farce. It’ not what the country needs. We now risk upsetting voters and we might be punished in next year’s local government elections.”
Pamla said putting the little-known ANC MP from Merafong, where he was removed before his mayoral term ended, to a more demanding role of a third tier of government was problematic. He said service delivery to voters should have trumped all the sentimentality of not wanting to be unfair to Van Rooyen.
“We feel that this whole thing has been a serious gamble.”
The office of the auditor-general has in its successive reports expressed grave concern at the irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure at local government level, running into billions of rand.
Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen agreed that Van Rooyen’s appointment to Cogta was Zuma’s second gamble that was largely overlooked at the moment.
“Local government is one of the most challenging portfolios in government, and just before local elections, you need experience on that front,” she said.
“I see him (Van Rooyen) as qualified for neither of the jobs he has been given. He has no clout. Gordhan was making headway even if he wasn’t solving all the problems.”
She added Zuma’s appointment of Van Rooyen showed a disrespect to citizens as he lacked the esteem and authority to get things going in local government as Gordhan did.
“This government, however, has the reputation of treating the portfolio as the administrative stepchild of other ministries. It’s disrespectful to the citizens and communities that expect service delivery from the government.”
However, political analyst Professor Steven Friedman said serious questions needed to be asked on how effective the ministry (Cogta) is in government. He said appointing Van Rooyen to Cogta while he wasn’t good enough for the Treasury sent a strange message.
“But quite clearly the president had an impossible political problem, so this is a political solution. He couldn’t fire a person after just a few days when the minister had not even began work, that would have been unfair,” Friedman said.
Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said Van Rooyen had been thrown into a portfolio that no one seemed to care about. He said there was no proper thinking that went into sending him to Cogta. “It was one-dimensional thinking which was more about Treasury. This sends a message that Cogta is where the mess belongs,” he said.
“Unfortunately the ministry has been made a footnote of government historically. Mr Van Rooyen unfortunately has found himself at the centre of a serious political game, which may be unfair to him.”
The DA described Van Rooyen as a “failed mayor who is unqualified to be Cogta minister”.
Requests for comment made to the ANC were unanswered on Monday.
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