Cabinet announcement marks the beginning of a new episode

President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing his cabinet. Picture: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing his cabinet. Picture: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 1, 2024


By Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu

The decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to finally announce his Cabinet is a welcome development. He will no longer be the political head of all departments as has been the case. This will bring the much-needed stability. The markets will appreciate this development.

While this is commendable, it marks the beginning of another episode.

The 2024 general election has been full of drama. Firstly, it was preceded by a series of court cases. These litigations delayed the printing of ballots. Eventually, this episode came to an end when the ballots were finally ready.

In no time, there was another moment with allegations that some of the trucks transporting IEC materials were not accompanied by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as should be the case. This episode pitted the IEC and the ANC on the one hand against uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP) on the other hand, which cried foul, arguing that something sinister was happening to try and rig the election.

On election day, many people voted with minimal glitches. However, some concerns were raised from various voting stations. These included late arrival of voting materials, failures of Voting Management Devices (VMDs) which resulted in the slow pace of processing voters, electricity outages in certain voting stations, people being prevented from rejoining the queues after stepping out to get food, etc.

What became a huge concern was when the system was reported to have temporarily shut down for about two hours. When it returned, some complained about their parties remaining stagnant on the results board and suspected that something could have happened while the system was not working.

It did not come as a surprise that at the conclusion of voting, 26 political parties submitted about 579 complaints using the prescribed Section 55 forms. Before those complaints were heard, the IEC announced the results on Sunday, June 2.

This is one episode which resulted in the delay in the announcement of the Cabinet. The official results showed that no single political party had obtained an outright majority. The aggrieved parties rejected these results, arguing that they did not reflect the correct wishes of the electorate.

As the ANC initiated coalition discussions, another episode ensued. Tripartite Alliance partners – Cosatu and the SACP – were vehemently opposed to the ANC having a coalition with the DA. This saw the ANC holding a lengthy special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. It was not until 10.25pm that ANC President Ramaphosa addressed the media.

What was telling in that media briefing was the announcement that the ANC had decided to go for a Government of National Unity (GNU). With the benefit of hindsight, this episode has been directly responsible for the delay in announcing the Cabinet.

Contrary to those who hold the view that all negotiating partners had the interest of the country at heart, the reality is that some parties came into the GNU discussions with ill-intentions. They were primarily concerned about amassing power to the extent of unwittingly trying to usurp the president’s powers accorded to him by Section 84(e) of the Constitution in terms of making appointments such as those of Ministers and their Deputies.

What also compounded this situation was that some political parties did not want to work side-by-side. For example, the DA did not see itself working with the EFF. Similarly, the EFF was not prepared to join the GNU if it included the DA and the FF+.

For some time, a group of parties known as ‘Progressive Caucus’ was reluctant to join the GNU until very late. The MKP took a firm decision that it was not going to join the GNU but sent its 58 members to be sworn-in as MPs while pursuing their cases through the courts.

This background paints a broader picture within which the delay in announcing the Cabinet should be understood. Noticeably, even on the day when the announcement was to be made (Sunday, June 30), there was another delay. The announcement was scheduled for 9pm, but it only began at 9.52pm – leading to speculation that the discussions had not yet been concluded. Once the president started, his address lasted for 18 minutes, ending at 10.10pm. His facial expression said it all!

Before the announcement, Ramaphosa prepared the viewers’ mindset by stating that he considered capability, commitment, effectiveness, experience, integrity, skills, and stability. He further stated that in making his decision, he placed the people’s needs first.

A quick look at the Cabinet has some elements of these considerations. However, at the centre of it all was the president’s determination to satisfy the GNU collective. Intriguingly, the Deputy President Paul Mashatile is also ANC.

The decision to increase the number of ministries from 30 to 32 was meant to accommodate more ministers. Splitting certain ministries like Agriculture and Land Affairs as well as Justice and Correctional Services was driven by the same reason.

It remains unclear as to why the Ministry of Electricity was retained – even having a deputy when the Ministry of Energy is there.

Another department where the change was not immediately clear is the Department of Health. Dr Joe Phaahla became the Deputy to Dr Aaron Motsoaledi who was once a Minister in this Department. Angie Motshekga became Minister of Defence, deputised by General Bantu Holomisa and Richard Mkhungo. Senzo Mchunu was appointed Minister of Police.

Reactions will trigger another episode.

* Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu is the Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at the Nelson Mandela University.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

IOL Opinion