Where are the young people in the new cabinet?

By Zohra Teke Time of article published Mar 4, 2018

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PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa believes young people in our country are "dynamic agents of change", capable of finding innovative and creative solutions to problems.

He reaffirmed their value to the economy during his State of the Nation address. Expectations following his speech have been high, with most of the country and international markets giddy on a "Ramaphoria" victory. But then came his Cabinet reshuffle.

While there was relief at the return of experienced and trusted leaders such as Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan, most of us were left shocked and disappointed at the move of Bathabile Dlamini to the portfolio of ministry of women.

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking in Parliament. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

Social media went viral in the condemnation of this move, citing Dlamini's failure at the helm of the Department of Social Development. Her move has not been welcomed by any sector. Instead, there has been an outcry over Ramaphosa’s lack of women leaders in his new Cabinet, with even the International Women’s Forum slating his reshuffle.

While there has been speculation that Ramaphosa may be intending to ditch the ministry of women altogether, that is yet to be seen. For now, it seems to be the only plausible explanation behind his decision to move Dlamini to that post.

But that was not the only cat among the pigeons.

The much-anticipated reshuffle failed to produce any youth leaders, people with disabilities and ministers across the colour divide, besides Gordhan and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

Pravin Gordhan is sworn in by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng as the Minister of Public Enterprises in Parliament . Picture: Cindy Waxa/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY/ANA Picture

Ramaphosa lost a critical opportunity to ride the wave of public support and demonstrate his was an inclusive Cabinet representing all South Africans, black and white, able and disabled. It would have been historic and a real new dawn had we seen someone who was visually or hearing impaired appointed, for example.

Given his pronouncements on the importance of youth being agents of economic change, he failed to bring in a single youth leader to his new Cabinet.

Again, a decision that has led to an outcry from youth organisations, despite welcoming him to the presidential throne. Most Cabinet ministers are worn out, out-of-touch leaders who are in their 60s. There is nothing wrong with this, as some (not all) are credible, experienced and needed to ensure continuation of a successful transition to a new cabinet. But, this should have been supported by youth deputies who are then mentored to take over and inject youth leadership into the ministries.

This has not happened.

The anti-climax of Ramaphosa’s reshuffle is more acute given the public perception of his character. He is savvy, charming, intelligent, eloquent, commands respect among economists - both locally and internationally.

Never has a South African president except the late Nelson Mandela enjoyed such glowing admiration. Even the EFF and the DA were left enamoured by his victory, opting to applaud rather than interrupt his State of the Nation address with the usual "point of order, Madam Speaker" interjections.

Ramaphosa has what it takes to restore global respect in South Africa. He also has what it takes to revitalise the ANC, ensuring it takes the 2019 elections.

But he needs to act decisively lest he falls from the pedestal he has been

elevated to.

Zuma daggers are still out within his midst. He cannot afford to lose credibility with just one year to go before the elections.

As president, he must be seen to be a unifying force for all citizens, as has been his clarion call. South Africans deserve it and have come out battered, humiliated and bruised by our country’s capture. It has left many disillusioned and non-patriotic.

While the issue of land expropriation without compensation has created a further wedge, it is an issue that can be used to unite if done correctly and includes all parties, black and white.

Ramaphosa has yet to address those fears - a gap taken up by the DA, which is already adopting scare-mongering tactics around the issue.

He has his work cut out, and is certainly far from perfect. A presidential salary increase - up from his predecessor Jacob Zuma (does a billionaire really need a presidential increase when most citizens continue to live in poverty?) and a R30m villa in Cape Town does not bode well for his new term. It is precisely this kind of flaunting which is disliked by South Africans - and Ramaphosa should know better, particularly given the Nkandla debacle, regardless of whether he pays for it out of his own wealth or not.

Political sensitivity towards those he represents is what counts. His campaign was not won because he was a grassroots politician - that was the advantage of his contender, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, assumed her duties on Friday. Picture: Supplied/GCIS

She was seen as having the poor and marginalised majority at the heart of her campaign - a perception that was entrenched, whether true or not. Ramaphosa was the Zuma alternative, backed by astute economic intelligence.

A self-made black economic empowerment billionaire, he didn’t need money and so would not be corruptible was the perception.

Ramaphosa has won the intellectuals. He needs to do more now to win the hearts and minds of the poor and women. His reshuffle has failed to take that opportunity, and he must take up that challenge before 2019 or be prepared for the opposition to use that against him.

He can't afford to lose his crown.

- Zohra Teke is a freelance journalist in Durban 

- The views expressed are not those of Independent Media


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