PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet remains larger than what can be seen in many of the world’s most dominant economies, despite his promise to reduce its size.
In February 2018 Ramaphosa announced that he wanted to cut the bloated cabinet while delivering his first State of the Nation Address.
He said it was important for the size of the government to respond to the efficient use of public funds.
This was after Ramaphosa replaced former President Jacob Zuma, who had 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers.
The size of the cabinet has long been criticised as too bloated and wasteful following its expansion by Zuma in 2009.
Civil society bodies and opposition parties have also been calling for the size of the cabinet to be reduced, and this saw Ramaphosa reduce the cabinet to 28 portfolios through the amalgamation of several departments.
He combined Trade and Industry with Economic Development; Higher Education and Training with Science and Technology; Environmental Affairs was combined with Forestry and Fisheries; and Agriculture was combined with Land Reform and Rural Development.
The Department of Mineral Resources was combined with that of Energy; Human Settlements was combined with Water and Sanitation; Sports and Recreation were combined with Arts and Culture.
However, announcing changes to his cabinet last March, Ramaphosa surprisingly introduced additional ministries for new portfolios.
He announced the Minister in the Presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation, Maropene Ramokgopa, and Minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
With the two additions, Ramaphosa’s cabinet then consisted of 30 ministers and 36 deputy ministers, costing taxpayers R146 million a year.
The 30 ministers’ salaries cost an annual R74m, and the 36 deputy ministers cost around R72m.
Each minister earns more than R2.47m a year, and each deputy R2m.
The government also pays for ministers and deputies’ VIP protection, office support staff, accommodation, and vehicles.
Opposition parties were not impressed with the introduction of the two ministries, citing higher expenses.
Meanwhile, the South African cabinet remains higher than many of the world’s most dominant economies, such as Japan, which has 19 ministers, the United States with 24, and Germany with 15 ministers.
Political analyst Professor Siphamandla Zondi, said Ramaphosa’s decision to increase ministers as a result of the recent cabinet reshuffle was a betrayal of his promise to undertake to drive the macro-organisation of the state, including the size of the cabinet.
Zondi said this was expected to happen within 100 days, until early 2018.
“It is not clear why it has not made progress when it is fully within the powers of the President to undertake. No legal challenge or civil society opposition against this has been registered. It is simply not clear why it has not been done seven years later. The increase in the cabinet as a result of the recent cabinet reshuffle is a betrayal of this undertaking.
“The presidency is now bloated … we still have the Ministry of Public Enterprises in place despite the unclear role it has in advancing the National Development Programme (NDP) goals. The economy ministries (tourism, small business, trade and industry, labour and employment, mining, treasury, and agriculture as part of the land reform ministry) have been due for rationalising for a while now,” he said.
Zondi further said: “Sadly, how this cluster of ministries has performed does not justify the status quo, the recent performance reviews showed that the economy is not growing, it is creating jobs required and inequality is not reducing despite having all these 7 ministries seized with this one key objective together, to grow the economy by 5% or above. Seven ministries plus have not been able to achieve this one objective, so there is a need for a rethink.
“The number of deputy ministers is also quite high, but the value added is unclear, not even from the perspective of grooming future ministers, some deputy ministers are older than ministers. The value is not as obvious as the costs involved. The president has an opportunity to use the performance reviews with ministers to rethink the executive and administrative structure as it is not producing the objectives he announced at the beginning,” said Zondi.
Another political analyst, Kim Heller, said the gravest concern about the current cabinet should be less about quantity and more about quality. She said there is a lack of highly proficient and effective ministers.
“Few have a solid handle on or real expertise in their respective portfolios, due to lack of requisite skills and rotation across portfolios.
“There is no justification to increase the size of the cabinet. The answer lies in a smaller more competent cabinet that prides optimal and ever-effective delivery and accountability above all. For now, we have a cabinet which is not delivering ROI (return on investment) for the country and ordinary citizens,” Heller said.
Speaking on the cabinet, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson spoke on the possibility of a reduction in the numbers, with his spokesperson Vincent Magwenya saying: “Should that be the case, the President will announce it accordingly.”