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South Africa’s Ramaphosa faces tough cabinet choices

By Crystal Orderson, in Cape Town
Posted on Tuesday, 14 May 2019 12:41

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses ANC supporters at an election victory rally in Johannesburg on 12 May. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

All eyes will be on President Cyril Ramaphosa this week as he decides who will be the ministerial A-team to deliver on election promises.

Barely a week after the 8 May election in which the party received below 60% of the vote, senior ANC leaders are locked in a special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting – the first of the new mandate.

The watershed election resulted in the ANC’s worse performance since 1994.

It remains, however, an improvement on the dismal 2016 local government elections, where the party suffered losses in three major cities.

Under discussion at the post-election NEC meeting, which continues this morning:

  • hard questions around the party’s performance
  • the appointment of eight of the nine premiers
  • the cabinet

Under Jacob Zuma’s presidency, the cabinet expanded to 73 ministers and deputy ministers at huge expense to the fiscus.

Ramaphosa will reduce the cabinet to only 25 ministries, with some departments merging and a renewed focus on the ailing economy.

Addressing thousands of supporters in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said the focus is now on attracting investors and appointing the people that are “capable and committed”:

“We are going to do things differently, we are going to do things effectively. We are going to make sure we inject growth […], we are going to invite investors,” he said.

However, there is concern that the ANC’s list of MPs includes people linked to corruption allegations, such as Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba.

“A reduced majority means the president will likely need to offer a few ex-president Zuma loyalists key cabinet positions to protect his standing with the party’s national executive. This includes the possibility of Ramaphosa bringing in his former rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president,” writes Indigo Ellis, Africa analyst at risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft, in a note to investors:

  • “Bringing in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would deliver a further blow to Ramaphosa’s reputation amongst investors, calling into question his ability to secure $100bn in investment in five years, and weed out the roots of corruption with the party.”

Gauteng by a thread

Meanwhile, the ANC is breathing a sigh of relief in Gauteng:

  • 50.19% is the final result of the ANC in Gauteng, the country’s economic heartland.

The province makes up a third of the country’s GDP and was also a key focus for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who had hoped to force the ANC out of power.

  • The two opposition parties control Johannesburg and Tshwane after winning the majority of the vote in the 2016 local-government election.

Gauteng had the highest number of registered votes at just over 6 million, but voter turnout was just over 68% with more than 4.3 million actually casting their ballots.

  • In 2009 the ANC received just over 64% of the vote; this dropped more than 10% in 2014, when the ANC received only 53.59%.

Full 2019 Gauteng results:

  • ANC won 50.19% (37 seats)
  • DA won 27.5% ( 20 seats)
  • EFF at 14.7% (11 seats)
  • Freedom Front Plus (FF+) 3.56% ( 3 seats)

The ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, said the party had worked hard in Gauteng.

  • He said the ANC had gone back to basics: “We went straight to our people; our biggest thing was reaching out to people in their homes, we were humbled and they told us where and what they think of us and we had to examine this and we worked flat out here in Gauteng,” he said.

Bottom line:

The electorate has given the ANC a mandate and the party now has to deliver on the key issues:

  • Resolve the housing crisis
  • Create jobs and reduce unemployment
  • Fix local government and service delivery.
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