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Ramaphosa’s cabinet challenge

By Crystal Orderson, in Pretoria
Posted on Wednesday, 15 May 2019 19:38

President Cyril Ramaphosa knows that he does not have much time to deliver on promises to turn the country around. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The 8 May general election did not give President Cyril Rampahosa the strong mandate he wanted to sweep away the allies of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. To see the new balance of power developing in the governing African National Congress (ANC), eyes are now on the choices that will be made for Ramaphosa's new cabinet.

Just days after the sixth democratic election, which saw the ANC win with a slim majority and its worst performance since 1994 speculation has been rife about the size and shape of Ramaphosa’s cabinet. ANC insiders are using WhatsApp groups to discuss names being banded for cabinet posts. Ramaphosa is due to announce his new cabinet after his inauguration on 25 May.

The Africa Report has seen various WhatsApp lists of potential cabinet ministers. They include two deputy presidents…

Two deputy presidents: David Mabuza and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Finance: Former Gauteng MEC of finance Barbara Creecy
International relations: Former parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete
Intelligence: Former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mnchunu
Economy and DTI merge: David Masondo
Land and agriculture: Zweli Mkhize

Dlamini-Zuma ran against Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency as former president Zuma’s preferred replacement. She lost but Zuma allies like Mabuza and Ace Magashule won powerful ANC positions. If she makes it into government, it would be a sign that Ramaphosa may have a tougher time sweeping out his predecessor’s patronage networks in the ANC. Ramaphosa ran on a campaign promising a ‘New Dawn’ that would put the days of ‘state capture’ behind the governing party.

The potential ministerial lists also show several ministries, like higher education and science merging. And they still include questionable names like Bathabile Dlamini.

The ANC has been tight-lipped and have been locked in a two-day closed meeting discussing the party’s electoral outcome and also who will be part of the Ramaphosa’s dream team.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga argues that Ramaphosa won’t have a free hand in the appointments, saying:

  • “This will be a compromised cabinet given the expectations – people are expecting a government that is super clean.”
  • “The reality is that once you have a new deputy president that is not Mabuza – some people are saying Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma […] if Ramaphosa is going to this he is deviating from ANC practices. And I do not think he is that secure to deviate from ANC practices.”
  • “Ramaphosa is not strong enough in the ANC. The president has to choose from the party list that went on campaigning for the ANC.”

And Mathekga also points out Ramaphosa’s bigs problems:

  • “The high unemployment and economy are the big issues.”
  • “We have to be honest. We know he is good for South Africa but cannot be blind to the realities of the country.”
  • “Cyril Ramaphosa’s detractors understand street politics and they can mobilise. You cannot just listen to business and the middle classes and get rid of those deemed corrupt. It is not that easy.”

This week Stats SA released some bleak unemployment figures:

Some 36 million people from the working-age population, or 27.6% of the total population, are officially unemployed. According to the latest data, the country’s unemployment rate rose to 27.6% in the first quarter of 2019, up from 27.1% in the last quarter of 2018.

“Unemployment is so high. People have no jobs. The factories are closing and people are without jobs,” Thembi, who lives in Pretoria, tells The Africa Report. She counts herself lucky that she has a job.

South Africans need jobs and fast. Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) spokesperson Sizwe Pamla called the 0.5% increase in unemployment “depressing”, saying it should serve as a “wake-up call to the government”. With a fresh mandate from the electorate, Ramaphosa knows that unless he addresses this issue, voters will likely punish the ANC at the 2021 local government elections.

Taking a break from the two-day ANC National Executive Committee meeting in Pretoria President Cyril Ramaphosa said he has a plan to fix the ailing economy.

Addressing his first event since the election last week, he told investors at a Goldman Sachs conference in Johannesburg that the “structure” of his cabinet will “enable government to focus on generating higher economic growth, creating more jobs and serving the people of the country”.

  • “We want to not only change the gear. We want to get into top gear.” We are in an economy that’s not been growing […] for more than a decade.”
  • “That troubles u. That troubles the people of South Africa and we therefore want to move out of the low growth scenario and get into top gear and make our economy much more attractive to investors.”
  • “What has made us less attractive is a number of issues [like] policy uncertainty. The regulatory framework has impeded people from getting interested in our economy.”

But some experts are less convinced about Ramaphosa’s economic strategies. Charleen Duncan, an expert on entrepreneurship and education says:

“The informal economy employs almost 2.9 million – but lack of policy, lack of funding, lack of training, and too much red tape prevents this from transitioning into the formal economy. Added to this, we do not encourage university graduates to become job creators. We are still churning out job seekers, and we haven’t begun to address the questions around graduate employability or stated to see entrepreneurship as a proper career.”

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