Ramaphosa advised to cut 10 ministers in big cabinet reshuffle: report

President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently considering a new proposal which could see his executive reduced dramatically, from 72 to 40 members.

According to a report by the Sunday Times, as many as 10 ministerial positions could get the axe – with the new executive made up of only 25 ministers and 15 deputy ministers.

A source close to the presidency said that deputy ministers will likely be the hardest hit, with Ramaphosa reportedly having decided that there should be no deputy ministers in non-essential departments.

A second source said that Ramaphosa is also likely to merge a number of departments to cut down on expenditure, as part of a drive to save money.

Presidential spokesperson, Khusela Diko, told the Sunday paper that while the plan has not yet been finalised, it is likely to come after the national elections on 8 May.

Ramaphosa’s first cabinet reshuffle came in February last year, only 11 days after he was elected as president of the country. His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, made 11.

Ramaphosa said at the time that government would retain its existing ministries and departments until a review was made at a later date.

The president made a number of significant changes, notably the announcement of David Mabuza as deputy-president, the reshuffling of Malusi Gigaba as finance minister, and the re-introduction of Pravin Gordhan into cabinet.

Nhlanhla Nene was re-appointed as finance minister, marking a dramatic comeback after being sacked by former president Jacob Zuma in 2015.

Bloated cabinet

South Africa’s cabinet is currently one of the largest in the world.

The US currently has the equivalent of 15 ministers, Kenya the equivalent of 18 ministers and the United Kingdom the equivalent of  21 ministers.

As a result, the size of the executive has been a major sticking point for opposition parties.

Notably, the cabinet ballooned from around 50 members under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, to 72 members under Zuma.

President Size of cabinet
Nelson Mandela 50
Thabo Mbeki 50
Kgalema Motlanthe 47
Jacob Zuma/Cyril Ramaphosa 73

A 2018 report by the Democratic Alliance found that this increase meant that South Africa’s 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers would earn R163.5 million and over R510.5 million over the medium-term.

In addition to salaries, the DA said that the current cabinet had overspent on housing and vehicles.

“The Department of Public Works has a specific division called the ‘Prestige Portfolio’ that manages the accommodation for the Presidency, ministers, deputy ministers and other VIPs,” it said.

“The Department spent over R188 million on acquiring just 33 properties in Pretoria and Cape Town at a staggering average of R5.7 million per residence.”

Public sector wage bills are one of the largest drains on the national budget, accounting for nearly R550 billion – almost a third of the government’s total spend.

This is the equivalent of 14% of South Africa’s GDP.

Read: What South Africa lost in the “9 wasted years” under Zuma

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Ramaphosa advised to cut 10 ministers in big cabinet reshuffle: report