Ramaphosa’s new cabinet – here’s what to expect

 ·23 May 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce his cabinet this weekend, with a number of significant changes likely.

Ramaphosa was sworn in, unopposed, as president of the country on Wednesday (22 May), making promises of being a president for all South Africans, and moving forward with his plan to clean up government.

Stakeholders will be watching the president with a keen eye over the coming days, as the first step to fulfilling this promise will be who he selects to serve as part of his cabinet.

The president said that he knows the country is watching, and insisted he knows what work needs to be done.

“We’ll present an outcome I think our country will welcome, because it will have a good balance of gender, youth, competence, demographic, regional spread and all that,” he said.

The new cabinet will be unveiled following the presidential inauguration on Saturday, 25 May, with analysts expecting the list of names on Sunday or Monday.

Here are the biggest changes to expect:

Smaller cabinet

Ramaphosa is widely expected to use his cabinet announcement to change how his executive and ministries are structured.

Earlier this month, senior ANC official Fikile Mbalula said that Ramaphosa will cut the size of his cabinet to under 30 positions. Currently, there are 34 ministers and 35 deputy ministers in the executive.

Fin24 reports that this will likely include the incorporation of the Economic Development Ministry into the Department of Trade and Industry.

South Africa’s cabinet is 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.

Some controversial names are not coming back

On Monday (20 May), Ramaphosa took his first step toward revamping his cabinet by removing environment minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who’d been accused of taking bribes during a judicial probe.

This was quickly followed by the announcement that former finance minister Malusi Ggiaba and former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete would not serve as members of parliament.

The final bombshell was the announcement that deputy president David Mabuza would also not be sworn in as a parliamentary member as he prepares to defend himself against corruption charges.

Peter Attard Montalto, head of Capital Markets Research at Intellidex, said that these announcements are largely market positive.

However, he cautioned that the news surrounding the new cabinet may have to do with long-term political manoeuvring, ego, pensions and self-interest.

“Of course the net impact is still to achieve ‘clean-up’ and so in some sense an accidental win on this front for Ramaphosa – who is afforded easier choices and a larger period of room to breathe,” he said.

“The long term dynamics are still very much in play. No one has suddenly grown a conscience; no one is suddenly not working in their own strategic long term interest.”

New deputy president

With Mabuza delaying being sworn in as an MP, the role of deputy president is now under question.

According to Attard Montalto, the deputy president must be an MP – and there is a time limit of a year before party lists can be opened for reorganisation with the IEC.

This means that Mabuza is out for at least a year, and Ramaphosa is likely to announce a new deputy president this weekend, with early reports indicating that it will be a woman.

Speaking to News24, ANC sources said that minister in the presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and minister of higher education Naledi Pandor are two possible candidates.

Intellidex has tipped Dlamini-Zuma for the position because of her broad support from the NEC and pockets of strong opposition.

A more ‘harmless’ compromise candidate may be needed, in which case Lindiwe Sisulu will be the choice.

“Whilst not having support in the same way as (Dlamini-Zuma) she also does not have the oppositional forces against her in the same way,” Attard Montalto said.

Read: The 3 names tipped to be Ramaphosa’s new deputy

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter