4 things to watch with Ramaphosa’s new cabinet

 ·30 May 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new cabinet is a mix of old, new and very new – with the market reacting warmly to the new make-up, even if the changes were not as drastic as first thought.

The new executive comprises 28 ministers, from 36 previously, with several departments being bundled together under one portfolio.

New faces in the executive include Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s former chief whip in Parliament, as a minister in the presidency; lawyer Ronald Lamola as minister of justice and correctional services; and Patricia de Lille, the former mayor of Cape Town and leader of the opposition Good party, as public works minister.

The market responded positively to the retention of ministers Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni to their respective departments (Public Enterprises and Finance) – but at the same time it is obvious that the ‘reduced’ cabinet was not cut down as much as many expected.

This was most evident with deputy ministers, where the number was not reduced at all, despite eight departments being folded into others.

Ultimately, the cabinet of 72 was just slightly reduced to a cabinet of 64 – with many clouds still hanging over the heads of its members, who are still under scrutiny from the ANC’s integrity committee.

“He really tried cleaning up,” said Sethulego Matebesi, a political analyst at the University of the Free State. “He has done extremely well under the circumstances. This is a team that will give us a new sense of hope.”

According to Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto, amid the good and bad in the new cabinet, there are a few notable things to watch, especially among the newcomers.

1. New guys taking over

Attard Montalto said that deputy ministers in finance and public enterprises may be groomed to take over from Mboweni and Gordhan in time, and so their approach to policies should be watched closely.

David Masondo has been appointed as deputy minister of finance, and is seen as a left-wing intellectual, making him an interesting appointee for National Treasury.

Phumulo Masualle has been appointed as deputy minister of public enterprises. He was previously the premier of the Eastern Cape, and not much is known about his stance on Eskom or other SOEs.

Ronald Lamola, who was made justice minister, is also a new face in cabinet, but is popular within the ANC and served in several senior positions within the party.

Attard Montalto said he is a long-term watch as someone who could rise to lead the party.

2. Who got promoted and demoted

Not every ministry in government carries the same prestige, and movements of ministers can be seen as promotions or demotions.

Minister Naledi Pandor’s appointment to foreign affairs is seen as a promotion, where she is expected to bring stability to South Africa’s international relations.

Pandor’s predecessor, Lindiwe Sisulu has been ‘demoted’ to Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, according to Attard Montalto, and may face an uphill battle, as it was proven to be one of the most mismanaged and corrupt departments.

Zweli Mkhize has been moved to the health department, which had no direction under former minister Aaron Motsoaledi, the analyst said, but Motsoaledi has been moved to home affairs, which could spell trouble for that department – especially around visas.

The appointment of GOOD leader Patricia de Lille to cabinet caught everyone by surprise. However, her experience with running the City of Cape Town makes her placement in the department of infrastructure and public works a good fit, the analyst said.

3. What merged departments will be doing

One of the biggest moves by Ramaphosa was to merge several departments, and according to Attard Montalto, were hit and miss.

Among the good moves, a combined ministry of environmental affairs, forestry and fishieries led by Barabar Creecy is seen as a good fit, where there are fewer political issues and policy hurdles.

The combined agriculture, land reform and rural development department is also a positive, headed by Thoko Didiza who has led the process of land reform in parliament.

However, merging energy and mineral resources is “problematic”, Attard Montalto said, noting that there are big risks for conflicts of interest between the two portfolios – and keeping Gwede Mantashe onboard may also prove to be a negative.

While the department of small businesses was widely expected to be bundled with the department of trade and industry, it still remains. The department could be a key department for economic growth, but has not yet been leveraged to do much.

4. Mabuza’s moves

David Mabuza has retained his position as deputy president of the country, following political manoeuvring in the past week. The deputy initially asked his swearing in as an MP to be delayed, so he could clear his name with the ANC’s integrity committee. He was sworn in on Tuesday, ahead of the cabinet announcement.

According to Susan Booysen, director of research at the Johannesburg-based Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, while Ramaphosa initially favoured Naledi Pandor or Lindiwe Sisulu to be his deputy, Mabuza may be less of a threat to Ramaphosa as deputy president than he would have been had he ended up angry or frustrated in a full-time ANC position.

However, Mabuza won’t be left in the position without watchful eyes.

Attard Montalto noted that the president has put in two ‘do-ers’ to counteract Mabuza, with Jackson Mthembu and his deputy, Thembi Siweya, to operate within the presidency.

Read: Full list – here is Ramaphosa’s new cabinet

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