Cabinet reshuffle is coming

 ·20 Dec 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to reshuffle his cabinet in the coming weeks following the results of the ANC’s 55th elective conference.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has been elected as the party’s secretary-general, which is a full-time position at Luthuli House.

Speaking to the media following the election, Mbalula said that he would resign as transport minister as a result but did not give an indication of when this would be.

When Mbalula steps down from the position, Ramaphosa will be sitting with two big gaps in his cabinet, with the position of minister of public service and administration still sitting vacant after former minister Ayanda Dlodlo was appointed as an Executive Director on the board of the World Bank in Washington in the United States earlier this year.

Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi has been serving as acting minister for the department since then.

Transport and Public Service and Administration are two key departments that cannot sit vacant for long. This was demonstrated for the latter in recent months when public servants embarked on – and continue to participate in – nationwide strikes, pushing back against the government’s unilateral 3% wage hike.

South Africa’s roads, railways, and licencing departments are also in a sorry state that requires keen focus and attention within the transport department.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has a new full-time position at Luthuli House

While Ramaphosa has given no indication of how he would go about a cabinet reshuffle, his resounding victory at the ANC conference may give him the confidence to axe ministers who vocally opposed his bid for a second term, and in cases, actively worked against him to topple him politically.

This includes Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu, whose own political ambitions put her at loggerheads with the president as far back as January 2022, when she started speaking out against Ramaphosa and his leadership.

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is another minister that has actively spoken out against the president, and was the first ANC member to break ranks during the Phala Phala vote in parliament last week and voted to adopt the report which could have led to Ramaphosa’s impeachment.

Dlamini-Zuma defended her decision but still faces possible disciplinary action within the party for going against orders. When asked whether she would resign from her position as a cabinet minister, she said that she would decide after the elective conference – but would not hold it against Ramaphosa if he fired her, as is his right.

According to political analysts, while the cabinet serves at the pleasure of the president, a lot of politicking is still taking place in the background, and Ramaphosa may find it difficult to act without support from the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).

Sisulu was not present for the voting and also faces possible action. It has been left to the incoming NEC to take disciplinary action against members further.

It was Ramaphosa’s narrow victory in 2017 and a deeply divided NEC which led to many of his political opponents and detractors finding a place in government. With the new NEC still to be determined, it remains to be seen how much leverage the president has to act.

Read: Ramaphosa wins battle for the ANC

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