New ‘minister of electricity’ for South Africa won’t be unveiled until after the budget

 ·15 Feb 2023

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will hold off on reshuffling his executive until after the presentation of the annual budget next week, according to members of the governing party’s national working committee, which was briefed on his plans on Monday (13 February).

Ramaphosa didn’t specify when the long-awaited changes will be made, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to comment. Finance Minister Enoch Gondongwana is scheduled to present the budget on 22 February.

The public service and administration minister’s post hasn’t been filled on a permanent basis for almost a year, while the position of transport minister will soon become vacant, with incumbent Fikile Mbalula set to resign to take up a full-time post as secretary-general of the governing African National Congress.

Ramaphosa also announced plans in his state-of-the-nation address last week to appoint a new electricity minister within his office to tackle ongoing power outages.

The NWC, which oversees the day-to-day running of the ANC, has “advised that the president should be provided with the space to outline clear plans” to reconfigure the government to ensure it is more responsive and can deliver on its commitments, the party said in a statement. “The NWC anticipates that these plans will be outlined from February.”

Vincent Magwenya, the president’s spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the ANC panel’s deliberations.

Ramaphosa needs to act hastily because confidence in his administration has been undermined by its handling of the nation’s electricity crisis, one of the people said.

Among the considerations, Ramaphosa will have to take into account are the personal dynamics between Pravin Gordhan, the public enterprises minister who oversees state power utility Eskom, and Gwede Mantashe, the energy minister and ANC chairman who has overarching responsibility for power supply.

The two have differed over how best to tackle the outages, known locally as load shedding, and the performance of outgoing Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter.

Ramaphosa will also have to name a new deputy president, with incumbent David Mabuza having announced his intention to quit to make way for Paul Mashatile who replaced him as deputy ANC leader in December.

Ramaphosa’s allies have sought to persuade him to consider alternatives to Mashatile for the No. 2 post because they consider him to be overly ambitious and are concerned he may seek to use the position to try and topple the president before the end of his term, according to the people.

One option being put to Ramaphosa is that he appoint Mashatile as a minister and name a caretaker deputy until 2024 elections, though there is no ANC precedent for such a move, they said.

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