In yet another dramatic Cabinet reshuffle yesterday, President Jacob Zuma tightened the loyal palace guard around him, preparing to jettison the ANC’s partners in the tripartite alliance in pursuit of his own agenda, which appears to include going ahead with the massive R1 trillion nuclear build programme.
His 11th Cabinet reshuffle since he took office in 2009 saw the axing of higher education minister Blade Nzimande in favour of Hlengiwe Mkhize, who was moved across from the home affairs portfolio.
Nzimande’s firing sent shock waves through the Left, with the SA Communist Party, in which Nzimande is one of the most senior leaders, likening Zuma’s announcement to a declaration of war on it.
This was despite the attempt by Zuma to soften the blow against the SACP by appointing Young Communist League leader Buti Manamela as deputy minister of higher education to replace disgraced Mduduzi Manana who has been charged with assault after hitting a woman outside a nightclub in Johannesburg earlier this year.
The most dramatic – and for some analysts, ominous – appointment was that of former state security minister David Mahlobo as minister of energy.
In that portoflio, Mahlobo, who is known as a fiercely dedicated Zuma loyalist, will have huge influence over the proposed nuclear reactor build programme which has a current project price tag of R1 trillion.
There have been reports that Russian nuclear agency Rosatom is the front-runner to win the contract.
Mahlobo was one of a small group of people who accompanied Zuma earlier this year to Russia and met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
There has been speculation that the nuclear deal, which has been stalled by legal action, was one of the matters discussed at that meeting.
Mahlobo was in charge of the state security department when a number of intelligence reports of dubious quality were used to, among other things, pose questions about then finance minister Pravin Gordhan and to suggest that non-government organisations in South Africa were being funded by “foreign powers” as part of a “regime change” campaign to oust Zuma.
Mahlobo vigorously defended his boss in the Nkandla issue, insisting the expenditure on the president’s private homestead in KwaZulu-Natal was justified.
Mkhize is involved in legal issues at present with the director-general of her former department, Mkuseli Apleni, whom she has suspended and is trying to dismiss.
Mkhize is replaced in the home affairs portfolio by Ayanda Dlodlo, the former minister of communications. Mahlobo’s predecessor in the energy ministry, Mmamaloko Kubayi, is the new minister of communications, replacing Dlodlo.
Advocate Bongani Thomas Bongo is the minister of state security in place of David Mahlobo. – email@example.com