After a day of behind-the-scenes haggling with potential candidates, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet announcement last night came with no outright shocks – but with some big surprises.
Most prominent among the announcement of the heads and deputies of 28 new ministries – down from 36 previously – was the name of Pravin Gordhan, who has been retained as minister of public enterprises. Ramaphosa’s move came despite the fact that Gordhan has still not been legally “cleared” by the court after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse finding against him last week.
Gordhan has lodged an application for a court review of the protector’s report, but there has been no decision yet. Ramaphosa’s move indicates not only confidence in Gordhan, but also a rejection of Mkhwebane’s assessments.
Another indication of continuity and experience – which Ramaphosa said was an important consideration in the selection – was the renewal of the appointment of Tito Mboweni as finance minister. After days of uncertainty, in which the value of the rand depreciated, the dual appointments of Gordhan and Mboweni are bound to restore confidence.
Another surprise in the line-up was that of Patricia de Lille, leader of the Good party and former DA mayor of Cape Town, who was made minister of public works and infrastructure. There had been no indication before the announcement that the ANC had been talking to Good.
However, Ramaphosa said the Cabinet composition had been carefully determined according to gender representation (50% of the ministers are women); diversity and regional representation. De Lille fits the bill.
In announcing David Mabuza as deputy president, Ramaphosa appeared to give credence to suggestions that the ANC’s internal integrity committee had cleared Mabuza of serious allegations against him. Mabuza was sworn in as an MP on Tuesday, paving the way for this reappointment.
Although Ramaphosa made much of the fact that the Cabinet had been pared down in line with his commitment to reduce government costs, there are nevertheless still a total of 57 ministers and deputy ministers.
The appointment of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to the portfolio of cooperative governance and traditional affairs was expected and indicates both a need to have a person with a solid track record in government, as Dlamini-Zuma does have, and the necessity of healing any possible rifts which may have developed when she and Ramaphosa faced off in the leadership tussle at the ANC’s Nasrec elective conference in December 2017.
Also interesting was the selection of former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau, an ANC stalwart, as one of Dlamini-Zuma’s deputies.
Another ANC Gauteng long-term loyalist, Barbara Creecy, got the nod as minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, one of the new combined ministries. Angie Motshekga retained her position as minister of basic education, as did Blade Nzimande in higher education.
An interesting move was the sideways posting of former health minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who has been pushing hard on the National Health Insurance project. He was sent to home affairs and replaced by Zweli Mkhize, a qualified doctor.