Ramaphosa caught between a Gordhan rock and a Mabuza hard place

Ramaphosa caught between a Gordhan rock and a Mabuza hard place

Cyril Ramaphosa is set to be sworn in as the president of South Africa's sixth democratically elected administration | Image: Twitter

If Ramaphosa reappoints his trusted public enterprises minister, he will be seen to be acting like Zuma in defying the public protector.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he appoints David Mabuza as his deputy and Pravin Gordhan to his new Cabinet despite serious allegations against them, it will be contrary to his principle of clean government – but if he ditches them, he risks alienating his political allies.

The Presidency announced yesterday the Cabinet would only be revealed later this week.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa was “emphatic the new executive must possess the requisite skills, experience, representivity and a commitment to public service”. And a source close to Mabuza said he would come back, even if not immediately.

“He is confident he will be cleared by the integrity commission,” said the source. It is also rumoured that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is waiting in the wings if Mabuza is disqualified. Although she fought against Ramaphosa at the ANC’s elective conference in 2017, they have reconciled and she has become the obvious choice to unite the two warring party camps.

The delay in the announcement is likely to be for the integrity commission to clarify Mabuza’s issue and for Gordhan to finalise his appeal against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse finding against him. Both Mabuza and Gordhan have stood by Ramaphosa in the past.

Mabuza changed sides at the conference in 2017 to back Ramaphosa against Dlamini-Zuma. With his influence, Mpumalanga ANC delegates helped to swing the vote in Ramaphosa’s favour. Gordhan defied Zuma in every respect, refusing to let the Guptas capture National Treasury and resisting all attempts to siphon off the funds of state entities.

As a result, he became the target of the Zuma faction’s campaign to discredit him. If Ramaphosa appoints Gordhan, he will be seen to be acting like Zuma in defying the public protector.

Zuma disobeyed then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s order to repay part of the money spent on non-security improvements on his Nkandla homestead. Political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said Ramaphosa must tread carefully on the Mabuza and Gordhan issues.

“He must respect the rule of law, especially the public protector’s recommendations.

“It’s possible he is delaying the Cabinet announcement because the Pravin issue has forced him to change the game plan.

“He wants to be careful, also, about Mabuza because unless the integrity commission has finalised his matter, he can’t appoint him.”

Another view was that, as Gordhan had said he would take the public protector’s report on review, Ramaphosa could appoint him to Cabinet. Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said an option Ramaphosa might take was to “announce the Cabinet but then appoint another Cabinet minister to act in Pravin’s position”.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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