The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi had the most succinct and accurate summation of the Cabinet reshuffle announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night.
In making the change, said Ndlozi, Ramaphosa had “postponed the ‘New Dawn’”.
It was as though someone had taken a wet rag out on Monday night and thrown it over the spirit of hope – and even euphoria – which swept along many in the country after the departure of Jacob Zuma from the presidency.
Presented with an opportunity to purge, once and for all, those from the Zuma administration who were linked with state capture – or downright incompetence – Ramaphosa, instead, opted for compromise, clearly hoping to mollify those in the Zuma faction who still enjoy significant clout within the ANC.
But some of his appointments stunned many. The fact that Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba remained – despite their well-documented defiance of court judgments, as well as other malfeasance – sent a clear, although perhaps not intended, message to South Africa that incompetence and corruption might have no consequences.
One can legitimately ask now, especially in the case of Gigaba, who was at the centre of the state capture project: what guarantee does the country have that the state capture probe will be carried out fully?
More importantly, what chance is there of Zuma actually standing trial on his corruption charges?
There is merit in the suggestion that Ramaphosa has cleverly kept his “enemies” – Dlamini and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – close to him in appointing them to jobs within the presidency … and there seems to be a possibility that Dlamini might see her “department” (which apparently does very little other than lobby) removed entirely when Ramaphosa gets down to trimming his bloated Cabinet.
Dlamini-Zuma, on the other hand, is highly regarded by many and has a track record of achievement in previous Cabinet postings, so her appointment as minister in the presidency responsible for monitoring and evaluation makes a lot of sense. It also does bring with it a veneer of unity after the bruising factional battles at the ANC’s national elective conference of last year.
Then there was the emergence from the political wilderness of Bheki Cele, who has been made minister of police. Cele has a dodgy record of mismanaging public funds, but his no-nonsense “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to policing might just be welcomed by South Africans buckling under crime.
In any event, he is better than Fikile Mbalula, who developed his incompetent clowning to performance art as police minister. It takes more than tweets and clever statements to bring criminals to book.
There were good appointments in the reshuffle, such as Pravin Gordhan to public enterprises and Nhlanhla Nene to finance. These are people who inspire confidence, not only in the public, but also in the civil servants who work in the National Treasury and department of finance.
They are also exactly what the international investor community wants to see, because they exude competence and stability.
But overall, the reshuffle was an opportunity lost to put the country back on the path to good, effective governance. It appears that the interests of the ANC still come before those of the country.
Perhaps Ramaphosa won’t be the saviour we thought he would…