Monday, February 19, 2018

Ramaphosa sparks Cabinet panic

President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to show his mettle in the face of a tug-of-war over who will get the call-up and who will be benched as he compiles his first Cabinet.

Ramaphosa put current Cabinet ministers on notice during his state of the nation address (Sona) on Friday night, saying: "Growth, development and transformation depend on a strong and capable state.

"It is critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources. We will therefore initiate a process to review the configuration, number and size of national government departments."

Even if the number of departments is not reduced immediately, it is still expected that Ramaphosa will effect a small-scale reshuffle to refresh and boot out non-performers.

This follows a tumultuous political week which saw the resignation of Jacob Zuma as president, in a trademark close-to-midnight address to the nation on Wednesday.

Within hours of Zuma's resignation, Ramaphosa was voted in — unopposed — and sworn in by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

On Friday, Ramaphosa hit all the right notes in his Sona. He vowed to rebuild South Africa by strengthening its institutions, cleaning house in government and calling on law enforcement to act without fear or favour.

He warned that he will reduce the bloated executive, which has more than 70 ministers and deputies.

This has been the first Sona to go ahead without interruption in three years, with even the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) remaining in the House for the duration of the speech.

However, it is understood Ramaphosa is caught between those who want him to announce his new Cabinet ahead of the all-important budget speech and those who would prefer for him to wait it out.

An MP and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member told City Press that he faces a tough choice.

"Some of us believe that the new finance minister must deliver the budget, because he will have to implement it. Others think that we have had a fast-paced few days and so Malusi (Gigaba) must be allowed to deliver the budget.

"In all fairness, it is not his budget. It was compiled by a team and part of that argument is that the new Cabinet will be a complete overhaul, so such a change should wait till after budget."

Another view is that opposition parties, the EFF in particular, could disrupt a budget delivered by Gigaba.

None of Zuma's Cabinet members has followed suit and tendered their resignations.

Alliance partners who Ramaphosa is intent on mending fences with have already made it clear that certain ministers must get the boot. They include:

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen.

Given that many embattled ministers were staunch Zuma loyalists, Ramaphosa could try to avoid what might look like a purge.

SA Communist Party first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said Ramaphosa should not hesitate in axing "Gupta-linked" ministers.

"For us, the real issue is that the ministers who were involved in corporate capture of the state shouldn't return to this Cabinet, otherwise they will contaminate it.

"Those mentioned in the Gupta emails, which have proven the network of cooperation between senior government officials and state officials with corporate capturers of the state, it will be sad if they are returned. It is important that in this area there is clear decisiveness," Mapaila said.

Labour federation Cosatu's second deputy president Zingiswa Losi warned that the alliance must be included in Ramaphosa's decision making. This was a veiled reference to Zuma's late night reshuffles, that took place without consultation.

"While we appreciate that it is the prerogative of the president, we hope that he will do it in consultation with the governing party and with the alliance components," Losi said.

Meanwhile, The central players in the state capture project — the Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma —are out of the country.

Travel records obtained by  Rapport, show Duduzane left the country on January 18 on an Emirates flight to Dubai, where he owns a R17 million flat the Guptas bought for him, according to the #GuptaLeaks.

The same travel records show that eldest Gupta brother Ajay left South Africa on February 6 on a flight to Dubai and has not returned on either his Indian or South African passports.

Last Tuesday, Rapport took a photograph of him climbing out of a helicopter at the family's Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga. His travel records show that he had landed in the country earlier that day and, hours after he was photographed, left the country again on an Emirates flight.

Duduzane Zuma left just days before the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sent him a letter asking him to supply them with reasons as to why he should not be prosecuted for culpable homicide.

The charge relates to the death of Phumzile Dube on the M1 highway in Sandton, Johannesburg, in February 2014. His Porsche crashed into the minibus she was travelling in. After an inquest, the NPA decided that Duduzane should not be prosecuted in connection with her death, but that has since changed.

Last year, advocate Gerrie Nel, head of civil rights group AfriForum's private prosecuting unit, applied for a certificate of non-prosecution on behalf of the Dube family, so that they could pursue a private prosecution.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams has since done an about-turn and informed AfriForum this week that he is reviewing his decision.