Ramaphosa’s cabinet: 12 contenders for key posts

By Prinesha Naidoo, Tshegofatso Mokgabodi and Londell Phumi Ramalepe

(Bloomberg) – With South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration over, the focus now turns to who he will appoint to his new cabinet.

Besides having to appease opposing factions within his ruling African National Congress, Ramaphosa, 66, also needs to reward the party’s allies, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, for their support.

Below is a list of possible candidates for key positions:

1. David ‘DD’ Mabuza

As deputy leader of the ANC, Mabuza should have been a shoo-in to be reappointed as Ramaphosa’s No. 2. But his chances of getting the post nosedived when the ANC’s integrity committee accused him of bringing the party into disrepute after he was linked to a series of scandals during his tenure as premier of the eastern Mpumalanga province. Mabuza denied wrongdoing and asked that his swearing in as a lawmaker be delayed until he clears his name. The constitution states that the deputy president must be a member of the National Assembly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the line for Mabuza: He played a pivotal role in helping Ramaphosa win control of the ANC in late 2017 and remains a key power broker in the party.

David Mabuza
Deputy President David Mabuza

2. Naledi Pandor

Pandor, currently the higher education minister, was Ramaphosa’s first choice to be his deputy when he ran for the ANC leadership but she failed to secure nomination. Pandor was among ANC lawmakers who called for former President Jacob Zuma to step down in a 2016 no-confidence vote, following his implication in a string of corruption scandals. Should Mabuza vacate the deputy president’s post, she’d be one of the top contenders to replace him.

Naledi Pandor
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor addressing the mourners at the memorial service of Ronnie Mamoepa.

3. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Ramaphosa narrowly edged out Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favoured successor, to secure the ANC’s leadership. Allocating Dlamini-Zuma, currently a minister in the presidency who oversees the National Planning Commission, a senior cabinet post or even the deputy presidency could help appease the ANC’s pro-Zuma faction and promote unity in the deeply divided party.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

4. Tito Mboweni

Mboweni is likely to remain finance minister for at least a year, according to people familiar with the matter. The former central bank governor, whose appointment to the post seven months ago sparked a market rally, has been a strong proponent of reining in government spending and selling some state assets. While Cosatu, the country’s largest labour group, opposes his reappointment, investors would probably see the move as a boost for Ramaphosa’s plans to revive the economy and attract foreign investment.

Tito Mboweni, Budget 2019
Tito Mboweni, South Africa’s finance minister, heads to parliament to present his budget to parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. Mboweni will have to balance the demands of a power utility that is struggling to keep the lights on with the need to rein in the deficit and stabilize the nation’s debt in his 2019-20 budget. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

5. Pravin Gordhan

Gordhan, who trained as a pharmacist, is currently the minister of public enterprises and has spearheaded efforts to turn around state companies that were at the epi-centre of an alleged looting spree during Zuma’s rule. He previously headed the national tax agency and served two stints as finance minister, the second of which saw him step in to stem a market rout four days after Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene from the post.

Pravin Gordhan
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

6. Gwede Mantashe

Mantashe is a former chairman of the South African Communist Party, secretary general of the ANC and secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers. He won the ANC’s chairmanship in 2017 and Ramaphosa appointed him mineral resources minister when he took office two months later. Mantashe has helped repair the government’s relationship with the mining industry, which had broken down during the tenure of his predecessor, Mosebenzi Zwane, and an industry body has said it wants him returned to his post.

Mining Charter Gwede Mantashe
Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe briefs media on the gazetting of the Mining Charter.

7. Jeff Radebe

Radebe is South Africa’s longest-serving cabinet minister and Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law. He’s held five portfolios since apartheid ended in 1994: public works, public enterprises, transport, justice and most recently energy.

Jeff Radebe
South Africa’s Energy Minister Jeff Radebe.

8. Fikile Mbalula

A former minister of police and of sports and recreation, Mbalula was a staunch Zuma supporter before switching allegiance to Ramaphosa after he took power. He was the president of the ANC’s youth wing and headed the party’s campaign in this year’s election. The ANC secured a sixth outright win and Mbalula could be rewarded with a cabinet post for his efforts.

ANC, Fikile Mbalula
ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula.

9. Ronald Lamola

A lawyer, Ronald Lamola, 36, is the ANC’s spokesman on land reform and among parliament’s youngest members. The party is amending the constitution and other laws to make it easier to expropriate land without compensation, a change it says is necessary to address racially skewed ownership patterns. While the ANC says it won’t harm the economy or undermine property rights, lobby groups disagree and are gearing up to fight it in court. Lamola could be tapped to mediate in what could be a lengthy dispute.

10. Bheki Cele

A former deputy agriculture minister, Cele played a leading role in Ramaphosa’s campaign to win control of the ANC. He was fired as the nation’s police chief in 2012 after the anti-graft ombudsman found he had acted unlawfully when he agreed to pay more than three times the market rate for two office leases. He became police minister in 2018 and Cosatu has backed him to retain his post, saying he has done a good job so far.

Bheki Cele
Minister Bheki Cele briefs media on breakthrough on corruption within Prison and Home Affairs environment, 19 March 2018

11. Lindiwe Sisulu

The daughter of the late ANC luminary Walter Sisulu, who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela, she became Ramaphosa’s running mate in the party’s 2017 election after Pandor failed to secure nomination. Currently the international relations minister, she could retain her post or be a contender for the deputy presidency.

Lindiwe Sisulu
International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

12. Jackson Mthembu

Mthembu is a former ANC spokesman, and more recently the party’s chief whip in parliament. While he was a vocal Ramaphosa supporter, he instructed ANC lawmakers not to support a vote to remove Zuma in 2017, saying the move would collapse the government, with “disastrous consequences.”

Jackson Mthembu
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu

Other potential candidates for cabinet posts include:

  • Zizi Kodwa, the head of the presidency in the ANC;
  • Barbara Creecy, the former head of the finance portfolio in the central Gauteng province;
  • Cooperative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize;
  • and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.