Ramaphosa overhauls cabinet to tackle electricity crisis and unemployment ahead of ’24 elections

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made changes to his cabinet in a bid to improve his administration’s response to electricity shortages and rising unemployment ahead of next year’s elections. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has been appointed minister of electricity, a new post in the presidency, and his primary task will be to reduce the frequency and severity of blackouts. Other ministries that have changed hands include tourism, transport, communications, and cooperative governance. The new cabinet is expected to remain in place until next year’s elections. To find out more, read the article below.


Ramaphosa revamps cabinet as South Africa faces power crisis

By S’thembile Cele, Paul Vecchiatto and Amogelang Mbatha

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a new deputy and electricity czar and replaced several ministers, injecting new blood into a cabinet that’s failed to get to grips with crippling energy shortages and revive a flagging economy.  

The shakeup comes more than two months after Ramaphosa comfortably won a second term as leader of the governing African National Congress, a victory that gave him more scope to appoint allies to key posts and sideline his opponents. With elections scheduled for next year and opinion polls showing the ANC risks losing the majority it’s held since apartheid ended in 1994, he needs to improve his administration’s response to rolling blackouts and rampant unemployment to bolster his chances of securing another term. 

Paul Mashatile, who succeeded David Mabuza as the ANC’s deputy leader in December, takes over from him as deputy president — a widely anticipated change. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa was named minister of electricity, a new post in the presidency. Other ministries that changed hands included tourism, transport, communications and cooperative governance. 

“The purpose of these changes is to ensure that government is properly capacitated,” Ramaphosa said in a televised statement on Monday. “The people of South Africa want action, they want solutions and they want government to work for them.” 

Africa’s most industrialized economy has been subjected to record blackouts since last year because state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is unable to meet demand for electricity from its old and poorly maintained plants. The central bank estimates the outages will shave 2 percentage points off output growth this year. 

Ramokgopa is a civil engineer who was head of infrastructure and investment in the presidency before being appointed to spearhead the government’s response to the energy crisis. He previously served as mayor of the Tshwane municipality, which includes the capital, Pretoria, and as provincial minister of economic development in the Gauteng province.

“The primary task of the new minister will be to significantly reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding as a matter of urgency,” Ramaphosa said, referring to the local term for power cuts. “The minister will be expected to facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity.” 

Read more: SA Deputy President David Mabuza quits as MP before cabinet revamp

No Change

The president retained Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in his post, resisting pressure to split his portfolio, and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who oversees Eskom. Mantashe has faced criticism for stifling the government’s efforts to transition away from the use of coal, which is used to produce most of the nation’s electricity, and buy more green energy from independent producers.

The cabinet overhaul is the most significant Ramaphosa has undertaken since he took office in early 2018. Unlike former leader Jacob Zuma, who frequently reshuffled his executive, the incumbent has used his presidential prerogative to make changes sparingly, resulting in posts standing vacant for months at a time. 

The new cabinet is likely to remain in place until the current government’s mandate expires next year. The size of the executive will then be reduced when the next administration takes office, Ramaphosa said.  

The rand traded 0.6% weaker at 18.2467 per dollar by 9:41 p.m. in Johannesburg, little changed from before the announcement and on Tuesday as of 7a.m..

Other cabinet changes:

  • Minister in the presidency: Khumbudzo Ntshavheni
  • Minister in the presidency responsible for women, youth and persons with disabilities: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
  • Minister in the presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation: Maropene Ramokgopa
  • Minister of communications and digital technologies: Mondli Gungubele
  • Minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs: Thembi Nkadimeng
  • Minister of public service and administration: Noxolo Kiviet
  • Minister of public works and infrastructure: Sihle Zikalala
  • Minister of sports, arts and culture: Zizi Kodwa
  • Minister of tourism: Patricia de Lille
  • Minister of transport: Sindisiwe Chikunga

Ramaphosa has failed to hold underperforming members of his cabinet to account and the appointment of additional ministers in the presidency means a number of functions have been duplicated, said Zukiswa Kota, the program head for South Africa at the Public Service Accountability Monitor. 

The changes don’t show that South Africa has a president who has the conviction to undertake “a cabinet reshuffle in which he is able to place ministers who do have the requisite skills, credibility, integrity and who can be trusted to fulfill their obligations and their mandates,” she said. 

The appointment of Ramokgopa as minister of electricity “is a critical one and we will engage him urgently to see what his thinking is on dealing with the short-term loadshedding crisis and the medium-term energy crisis,” Cas Coovadia, chief executive officer of Business Unity South Africa said in an emailed statement.

Read more: Waiting for Godot? Saunderson-Meyer on why Cyril should wield axe on cabinet, compose ‘reform team’

With assistance from Paul Vecchiatto, Renee Bonorchis and Paul Richardson.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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