SLR: A missed opportunity as more question marks arise post Ramaphosa’s ‘cabinet shuffle’

Cabinet reshuffles are always highly anticipated events but none more so than last night’s, which many believed could be the inflection point for South Africa after many years of mismanagement and corruption. Unfortunately, the cabinet reshuffle left more to be desired, as pencilled below by BizNews regular contributor Simon Lincoln Reader. This was our chance for extraordinary change, however, it was merely squandered as more question marks arise in the Cyril Ramaphosa led era. – Justin Rowe-Roberts

An opportunity squandered

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

For the longest time, cabinet reshuffles in South Africa have been extraordinary events, where a party suffering prolonged twin epidemics of ineptitude and complacency afford incompetent officials to opportunity to be incompetent elsewhere. Save for Belarus, Azerbaijan, Haiti and North Korea, no other country illustrates such abandon for circulating uselessness and misery.

The most astonishing cabinet reshuffle appointment I ever witnessed occurred early in the second quarter of 2014, two weeks after the elections. Some background: Dipuo Peters had been appointed Minister of Energy in Jacob Zuma’s first cabinet. Peters was a devout Christian who had previously served as Premier of the Northern Cape. Unlike so many other of her community organiser comrades, Peters acknowledged her limitations and this probably led to her redeployment to the transport portfolio in 2013. Replacing her was Ben Martins – an early sign that the Gupta axis was eyeing its way to the custodianship of the renewable energy project, led – with dazzling success – by Karen Breytenbach.

But the future suddenly appeared feral on the afternoon of Sunday 25th May 2014. I received a call from Cape Town: “In one hour Tina Joemat-Pettersson will be announced the new minister of Energy”.

TJP entered the portfolio despite two ethics raps from Thuli Madonsela. Recommended remedial action was ignored by Zuma, who positioned her to shoehorn his nuclear scheme and disrupt the progress of the renewables programme. Happily TJP was so spectacularly useless that she ended up partially derailing her master’s plans – much to the amusement of the DA. To atone, she skipped a series of important meetings and hurried off to Nkandla, where she helped to arrange Zuma’s 5th wedding.

We would still be talking about TJP’s performance today were it not for the deluge of inadequacy that followed. It took the form of two parts: ministers allied to state capture parachuted into portfolios they were unfit to occupy, and ministers never having held a proper job selected to lead portfolios they were unfit to occupy. The overwhelming emphasis was the former – the Mahlobos, Gigabas, Muthambis, and Zwanes – but there also the tweets composed by Fikile Mblalula, the sweat of Thulas Nxesi, the rocking slurs of Bathabile Dlamini on the steps of Parliament and a cameo featuring some enthusiastic gender-based violence by Mduduzi Manana.

Last night the country recommitted to the failed stratagem of just swapping around its reservoir of clueless and ideologically twisted ministers. The cost of the experiment of a State Security department will never truly be known, but its damage will haunt for generations; whilst people are congratulating the President for this move, this menacing, corrupt organ should never have existed in the form it did. So too Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: she has sat in her portfolio for nearly five years since she abused state resources to spirit away from Burundi her late son’s girlfriend. Enoch Godongwana is, according to todays liberal media, a safe pair of hands – but I wouldn’t expect any contrition from these people should those very hands happen upon Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act.

What was needed last night was imagination. The Olympic gold medallist Roland Schoeman as Minister of Sport. Opposition party profiles as ministers or deputies. Former actual defence force or former actual police personnel. Medical doctors who appreciate the shameless absurdity of ‘zero-covid’ or Public Health-ism. Entrepreneurs. In the context of July’s riots, the reshuffle was an opportunity to extract rare if not virtually extinct public trust. But it was squandered, and who knows when the next opportunity will emerge to explain to the ANC that there is actually a word for the conscious repetition of the same mistakes.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Substack.

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