🔒 Ramaphosa foot on the pedal to clean up corruption – Melanie Verwoerd

The relief among investors was clear to see as they assessed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s South African cabinet line-up. The slimmed down executive were given the thumbs-up and the retention of the crucial Finance Ministry post to Tito Mboweni, while allowing Pravin Gordhan as Public Enterprises Minister to continue the clean-up of the state-owned enterprises calmed the markets. The Rand advanced immediately after the read out of the names and continued its upwards move gaining another 0.4% around midday after the announcement. Political analyst Melanie Verwoerd delves a little deeper into the Cabinet to assess what it means and whether Ramaphosa is accelerating the clean-up of state capture. – Linda van Tilburg

President Cyril Ramaphosa has a brand new cabinet, smaller and leaner. But the big question is can it be considered as a clean-up operation of people linked to state capture. We have political analyst, Melanie Verwoerd on the line. Melanie, is this the clean-up of the cabinet that investors had hoped for?

I think it’s a massive clean-up and first of all, of course he’s reduced his cabinet. And for me that is a sign of a Ramaphosa that feels a lot more confident about his own future and his own prospects within his own party. A bigger Cabinet would have indicated that he was still nervous and needed to keep some of the Zupta guys around in his cabinet to just appease the different factions in the ANC. He has not done that; first of all he’s cut the ministers quite a lot. And secondly, the people who are there are very much his supporters. This is very much a Ramaphosa cabinet. Of course he’s kept the deputy ministers, quite a number of deputy ministers, quite high and I think that is where he made some compromises to all the various interest groups and factions. But they are not the most significant. What we really need to look at are the ministers. And I think that is very significant what has happened there.

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For investors the most important two appointments that he made or that he kept was Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni?

Absolutely and I think both of those are very good and crucial retainees that he kept in cabinet. So I mean I think first of all Tito Mboweni, there was great concern around that a lot, of rumours around that. And I think he remains a reluctant finance minister. But I think exactly for that reason he is a good finance minister and exactly the finance minister that Ramaphosa needs at the moment. He is not beholden to any political party because he doesn’t have any political ambitions. He doesn’t want to become president or anything, he’s doing this because he was asked to come and serve in the cabinet for Ramaphosa and fulfill a specific role. So I think that is a very good retention. In terms of Pravin Gordhan of course he needed some continuity in terms of the SOEs and particularly in terms of Eskom. He’s also given him now a deputy which I think will alleviate some of the incredible workload that he’s had to undertake. So I think both of those are of a very excellent. And then in terms of course the other economic parts of the Cabinet, he’s brought Brian Patel back under the provision in the Constitution which allows him to bring two people from outside of Parliament and Brian Patel was on the ANC list but way too low and didn’t make it back into the National Assembly or into Parliament and that he brought him back under that provision. So it’s an old hand experienced added maybe ideologically not exactly where many of the foreign investors would like them to be. But I think certainly in terms of Pravin Gordhan and in terms of Tito Mboweni I think both of those are a great relief to the South African markets and financial sector as well.

Would Mboweni stay long enough?

Well let’s see; he has indicated recently that he would stay at least another year. And I think that gives Ramaphosa time to focus on who would be his successor. It’s not obvious to me when we look at the current cabinet who, if there is already a successor lined up in there. Otherwise of course he still has one position that he did not, he did not make use of both of the positions and that the constitution allows him to bring somebody from outside of Parliament. He only used the one. So he’s still leaving himself a gap there and he could possibly use that in a year or 18 months’ time to bring somebody from outside into the finance position. But I think what it what it does show us is that he will not make a hasty move on this in this regard, that he fully understands the responsibility and how important it is to get the right finance minister. And so he’s buying time for himself to make sure that they get the right successor there.

I’ve been looking at what it costs to have ministers. Do you think he massively saved money by keeping so many deputies?

Well the figure that is being said in South Africa is about R21 million. So I mean that is a lot of money. You know. And you know I think ultimately it’s not only about the money. It’s also about whether your cabinet is more efficient. It’s more coordinated and it’s more cohesive as you mentioned last night in his announcement. And the problem is when you have these enormous very sort of big cabinets, it’s just very difficult to manage government properly.

Well if you look at Mabuza, what would his role be as a deputy be. Can one say that it was better for Ramaphosa having him there than at Luthuli House?

I have never doubted that Mabuza was going to be the deputy president, through all the little shenanigans that’s been going on in the last week. Mabuza has a constituency which Ramaphosa cannot afford to alienate inside the ANC, first of all. And second of all, with this whole issue of clearing his name may be rather suspect in the last few days. It would have been very difficult for Ramaphosa to argue why did he break the tradition of having the deputy president of the ANC not as the deputy president of the country. But certainly I also think it is better for Ramaphosa to have him really close by and to make sure that he doesn’t do his own thing in Luthuli house. And I have no doubt that Mabuza also wants to be deputy president of South Africa. It comes with a certain amount of status, additional power and certainly being deputy president of both the ANC and the government of course has a lot more status and power associated with it.

So, what about the people who didn’t make it… Derek Hanekom? Jeff Radebe? They seems to be in Ramaphosa’s camp, why would they have been left out?

So I think there are two issues. The ones are of course the ones that were very much implicated in corruption and maladministration. So people like Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, which he very deliberately moved out of cabinet, which is very brave of him because both of those carry significant constituencies in the ANC. So he, you know, he made a point by taking a stand on that. The other guys like Derek Hanekom, like Jeff Radebe… I think what he’s doing is just making space for younger people in cabinet and for some new blood. I don’t think there’s anything strange to it. These are both ministers which have been there since 1994 and they’re getting older and I think for him it was important to bring enough young people in. Because of course our population is very young, our demographic bubble sits at the bottom. The ANC is struggling to gain support with the youth. And so it’s absolutely crucial for their future existence politically that they do pull in the youth and part of that is also getting younger ministers in Cabinet. But it’s also of course important for the future of the Cabinet that you do keep younger blood in and get them trained up so that they can also take more significant portfolios as time goes on.

What do you read into Lindiwe Sisulu‘s move away from foreign affairs to what is it… social services?

First of all, I think what happened is that Naledi Pandor was rewarded for her loyalty towards Ramaphosa. Of course, she was his preference as a deputy president during his fight at Nasrec conference when he won as the ANC president. And I think this is a reward for her. At the same time in fact Lindiwe Sisulu has gone to housing and water and sanitation and so for her that is, I mean it might be a slight demotion from the outside but that is most probably in terms of socio-economic portfolios, one of the most crucial portfolios in South Africa and both of those departments are an absolute mess. So she’s inheriting a bit of a poisoned chalice. But I think what she has proven over the years; first of all she’s been in housing before. And secondly in the other portfolios such as home affairs she has proven herself to be very good at delivery and fixing dysfunctional departments. So I think that is why Ramaphosa gave her that portfolio as well to put her into a much stronger position.

So what do you think he was the thinking around Patricia de Lille, a shot to the DA?

Well, that was very funny. I mean and I think that came as a big surprise. I mean I think of course it must be irritating the DA to no end. But I think that is just a side benefit to the ANC and to Ramaphosa. I think one should look away from her as a person and others understand that what Ramaphosa has done here is gone back to the old traditions of the ANC, which was there under all the presidents except for the last term of Zuma and for the short time under Kgalema Motlanthe which was just an interim president and this was a tradition to have one or two people from the opposition party in Cabinet. That was consistently there, even under Zuma in his first term. He had for example Pieter Mulder from the Freedom Front Plus as a deputy minister and previously there’s been members of the IFP. AZAPO, PAC have all been there. And I think what Ramaphosa is doing there is also giving us the signal again that he is he is working more like Madiba did and that is also stretching out a hand across the divide to the opposition and showing his whole emphasis on unity also across party lines. So I think it’s got less to do with her as a person and far more to do with these deeper issues of the greater politics or the bigger politics that Ramaphosa is trying to play.

And he does know her from the negotiation phase. She was also at Kempton Park.

Sure, she’s been in politics; she’s an old stalwart in politics. Of course she came from a pan Africanist background and she was there for the PAC in 1994, you’re quite right, she was involved in the Codesa negotiations pre 1994 and she was of course the person who really exposed the arms deal originally when she was still a member of parliament then of course she went to the DA. She’s had a very long history in South African politics. 

The 50 percent women is interesting. What do you think about that?

Yes I think that’s fantastic. I think as a woman I completely support that. And they are all very competent women. It is an aim that the ANC has had for a very long time and the target that they wanted to meet. I also think it helps him in terms of getting rid of Bathabile Dlamini, She, of course is the head of the ANC’s Women’s League and so I think that 50 percent women will also help to smooth things out there because it is a very brave step that he took in terms of not putting the chairperson of the ANC’s Women’s League back into the cabinet.

Now this is a question I don’t really like to ask but I’ve seen some of it on Twitter who say, oh there’s not a single white person remaining in the cabinet; should we read anything into that?

That is not actually true, there are some deputy ministers in there. I don’t think so. I think in terms of race, he is very representative. I mean, I think particularly when it comes to race, I would not pay too much attention to that.

Well thank you Melanie Verwoerd, lovely speaking to you again.

Thank you for having me.

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