By Jamaine Chiwaye
President Jacob Zuma has stayed true to his word and hit the ground running implementing a wave of change through the South African Cabinet. He announced the ministers and their deputies on 10 May this year. There were several changes, with only nine ministers previously of Thabo Mbeki’s 28-strong 2004 cabinet remaining in the now 34 member selection. With these adjustments, there has been restructuring with the renaming, creation and splitting of various departments.
One of the biggest talking points is Trevor Manuel filling a new post concerning the National Planning Commission (NPC). During the press conference, Zuma announced his cabinet and then went on to say, “A country cannot have one finance minister forever.” He also added that Trevor Manuel will actually be more powerful in this new position than he was before as head of the finance department.
The NPC will be, among other things, a parliamentary watchdog. This means that any wrongdoing by members of parliament will be reported to Manuel, who will take care of the matter however he deems best. His successor in the Department of Finance is Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan, until now, has held the position of Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service and also sat as a Member of Parliament between 1994 and 1998. The 59 year old has so far achieved mostly positive public and media acclaim, despite worries that Manuel was the best possible man for the Finance Minister position.
In the name of restructuring, the Department of Education has been split into two separate ministries; one focussing on Basic Education, including grades one to twelve, and the other on Higher Education and Training, covering tertiary education. The former will be headed up by Enver Surty and the latter by strong Zuma loyalist and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) stalwart, Blade Nzimande.
Another notable change is that of Barbara Hogan’s position. The outspoken minister has been removed of her caretaking role as Minister of Health and has been redeployed as Minister of Public Enterprise. She has been replaced by Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe has since chosen to remain in cabinet and has taken position as Deputy President. The former Deputy President, Baleka Mbete, after a rather public refusal to be ‘demoted’ to an ordinary minister, has been moved to take a position in Luthuli House. This could be a possible punishment for her recent antics in the swearing-in ceremony in parliament that was seen to embarrass the ruling party.
For the first time in the nation’s history, the President decided to conduct a questions and answers session to explain the reasons for his choices of cabinet.
In his closing statement, Zuma said, “We reiterate that we will not tolerate laziness and incompetence and that we will emphasises excellence and achievement from the Cabinet and the public service. With these objectives in mind, I am confident that the new structure of government will enable the state machinery to speed up service delivery.”