News : Cabinet reshuffled, 7 ministers axed

President Jacob Zuma finally showed his hand yesterday by axing seven ministers and making sweeping changes in his cabinet that should satisfy the main factions in the ANC.
After months of speculation of a reshuffle, and after only 17 months of occupying their executive seats, Zuma removed some of his most controversial ministers and added four additional deputy ministers to bolster his cabinet.

After keeping the country in suspense for more than three hours at the presidential guest house in Pretoria yesterday, a sombre-faced Zuma said he had taken a "long and hard look at some of the departments, with a view of strengthening some ministries".

"We reiterate that we need a national executive and public service that knows where our people live, that fully understands the needs of our people and what we are trying to achieve."

Zuma has been planning a reshuffle for months, but had to delay his move ahead of the ANC's national general council in August in order to get a buy-in from party structures.

In the past three weeks, the president has held one-on-one meetings with ministers, assessing their performances.

The ANC's allies yesterday welcomed Zuma's cabinet changes.

In a carefully crafted statement that steered clear of providing reasons for the axing of the seven ministers, Zuma said the reshuffle was guided by the mission of government, which was to improve the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Those axed and replaced include:

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, replaced by Roy Padayachie
Social Development Minister Edna Molewa, replaced by Bathabile Dlamini
Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan, replaced by former home affairs deputy minister Malusi Gigaba
Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana, replaced by Paul Mashatile
Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge, replaced by Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde
Water and Environment Affairs Minister Bulelwa Sonjica, replaced by Edna Molewa
Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, replaced by Lulu Xingwana
Sports Arts and Culture Minister Makhenkesi Stofile, replaced by deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula
Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, replaced by Mildred Oliphant.
"We have completed the process of the configuration of government, and that of putting in place systems that will help us change the way government works, in order to improve service delivery," Zuma said.

He added four new deputy ministerial portfolios: higher education, energy, mineral resources and performance monitoring, evaluation and administration in the presidency.

The new deputies for these departments are, respectively, Hlengiwe Mkhize, Barbara Thompson, Godfrey Oliphant and Dina Pule.

Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa takes up the position of deputy health minister after the death of Molefi Sefularo earlier this year.

Other replacement deputy ministers are Obed Bapela for communications; Maria Ntuli for social development, Ben Martins for public enterprises, Joseph Phaahla for arts and culture, Ngoako Ramathlodi for correctional services, Elizabeth Thabethe for trade and industry, Enoch Godongwana for economic development, Fatima Chohan for home affairs, Makhotso Magdeline Sotyo for police, Marius Fransman for international relations and co-operation, Ayanda Dlodlo for public service and administration and Thulas Nxesi for rural development and land reform.

The Democratic Alliance welcomed Zuma's announcement, saying that it was a "positive indication of renewed focus on accountability".

But DA leader in parliament Athol Trollip said he was "surprised" at the axing of Hogan.

"Hogan has certainly been one of the most competent ministers in the Zuma cabinet. Is she being relieved of her duties because she is also one of the most outspoken?"

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the labour federation had taken note of the changes, and it was committed to work with the new team.

"He [Zuma] consulted us on some of the positions.

"I know it is painful and difficult for those affected by the change. I can't say anything beyond this," Vavi said.

The SACP's Solly Mapaila said the president had clearly "read the mood of the departments of government and the country very well."

Political analysts said that Zuma has performed an interesting balancing act.

Professor Steven Friedman said he believed the nationalist faction of the ANC had scored one over the leftists this time.

He said Nyanda's axing might have been Zuma's way of balancing the fact that many of those associated with the nationalist faction, such as Mbalula and Dlamini, now have full ministries.

Friedman said Zuma would not have been worried about axing Hogan, despite a relatively good performance as public enterprises minister, as she did not seem to have the support of any of the factions in the ruling alliance.

"Hogan does not command the support of any grouping. People know that if you fire [Economic Development Minister] Ebrahim Patel, Cosatu will be upset, and if you fire [Higher Education and Training Minister] Blade Nzimande the SACP will be upset. Who do you upset by firing Hogan?" he said.

Friedman said it was also interesting to note that Zuma had virtually left the security cluster untouched, with a notable exception being Mbalula, who did not see eye to eye with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

He said this stemmed from the fact that Zuma personally hand-picked the ministers in that cluster.

"It's interesting, [former president Thabo] Mbeki would never touch the economics cluster. Zuma is never going to touch the security cluster because he hand-picked them. He won't fire them. They are close to him," he said.

Prince Mashele of the Centre for Politics Studies said Zuma had rightly removed notable ''non-performers" such as Mayende-Sibiya and Stofile.
The new cabinet will be sworn in today at 2pm.

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