Zuma’s Cabinet: New socks, the same pattern

Unless you missed the headlines in South Africa recently President Zuma shuffled his cabinet on Sunday, announcing it three hours late to a pack of ravenous journalists clamouring to write the same story. Most of the coverage surrounding the reshuffle details how this is both a move by Zuma to evict ministers who have failed to deliver and those who have fallen out of favour with the ANC bigwigs. There is also an undercurrent of general optimism at a president who is finally doing something about many of the problems this country faces. But I have to question whether this is not simply the same president of inaction we’ve known and loathed for 17 months who has merely had his puppet strings wiggled from Shell House.

Stephen Grootes has a refreshingly honest analysis on the reshuffling, which is a tonic against the barrage of generic news that has been thrown into all the front pages today. I highly recommend you give it a read through to see a blow-by-blow explanation of the big players who have been hired or fired. While these ministers vary in their track records and reputations, several stand out. The firing of Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda was encouraging, considering the noxious cloud of corruption allegations hanging over him like fleas on a dog, while the dismissal of Minister Hogan – someone who staunchly advocated good corporate governance in the nebulous realm of parastatals – is alarming to say the least.

For Zuma it’s a rare win-win situation in which he can neutralise several political opponents (such as Nyanda) while also gain some brownie points with the people for being portrayed as a man of action

But on the whole we should technically be pleased that the president is shaking things up and ensuring major ministers don’t get too complacent. But to what extent is this truly Zuma coming out of the dark and flexing his atrophied leadership skills versus pressure from the ANC? The latter is certainly a major factor in why so many top-level politicians got… undeployed from their little roosts, but hypothetically-speaking, if Zuma felt no compulsion from the ANC to reshuffle the cabinet, would he have done it because it was necessary to ensure better service delivery? I remain unconvinced.

One major reason for this is the incredibly selective nature of this action. Firing Nyanda was necessary, certainly, and effectively demoting our horribly-misguided arts and culture minister Lulu Xingwana was delightful, but if we’re rooting out incompetent ministers why not sort out other corrupt ministers while we’re at it. Blade Nzimande immediately comes to mind for one, as well as looking at some of the security-related departments couldn’t hurt. If it’s about service delivery, as our glorious comrade president would have us believe, then there is very little logic to his actions on Sunday.

As it stands the cabinet shuffle smells strongly of ANC-pressure disguised loosely as a glorious purge of those not delivering promises to us the people of South Africa. For Zuma it’s a rare win-win situation in which he can neutralise several political opponents (such as Nyanda) while also gain some brownie points with the people for being portrayed as a man of action, reborn from his scathing opening attack at the NGC and renewed in his sense of responsibility to the nation. But in reality I can’t help but think that this is the same old Zuma we have known all along, just with longer strings attached.

  • claire

    Great to see Zuma doing something (without – shock, horror – imploding the country) but I share your skepticism that it’s primarily a service-delivery-related move. As a woman, I also feel a little annoyed that the person supposedly fighting for women, children and the disabled is now someone who rose to noteriety by declaring images of black lesbian couples “unafrican” and “immoral”. I realise it’s a token ministry but couldn’t we at least muster the pretense of caring?

    But who knows, maybe just showing that he is willing to make changes will prove enough to motivate Zuma’s cabinet. It could happen.

  • Chris

    The all-out attack to win the next election will now start. Buying the 5 million votes (jobs) that the ANC needs to change the constitution.