How Ramaphosa can chop out the dead wood in his cabinet – analysts

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There can be no holy cows, no ‘untouchabes’ … President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to surround himself with people who will put South Africa first. Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

The real work starts now for President Cyril Ramaphosa. Analysts say South Africans have their hopes pinned on the president and expect him to demonstrate his resolve to bring the crooked to book, trim Cabinet and reduce spending, and to grow the economy to create jobs.

In his inauguration speech at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, Ramaphosa gave no hint on the size, shape and makeup of his Cabinet. But weekend reports suggest he will downsize the Cabinet to 25 full ministers and get rid of unnecessary deputy ministers.

During Thabo Mbeki’s tenure as the country’s president, his Cabinet had 50 ministers and deputies, but the size of Cabinet ballooned to 72 ministers and deputies during former president Jacob Zuma’s term.

The number of portfolios has also become problematic, with experts saying Ramaphosa’s first step is to remove unnecessary portfolios and reconfigure those that were unnecessarily split into two.

Professor André Duvenhage, of the North-West University’s political science department, said there was no need for the department of women in the presidency or separate departments for basic education and higher education. He also said there was no need for the department of sports and recreation to stand alone, saying this portfolio could be merged with arts and culture.

According to Duvenhage, the labour portfolio could be accommodated in the economic development cluster.

“These are the places where he can downsize, but it is going to be difficult,” he said.

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has exposed South Africans to the extent of looting, impunity, running down of state-owned enterprises, as well as the hollowing out of key institutions such as the police and the National Prosecuting Authority, during its inquiry.

According to Tshwane University of Technology political analyst Levy Ndou, the nation is crying out for action and consequences against those implicated, saying Ramaphosa dare not fail this expectation.

He said key departments in terms of rolling back the effects of state capture were justice and correctional services, police and state security. Ndou said Ramaphosa’s choice of who he appointed at the helm of these portfolios would demonstrate how serious he was about making an example of those fingered in corruption.

The special unit within the NPA, tasked with pursuing the corrupt implicated by witnesses’ accounts, presented in various inquiries, including the Zondo Commission, had already started its work and this had elevated Ramaphosa to a man of his word.

“The political heads he appoints to lead these key portfolio must be people with no cloud hanging over their heads,” Ndou said.

Sipho Mabena / The Citizen