In what for some came as a surprise move the president has just announced his latest reshuffling of his cabinet. The same day he confirmed the new SABC board he catches South Africa in one of his now trademark styles to a cabinet reshuffle. Nobody expected it to occur today, especially since mainstream media has been telling us how weak the president is after the SCA ruling on the spy tapes.
Cabinet reshuffles remain a constitutional prerogative of the president. The ANC statement on the reshuffle as per the Secretary General’s statement confirms that the top six were informed. Cabinet reshuffles ostensibly are also aimed at delivering better governance and efficiency and overall executive accountability. Yet cabinet reshuffling also takes place where a sense of mistrust, disloyalty, and a breakdown in relationships are experienced.
The recent cabinet reshuffle affects 5 departments. We see Home Affairs briefly led by Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize now led by Ayanda Dlodlo. Mkhize replaces Blade Nzimande at Higher Education. David Mahlobo now leads energy formerly led by Mmamaloko Khubayi and Adv. Bongani Thomas Bongo now leads state security.
Higher Education Department, for a while has been without a deputy minister with the resigning of Manana, Buti Manamela now fills that vacant post.
When most of those reshuffled confirm and internal reality, the biggest casualty as was expected was SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande who is now fired. It was anticipated that Nzimande was going to be offloaded; it was just a matter of time before it would happen. On another level the rationale for his presence in a cabinet of a president he has long lost respect for was rather challenging.
Nzimande could have claimed a moral high ground if he had much earlier chose to walk away, yet he didn’t for his own reasons. Today he is fired and has potentially lost that claim to a moral high ground . He may have sympathy from those who share his anti-Zuma stance yet we as ordinary South Africans still ask, why did you stay in a cabinet where you did not belong if your utterances on many platforms are anything to go by.
On the part of the President he equally had to endure the agony of his higher education minister constantly attacking and accusing him in public spaces. He therefore proved tolerant to absorb Nzimande’s daily rants and accusations.
The challenge was always, how do you serve under a leader you don’t respect. On the part of the president again how do you continue to prove tolerant of someone who is public of his disregard for you as a person? This was the situation for the better part of at least two years. Nzimande may have emptied his proverbial gun and it appears the last shot belonged to the president.
What may happen now? The SACP will certainly have a press briefing; it will most probably be another one of those guns-blazing ones. What they should be doing in all honesty is to do their own introspection.
There is no question that the firing of the SACP leader as much as the actions and statements of the SACP leadership do not help the current strenuous tripartite alliance. The SACP like all other tripartite members needs to do its own self-introspection as to its own undeniable contribution to the current impasse. The SACP is on record for saying Nzimande’s removal is a direct attack on the SACP, yet it does not see its own actions on the president as an attack on the ANC.
In a sense this moment is also a test of the leadership of Blade Nzimande, fresh from a recent new term in his 19th year of serving in the office of General Secretary of the SACP. The SACP will as expected rally around its leader, we however do not know what that rallying beyond a press statement may mean. It may be that this is a Rubicon moment that may result in more SACP ministers leaving.
The challenge is will this rallying see SACP members who serve in cabinet with their mumbled and vocal complains do the honourable thing. The much more volatile earlier November 2015 Nene firing followed by the March 2017 firing of Gordhan failed to realize the ever mooted walkout. I hold no hope that SACP members will risk their personal well being to walk out in solidarity.
We must wait to see if there will be a staged cabinet walkout as was first mooted around the time of the last reshuffle end March 2017. I also do not think the SACP’s endorsed candidate Ramaphosa will risk walking out. Sisulu in her own designed storm with Mantashe does not strike likeable to stick her neck out in solidarity with an SACP that as yet have not endorsed her.
Clyde N.S Ramalaine