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A bloated Cabinet is in the making as more parties join the GNU model

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Simon Nare

President Cyril Ramaphosa is sitting with a jumbo headache as the nation awaits with bated breath the announcement of his Cabinet as reports emerged on Saturday night that negotiations with key players in the multi-party coalition agreement has run into a roadblock.

Despite the fact that Ramaphosa has the prerogative to appoint who he wants to serve in his cabinet of the 7th administration, the President is not going to have it all his way because the ANC didn’t win the majority vote and has since established a coalition government with other parties with rules of engagements laid down.

To complicate matters even more is that more and more parties are joining the “government of national unity”. By Saturday night 10 parties had been confirmed with the latest being Al Jama-ah and presumably all these parties are expecting to be rewarded with an executive appointment.

To add salt to injury, there has been a push over the years to reduce the bloated cabinet by merging departments so as to reduce the wage bill. But it seems with more parties willing to try the ANC GNU model, the cabinet might still grow to be the biggest South Africa has had to date.

In making cabinet appointments, Ramaphosa will not only have to consult the ANC’s tripartite alliance but also all the parties in the multi-party coalition agreement. 

With repeated calls in recent times to scale down the cabinet, Ramaphosa has the unenviable task to please his allies in his party as well as the co-governors.

Even the retirement of some of the cabinet ministers in the previous administration, such as Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Pravin Gordhan, Bheki Cele, Lindiwe Zulu and some such as Naledi Pandor not making it to Parliament, Ramaphosa’s job will not an easier one.

While there are trusted allies who need to be retained in the face of fierce push by coalition partners to fill those portfolios there are some within the ANC who are up for promotion to move up the ladder.

Ministers that form part of Ramaphosa’s kitchen cabinet include Khumbudzo Ntshavheni who is currently Minister in the Presidency, Health Minister Joe Phahla who is likely to be retained in that position, Thembi Nkadimeng who is Cooperative Governance Minister as well as Communications and Digital Minister Mondli Gungubele.

The same applies to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola who might be retained despite a push by the DA who want that position filled for one of their own.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile is also likely to be retained despite the DA also pushing for its leader John Steenhuisen to take up that position. So too will be Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe even though the DA also want those portfolios.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola welcomes deputy president Paul Mashatile.

There is a likelihood that the portfolio could be split in two to accommodate coalition partners.

One of the ministers regarded as a rising star within the ANC is Mamoloko Kubhayi who is likely to retain her Human Settlement portfolio while Angie Motshekga is set to remain Basic Education Minister as she is seen as a trusted ally of the President. Defence Minister Thandi Modise and Barbara Creecy – Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Minister will also retain their current positions..

Speculation is that  rising star, Buti Manamela who has been deputising as Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande could be promoted to full minister and Nzimande relegated to back benches following the NASFAs saga.

Other young sworn-in MPs eyeing full ministry or deputy ministry appointments are David Masondo, Sisisi Tolashe, Soviet Lekganyane, Njabulo Nzuza who is currently deputy home affairs minister, Pinky Kekana, Supra Mahumapelo, Mzwandile Masina, Thabang Makwetla, Jomo Sibiya and former chief whip Penny Majodina.

As the intense negotiations are underway between Ramaphosa and coalition partners over the ministry positions, the DA is understood to be pushing hard for portfolios such as police, agriculture, finance, health, trade and industry as well as public service and administration.

The party is also eyeing the public enterprises department even though Ramaphosa last year announced that the department, currently led by Gordhan, would be closed down as part of the reconfiguration and state-owned enterprises moved to different departments.

Deputy finance minister David Masondo.

Other partners in the “government of national unity” eyeing full ministries are IFP and UDM who also joined the multi-party coalition after dumping the Progressive Caucus which was formed on the eve of the first sitting of the parliament by black parties on the left. 

The forum is now in tatters as the EFF are also said to be considering joining the coalition. But the red berets leader Julius Malema seemed to pour cold water on these rumours when he tweeted on Saturday night: “We have made it clear that for us to participate, the DA and VF+ cannot be involved and we insist on RDP houses in Orania.”

The talks with DA over the cabinet is reported to have hit a brick wall and on the verge of collapsing the GNU after the party was offered three ministerial positions. The DA has maintained that ministerial positions should be in line with the seats secured in the National Assembly.

Ramaphosa is expected to announce his cabinet either later Sunday or on Monday but with intense talks and reported deadlock, it remains to be seen when he will finally announce his cabinet.

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