President Jacob Zuma. Picture: MASI LOSI
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: MASI LOSI

President Jacob Zuma’s surprise Cabinet reshuffle has provoked a chorus of criticism, including from its alliance partners — and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe said the removal of South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande would cause further divisions in the tripartite alliance when relations were already at an all-time low.

Cosatu and the SACP described the reshuffle as “factional” and said Zuma had not consulted their leaders about the changes — which included the axing of Nzimande as higher education and training minister.

Mantashe said the ANC’s top six were merely informed about the changes, not consulted.

EFF leader Julius Malema said it was a clear consolidation of state capture for the nuclear procurement deal.

And the DA said it did not come as a surprise as it was clear Zuma was at war with anyone who opposed state capture and failed to toe the “Zuma line”. The party also urged the SACP to end its alliance with the ANC.

The SACP said the move was meant to bring the alliance to “the brink of disintegration”.

The party and Cosatu have been agitating for a change to the current format of the alliance, while the SACP has been exploring the possibility of contesting elections on its own.

The organisations have also been at the forefront of calls for Zuma’s removal, saying his leadership has enabled mass looting from state coffers.

“It is a well-known fact that the malady of corruption, governance decay and state capture has worsened exponentially under the incumbency of President Zuma and his friends, the Gupta family.

“If the president thinks that by removing Nzimande from the Cabinet he will silence the SACP from the leading role it has played to expose and confront state capture, he is glaringly mistaken,” the SACP said on Tuesday.

The alliance partners also said that by retaining “compromised individuals” in the Cabinet, Zuma had further tarnished the image of the ANC at a time when it needed to regain public trust.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said ministers such as Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane — who have found themselves in hot water recently — would have been fired if the Cabinet had been composed in the interests of good governance.

“That they are still there tells us it has nothing to do with competency. If you leave incompetent people it starts to be read as factional,” he said.

Mantashe told journalists at Luthuli House on Tuesday that Nzimande’s removal was a “pity” as he was a talented cadre of the ANC.

He said regular Cabinet changes could cause instability in the affected portfolios and in government in general.

Political analyst Susan Booysen said it was one of Zuma’s last attempts to prepare for life after the ANC’s December elective conference.

Zuma replaced ministers in key portfolios such as energy, state security and higher education.

Malema said the reshuffle was “used to settle political scores and consolidate factional power for the ANC December conference, which will be the ultimate demise of the ANC as a whole”.

“We reject the reshuffle of the national executive because it does not include the criminal suspect Jacob Zuma,” Malema said.


SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande. Picture: JASON BOSWELL.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande. Picture: JASON BOSWELL.

But he said the EFF welcomed Nzimande’s removal, as this would give him time to campaign for the removal of the Zuma family in the ANC.

The DA said the SACP should tear itself away from the ANC as it had been dealt an “insulting blow”.

“They must now decide how long they will put up with this abuse, or if they will now do what they know is right, and begin to work outside the ANC,” said the DA.

The reshuffle was not intended to effect good governance or ensure the best people served the country, the DA said. “Jacob Zuma appears to be firing his critics, and offering promotions in exchange for support ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December.”

The reshuffle affirmed the DA’s stance that the ANC was committed only to self-enrichment.

“Blade’s axing has also provided the pretext for yet another reshuffling of Zuma sycophants, none more pliant than [David] Mahlobo [the new energy minister]. This smacks of an attempt to reignite the ANC’s efforts to chain our country to a multibillion-rand nuclear deal with the Russians,” the party said.

Booysen said: “He is loading the Cabinet so that‚ should he fall into misfortune in December‚ there should be a more sympathetic Cabinet in place who will treat his proxy well.

“He is setting up even a more cosy Cabinet‚ favourable to him and possibly to Nkosazana [Dlamini-Zuma] than we have had in the past.”

Booysen said the reshuffle was also a show of strength as Zuma faced criticism from all fronts.

“He wants to show his power.… He retains those powers to make and break anything that suits his whims.

“His whims are influenced by where he can create openings‚ positions‚ advantages for his friends‚ family and associates‚ himself included in there‚” Booysen said.

“It is the actions of a president who does not care how much damage he does. It is a president who is further installing more of his cronies into cosy positions to suit his exit from power and to prolong his exit from power.

“A few of his remaining severe critics‚ like Blade Nzimande‚ are now out. He punished Blade and created a softer portfolio there.”

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