President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a media briefing at the Union Buildings in Tshwane, November 22 2018. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a media briefing at the Union Buildings in Tshwane, November 22 2018. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s otherwise minor cabinet reshuffle was notable for placing a key ally at the helm of a ministry strategically positioned to assist with his plan to grow the economy.

While opposition parties were disappointed that the president kept a key ally of Jacob Zuma, Bathabile Dlamini, as minister in the presidency, Business Day understands the reshuffle, triggered by Malusi Gigaba’s resignation as home affairs minister last week, was more about the implementation of a key part of his economic stimulus package.

Environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa died in September and her portfolio went to another Zuma ally, Nomvula Mokonyane.

The ministries of telecommunications and communications were merged, with Ramaphosa picking Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who played a key role in garnering support in the Eastern Cape for his campaign for the ANC presidency.

Telecommunication is a key part of Ramaphosa’s economic agenda. In his stimulus package announced in September, he said the government would initiate the process of allocating high-demand radio spectrum to enable licensing, which he said at the time would unlock value in the sector, increase competition, promote investment and reduce data costs.

The cabinet changes were also an opportunity for Ramaphosa to provide a taste of what is to come in the proposed reconfiguration of the cabinet he promised during his state of the nation address in February.

Ramaphosa, who is still to lead the ANC to a general election, is still "managing internal dynamics", hence he did not move against Dlamini and Mokonyane, ANC insiders said.

Dlamini is the president of the ANC Women’s League and her removal would smack of
a purge as the league supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom Ramaphosa narrowly beat at Nasrec in December.

Mokonyane is still considered a political heavyweight though she left behind a trail of destruction at the water & sanitation department. She was at the helm of the department between 2014 and January 2018, and by the time she was moved to communications, the department had incurred about R2.5bn in irregular expenditure.

In October, Cosatu called on Ramaphosa to fire Mokonyane along with other ministers it described as corrupt, incompetent and inexperienced.

Policy Alignment

The ANC said that the merging of the ministries of communications and telecommunications into one ministry of communication would contribute towards greater alignment of policy and delivery, especially on the fourth industrial revolution and digitisation.

The party said Ndabeni-Abrahams’s appointment bears testimony to the confidence Ramaphosa has in the "young leaders of our country".

The DA said Ramaphosa had missed a second opportunity to fire "delinquent ministers".

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said merging the ministries and recycling Siyabonga Cwele into home affairs "is little more than a reshuffling of dead wood".

The DA has filed an application to compel Ramaphosa to fire Dlamini and Gigaba, who has since resigned.

The president filed a notice to oppose the application on Wednesday. Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said this was done as a matter of principle, as the hiring and firing of ministers was a constitutional imperative granted solely to the president of the country.

President Ramaphosa has shuffled his cabinet appointing Nomvula Mokonyane to the position of the late Edna Molewa, Mokonyane was previously Minister of Communications, Siyabonga Cwele has been moved t to the Home Affairs ministry from Telecommunications & Postal Services which will merge with the Communications Department to form a single unit which will be headed by Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams,