President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on May 29 2019. PICTURE: AFP/PHILL MAGAKOE
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on May 29 2019. PICTURE: AFP/PHILL MAGAKOE

High-ranking ANC leaders from KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape make up the bulk of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reconfigured cabinet, compared to former president Jacob Zuma’s first cabinet in 2009.

Zuma also appointed his allies to head the crucial security cluster portfolios. However, under Ramaphosa, the security cluster ministries have been spread evenly and are headed by ministers from across the provinces.

During Zuma’s first tenure, the police minister was Nathi Mthethwa, with Siyabonga Cwele as state security minister; Jeff Radebe (justice and constitutional development); and S’bu Ndebele with the correctional services portfolio, who all come from KwaZulu-Natal.

During Zuma’s second term, controversial figures such as uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association president Kebby Maphatsoe ended up as deputy defence minister, while David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo took turns serving as state security ministers.

They were accused of abusing the ministries for nefarious political ends. In 2018, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stripped Maphatsoe of his delegate powers as the political head of the military veterans department, alleging that the department had become too politicised under his watch.

KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape are the ANC’s largest and third largest provinces in terms of party membership, respectively.

The key provinces are run by ANC provincial chairs Sihle Zikalala (KwaZulu-Natal) and Oscar Mabuyane (Eastern Cape), who were recently installed as premiers, and are considered Ramaphosa’s political support base.

Eastern Cape-born ministers in the new cabinet include Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (communications); Mapisa-Nqakula (defence and military veterans); and ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe (mineral resources and energy).

Former Eastern Cape premiers Phumulo Masualle and Noxolo Kiviet were appointed deputy ministers of public enterprises, and public works and infrastructure, respectively.

Former Eastern Cape rural development and agrarian reform MEC Nokuzola Capa was appointed deputy minister of small business development, while former labour deputy minister Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa becomes deputy minister of justice and correctional services.

Ramaphosa also named nine ministers and two deputy ministers in his cabinet from KwaZulu-Natal.

They include Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (co-operative governance and traditional affairs); Naledi Pandor (international relations and co-operation); Zweli Mkhize (health); Blade Nzimande (higher education, science and technology; and Pravin Gordhan (public enterprises).

Thoko Didiza (agriculture, land reform and rural development); Bheki Cele (police); and Senzo Mchunu (public service and administration) also hail from KwaZulu-Natal.

ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza was appointed deputy home affairs minister, while Hlengiwe Mkhize was made deputy minister in the presidency for women, youth and people with disabilities. Both also come from KwaZulu-Natal.

The other ministers and deputy ministers come from Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State, Limpopo, the North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces. They include Gauteng’s Ayanda Dlodlo (state security minister) and Limpopo’s Ronald Lamola (justice minister), among others.

Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka said he is “quite happy by the factoring-in of geographical representation in the make-up of cabinet”. 

He said this is one criterion Ramaphosa used in broadening the scope within his party away from the dominant factions, to demographic and gender representation. “That was an ace up Cyril’s sleeve, you know, to transcend the debate away from the limiting factional battles.”