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Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address there has been intense speculation that the size of the cabinet will be reduced dramatically. It currently has 73 ministers and deputy ministers, the same number as Jacob Zuma's administration when it came to an end. Imagine trying to chair a meeting with so many people. How much time is there to discuss any particular issue, never mind pressing ones? If the practical rationale for restructuring cabinet is compelling, the political case for Ramaphosa is much less so. The growth of the national executive since 2009 has seen a dramatic transfer of power in SA, to local and regional elites and away from national ones.

Between 1994 and 2007 the size of the cabinet was relatively stable, remaining in a range of between 26 and 29 ministers and between 12 and 19 deputy ministers. Then in 2009 the size of the executive shot up. Zuma had 33 ministers and 27 deputy ministers (60 in total), compared with Kgalema Motlanthe’s 2...

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