In the first cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa, announced on Monday, there was something of the magnetism of old TV soap operas like Dallas. It’s an old trick: when the producers think the series needs an injection of vooma but are running out of ideas, they haul out earlier successes and rewrite history. It was just such a moment this week, when Ramaphosa walked out from behind a metaphorical curtain and said: "Don’t worry, it’s been a bad dream. It’s the same as two years ago — Nhlanhla Nene is still finance minister, Pravin Gordhan is still in the cabinet, and Malusi Gigaba is wreaking havoc at home affairs, rather than finance ..." For starry-eyed idealists, Ramaphosa’s first cabinet was a disappointment. But this failed to recognise the realpolitik that all cabinets are balancing acts. They reflect the leader’s attempt to exploit, manipulate and placate the range of ideologies and factions in the ruling party. So in this sense, Ramaphosa’s choices are generally explicable. W...

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