Arguably the biggest surprise in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle announcement late on Thursday night was Finance Minister Tito Mboweni being “excused” from the position and replaced by Enoch Godongwana, the head of economic transformation in the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC).
Mboweni was parachuted into the finance ministry top job back in October 2018 following the untimely resignation of Nhlanhla Nene.
While he agreed to take the job, it was understood to be temporary move, with Ramaphosa wanting Mboweni in to restore confidence ahead of the 2019 national elections.
Since then, Mboweni has seemed to be in his element in the position, despite his gung-ho moves around much-needed structural reforms for the SA economy sometimes getting him into trouble with the ANC’s alliance partners. He has also had clashes with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan around the bailouts of SAA.
While talk about a planned cabinet reshuffle has been swirling for weeks, following the effective suspension of embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and the death of former Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, there was very little expectation that Mboweni would also exit at such a tumultuous time for Ramaphosa and the country.
Just last week Mboweni and National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane revealed details of a new R36.2 billion social relief and business support package, which came in the wake of the recent unrest and destruction to property in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
Mboweni was expected to table the new package in parliament soon, but it was unclear whether this would have been in the form of another “emergency budget” or left for the mid-term budget in October.
During Thursday night’s address, Ramaphosa said he “had accepted a long-standing request” by Mboweni “to be excused from his position as Minister of Finance”.
“Minister Mboweni took up this position following the sudden departure of former Minister Nhlanhla Nene in October 2018. Since then, he has effectively and ably steered National Treasury through extremely difficult economic times, providing stability and instilling confidence,” the president noted.
“I am grateful to Minister Mboweni for responding to the call to serve our nation at its time of need,” added Ramaphosa.
Now, Godongwana, who is no pushover himself, will be leading the finance ministry during what is still uncertain times. Besides the recent riots linked to the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic remains a risk.
While Godongwana has the benefit of an expected bonanza in tax revenues (largely on the back of booming commodity prices) to fund the new economic relief package, he also has the unenviable task of effectively taking on unions to keep the public sector wage bill in check.
Meanwhile, Gordhan – a staunch Ramaphosa ally – unsurprisingly remains in his position at the all-important Public Enterprises Ministry. As does Ebrahim Patel at the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.
Mkhize is officially out and has been replaced by Joe Phaahla as health minister.
News of his resignation came even before Ramaphosa announced the reshuffled cabinet.
Despite Mkhize being embroiled in the Digital Vibes tender scandal within the Health Department, Ramaphosa heaped praise on his work as health minister.
“I am grateful to Minister Mkhize for his service, and particularly for the outstanding leadership he has provided in the face of the worst pandemic in over a century,” said the president.
Ramaphosa confirmed that Mkhize requested “to step down as the Minister of Health in order to bring certainty and stability to this important portfolio”.
Interestingly, he did not appoint acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi to Mkhize’s post, even though she took on the acting role with aplomb.
Instead, she has been appointed Minister of Human Settlements. Besides her acting health minister role since June, Kubayi has been Tourism Minister since Ramaphosa was elected.
In another somewhat surprising move, Ramaphosa is culling the Department of State Security, but he noted that “political responsibility for the State Security Agency” would now fall within the Presidency itself.
Ramaphosa seems to be entrenching his authority with this decision, in the wake of the fallout from the lack of intelligence surrounding the recent attempted insurrection and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
“This is to ensure that the country’s domestic and foreign intelligence services more effectively enable the President to exercise his responsibility to safeguard the security and integrity of the nation,” he explained.
He announced Zizi Kodwa’s appointment as Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for state security.
Another change was the splitting up of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation back into two separate departments.
Senzo Mchunu has been moved from Public Services and Administration to being appointed Minister of Water and Sanitation.
Other new cabinet appointments or moves include:
Ayanda Dlodlo – Public Service and Administration
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams – Small Business Development
Lindiwe Sisulu – Tourism
Mondli Gungubele – Minister in the Presidency
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni – Communications and Digital Technologies
Thandi Modise – Defence and Military Veterans
New deputy ministers include:
Pinky Kekana – second Deputy Minister in the Presidency
Zoleka Capa – Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform
Philly Mapulane – Communications and Digital Technologies:
Thembi Nkadimeng – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo – Health
Dr Nobuhle Nkabane – Mineral Resources and Energy
Dr Chana Pilane-Majake – Public Service and Administration
Sdumo Dlamini – Small Business Development
Sindisiwe Chikunga – Transport
Dikeledi Magadzi – Water and Sanitation
Ramaphosa said that outgoing State Security Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will be deployed to a new position, however, he did not stipulate the post.