Ramaphosa accused of bypassing cabinet with aide appointments

Ramaphosa denied doing anything amiss and stressed that the cabinet are his inner circle and first line of advisers, while the extra appointees will help the government to become more efficient and cohesive. 
Image: Bloomberg

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is fending off accusations that he has created a shadow cabinet within the presidency because he mistrusts some of his ministers.

Ramaphosa announced several additions to his personal office in his state-of-the-nation address last week, bringing the count of advisers, task teams and special envoys to more than 20 since he took office in 2018. The new appointments include advisers on climate change financing, small business regulation and visa reform.

“Instead of engaging with the cabinet that he has and putting people in there that he trusts and wants to work with, he is building a parallel structure and that is not good for the country, said Sithembile Mbete, a politics lecturer at the University of Pretoria. “These advisers are only accountable to the president, they have been appointed by him. There is no legislative mechanism to hold them accountable, which is why advisers are meant to be an exceptional thing.”

Ramaphosa’s retention of several foes in his executive may stem from his tenuous hold over the ruling African National Congress. He won election as its leader by a tiny margin in late 2017, with detractors who are loosely aligned to his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, securing several other key posts.

Cabinet clashes

Over recent months, the president has clashed with his tourism minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, after she criticised the judiciary, while his energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, has contradicted the government’s plans to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Opposition parties accuse Ramaphosa of retaining ministers who should be fired because he wants to avoid factional battles within the deeply divided ANC ahead of his bid for re-election as its leader later this year. Ramaphosa, 69, is currently the front runner for the post, but is likely to face a challenge from Sisulu and possibly Zweli Mkhize, who quit as health minister last year after being implicated in a corruption scandal.

“Ours is a president incapable of making difficult but necessary decisions,” said Siviwe Gwarube, the main opposition Democratic Alliance’s deputy chief whip in parliament. “He is incapable of putting country before party.”

Ramaphosa denied doing anything amiss and stressed that the cabinet are his inner circle and first line of advisers, while the extra appointees will help the government to become more efficient and cohesive.

The aim is “to bring in fresh blood, fresh thinking,” he told reporters in Cape Town on February 16. “I find it a wonderful cocktail of ideas and talent bought together to produce the type of progress that we are looking for.”

Mondli Gungubele, a minister in the presidency and a Ramaphosa ally, said the president maintains “cordial” relationships with all his ministers and denied that the appointment of advisers constituted the establishment of a parallel cabinet.

“They are individuals being deployed in specific areas to improve the capacity of the president to lead the country effectively,” Gungubele said in an interview.

Mbete expects Ramaphosa to become more emboldened should he secure a second term, but finds it inexplicable why he doesn’t immediately replace those ministers who she said don’t back him and deliver no political benefit.

“It does feel as though he is using cabinet as a holding place for political opponents that he doesn’t want to engage with,” she said. “That is not what the cabinet of a country should be.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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Ramapokker will NEVER do that !!

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