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OUR TAKE: SHUFFLE THAT CABINET, MR PRESIDENT

What’s your new Health Minister’s name? We don’t blame you if you can’t answer that one yet. We told you last week Zweli Mkhize was on his way out as health minister thanks to the dodgy Digital Vibes contract, and lo, it has come to pass. In a dramatic about-turn, President Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t await the outcome of the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) probe as initially planned. Public outrage grew, and Ramaphosa put Mkhize on special leave on Tuesday. 

Look, it’s messy. We desperately need strong leadership on the health front given the pandemic. Mkhize’s future will finally be decided once the SIU finishes that probe at the end of June as promised. It isn’t looking good and he’ll probably be axed for good if it’s negative. 

So to answer that first trick question, your new (acting) health minister is former tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. 

It’s an awkward appointment because Kubayi-Ngubane has no medical track record and hasn’t been particularly good as tourism minister. 😶

Here’s our question: what’s the point of having deputy ministers? Surely they should step into the gap when something like this happens. Deputy health minister Dr Mathume Joseph “Joe” Phaahla has served under Mkhize throughout this pandemic and is surely better placed to keep things ticking over. Plus he’s a medical doctor. 

So why not just make him minister? Insiders say it’s because a much larger cabinet reshuffle is afoot. 

Our ministerial pack of cards desperately needs a shuffle. There’s one vacant position, minister in the presidency, that needs to be filled. It was held by Jackson Mthembu, who passed away in January. Plus there have long been rumours that our finance minister, Tito Mboweni, is due to be replaced. He is often the lone voice of fiscal reason in the Cabinet, though his culinary reason is famously lacking (enough with the death by garlic recipes on Twitter, minister). But he’s never been that enamoured with the politics of his position and openly admits he took the job under duress. 

The trouble is, Ramaphosa needs a SUPER heavyweight in that position – and now also in health. As usual in the weird world of the ANC, things are being held up by internal deliberations. This may be the impetus needed to shuffle those cards – and cut. Ramaphosa was pressured into keeping way too much of his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s bloated cabinet.

According to News24, there are several possible replacements for the all-important job of Finance Minister:

  • Respected South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) governor Lesetja Kganyago, 
  • Former deputy Sarb governor and Absa CEO David Mminele
  • Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas
  • Mboweni’s deputy David Masondo 

If you were president for a day, who would you choose? We’d choose not to be the president for a day. 🤭

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 10 June 2021.Sign up to receive our weekly updates

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