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Our Take: The cabinet reshuffle explained

Shortly after sending out last week’s Wrap, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Cabinet reshuffle we’d all been WAITING for. If you heard the news and didn’t know what to make of it, we’re here to help. 

A strong centre

Ramaphosa used the opportunity to build a strong political and strategic centre, as Carol Paton writes in Business Day, in one of the best analyses we’ve seen. 

“At the nucleus is the combination of new finance minister Enoch Godongwana and minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele. Together we can expect them to drive an economic reform agenda and to think strategically about the government’s programme of action in a way that has been absent from the Ramaphosa presidency until now.” 

Along with other elements of the reshuffle, this means faster action to get our economy growing.

The other big news is that Ramaphosa has the all-important intelligence services reporting directly to him; this, after the cluster failed spectacularly to stop the recent lootings. If the shift in reporting lines sounds sinister, it isn’t. It’s normal in other countries to have intelligence services report directly to the president. 

The not-so-good-news

As we explained previously, Ramaphosa was largely limited to the anaemic ANC MP pool of talent because of how the list system works (that’s a topic for another day). The cabinet remains bloated; Ramaphosa must still play the ANC’s game of rewarding people, etc. 

The new finance minister

The background here is that former finance minister Tito Mboweni never wanted the job, and while he was good at it, he was frustrated with ANC politics. There was some outcry when Godongwana’s appointment was announced because of a previous scandal that involved losing pensioners’ money. He resigned back then and repaid the money, but the mud has been difficult to wipe off. 

But Godongwana really is a strong choice: he was previously in charge of ANC economic transformation and has clout in the party, which is crucial when it comes to finance ministers getting their colleagues to toe the fiscal line. Importantly, international markets know and like him, plus he’s got sound financial ideas. He knows dead socialist rhetoric will get us nowhere and believes in a developmental state balanced by a commitment to investor-friendly policies. 

All in all, the new cabinet puts us on an even keel. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 12 August 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.