Cyril's Cabinet: What happened behind the scenes - SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE MAGAZINE


Friday, May 31, 2019

Cyril's Cabinet: What happened behind the scenes

It’s official: President Cyril Ramaphosa, followed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, walks the red carpet to the swearing-in ceremony of his new Cabinet. (Delwyn Verasamy) 
The negotiations started before the elections and continued until the very last moment. After the president briefed alliance partners and the ANC’s top brass on the final list of ministers and their deputies late on Wednesday, the small group was kept inside the Union Buildings. Their phones were taken away: nobody would put a spoke in the president’s big reveal

In an unprecedented consultation process that saw names of potential Cabinet ministers moved on and off the list, President Cyril Ramaphosa has managed to keep his allies close and his enemies closer.

After canvassing a host of well-placed sources, the Mail & Guardian can reveal some of the machinations that went into the Cabinet restructure and how individuals were selected to fill key posts.

The intrigues included burning the midnight oil on what to do with Barbara Creecy, the trade-offs to retain Tito Mboweni as finance minister, appeasing the Jacob Zuma/Ace Magashule faction, how to exclude Bathabile Dlamini, all the while appeasing both business and labour.

Ultimately, the Cabinet is designed to shore up Ramaphosa’s support inside the ANC, the alliance and society as a whole.
As one source put it, “no one is unhappy”. This is largely because of the intense consultation process held in the run-up to the announcement.

It is understood that the process began well before the elections, in which the broad principles of restructuring the Cabinet were discussed. The second step was the mechanics that went into merging departments and the last element was determining geographical spread, demographics and gender.

“In appointing a new national executive, I have taken a number of considerations into account, including experience, continuity, competence, generational mix and geographic and demographic and regional diversity,” Ramaphosa said, announcing his Cabinet on Wednesday night.

A pool of names was initially brought to the ANC and its alliance partners by the presidency, with people assigned to particular positions — and the wrangling over posts and individuals began. Finally, a shortlist was arrived at.

The final consultation happened on Wednesday, with alliance partners and the ANC’s top brass coming together to hear the final outcome of the intensive process from Ramaphosa. The small group of leaders was not permitted to leave the Union Buildings after the briefing and their phones were taken away until the announcement was made late that evening. The consultation process was described by Cosatu as “unlike any other” Cabinet discussions in the past decade.

The ANC’s battered alliance partners, trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP), made a strong comeback, gaining a number of important positions in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.

Cosatu is Ramaphosa’s unofficial base because he is a former trade unionist. It was also the first in the congress movement to endorse him as a presidential contender. The SACP opted not to publicly endorse any candidate, but a large number of its leaders campaigned for his win at Nasrec.

The Cabinet path, however, was not an easy one, with the SACP having to lobby hard to return general secretary Blade Nzimande to the newly configured ministry of higher education, science and technology. It is understood that the SACP also lobbied for former deputy minister of economic development, Madala Masuku, to be appointed, but he failed to make the cut.

Another point of contention between Cosatu and Ramaphosa’s preferences was Mboweni’s return as finance minister. Cosatu had been lobbying to have Mboweni replaced, issuing strongly worded statements in the run-up to the elections in which it accused him of behaving like the “prime minister” and urging him to retire. Cosatu argued to prevent his appointment, but eventually agreed, provided he was given a “talking to”, said a source familiar with the matter.

“We don’t want to individualise this issue but we can assure you that if it was about individuals, surely we would not be having problems since Trevor Manuel’s time?” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi. “Overall, Cosatu will always have reservations about this portfolio, because it is about orientation, not an individual.”

Insiders say there was also a push by the ANC treasurer Paul Mashatile and the party in Gauteng to have Creecy installed as finance minister. But this failed, with speculation rife that she would emerge as a deputy in this post. It is understood that there were fears, particularly in investor and business circles, that this was Mashatile’s attempt to strengthen his hand in directing the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which is traditionally chaired by the deputy finance minister. David Masondo was selected for the role instead and is set to be groomed to take over the running of the treasury.

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