POLITICS

Jacob Zuma Is Presiding Over His 12th Cabinet After Tuesday's Shock Reshuffle -- Is It A State Of Organised Chaos?

The president's made 133 changes to his national executive since taking office in 2009. Issa lot.

18/10/2017 08:48 SAST | Updated 18/10/2017 08:48 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters

The intense bonds of loyalty in the governing ANC meant that former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki took a long time to reshuffle their Cabinets when ministers did not perform.

Not so with President Reshuffle, aka Jacob Zuma, who is presiding over his 12th Cabinet at today's meeting of the national executive. Researcher Gareth van Onselen found in a report released earlier this year by the Institute for Race Relations that Zuma makes so many serial and regular reshuffles that his average Cabinet has lasted only 8.6 months.

If you are a minister or deputy minister in the president's Cabinet, change is a constant: Zuma has made 133 changes to his national executive.

Theuns Kruger - Graphics24

If Zuma was a CEO, his human resources people would be asking pointed questions about staff retention. His ministers and deputy ministers reflect a 20% retention rate.

While Mandela and Mbeki were often criticised for sticking with ministers who did not know their portfolios, it's not always clear that Zuma chops and changes for reasons of good government.

This is now how you manage a national government, it is how to sew chaos, uncertainty and disorder, and, it would seem Jacob Zuma has perfected that particular art. Gareth Van Onselen


In the report, Van Onselen adds: "The total failure of national governance is now a permanent feature of almost all public commentary."

In other words, governance is getting worse, not better with each reshuffle. And often, the reshuffles reflect factional political battles rather than administrative reasons.

The axing of former higher education minister Blade Nzimande, who has been in his post since 2009, is directly related to the campaign by the SA Communist Party (SACP) to get Zuma to step down. Nzimande is also general-secretary of the SACP.

READ: Axing Nzimande Puts Tripartite Alliance On Brink Of Disintegration

The department of communications got its seventh minister since Zuma took over as president in 2009. The short-lived Minister of Energy Mmamoloko Kubayi took over from Ayanda Dlodlo, who lasted six months before being moved to home affairs.

She will have to now deal with the suspension of high-powered director-general Mkuseni Apleni, who had a fight with former incumbent Hlengiwe Mkhize.

Apleni and Dlodlo are both former ranking soldiers of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and so should be able to make up.

Zuma has parachuted his confidante and former minister of state security David Mahlobo into the energy portfolio, which is central to a powerful and nascent patronage network that will run the effort to sign the R1-trillion nuclear deal. The energy ministry has also had many changes at its top office since Zuma took office.

READ: Strongman David Mahlobo Key In Cabinet Reshuffle

Zuma's earlier reshuffles were often made to improve governance, but the reshuffles in his second term have been made for political and patronage reasons.

His axing of two finance ministers, Nhlanla Nene and Pravin Gordhan, was closely related to control of the fiscal taps. Two ministers of energy, Tina Joemat-Petersson and Kubayi, were cast aside because they did not move quickly enough on the nuclear deal.

And, as with Nzimande, former minister of tourism Derek Hanekom got the axe because he spoke out on state capture.