THE BLOG

The President's Powers Must Be Exercised Rationally

It is clear that the president is not driven by efficiency and good management principles with regard to Cabinet portfolios.

18/10/2017 10:22 SAST | Updated 18/10/2017 10:22 SAST
Sumaya Hisham/ Reuters
President Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town, South Africa February 9, 2017.

The South African President enjoys great discretion with respect to how he exercises his powers. This includes the appointment of Cabinet ministers. This is not to suggest that there are no limits to his power. As court decision after the court decision has emphasised, public powers can only be exercised within the narrow confines of rationality.

Of course, as the courts have made clear, rationality does not mean that a decision is irrational just because there is a different way of doing things.

Rationality means that there should be a logical connection between the reason for the decision and the outcome of the decision. Simply put, there must be a link between the means and the ends.

It is clear that the president is not driven by efficiency and good management principles with regard to Cabinet portfolios. His motives to reshuffle are not only questionable, but also go against his constitutional mandate to uphold sound governance principles.

This Cabinet reshuffle is one of several witnessed in 2017 alone, and, according to media reports, the 12th under this President. Worryingly, this is also the 7th Communications Minister in eight years.

There is no rational basis for reshuffling ministers such as Hlengiwe Mkhize and Ayanda Dlodlo barely three months into their appointments.

At best, the Cabinet reshuffle can be viewed as the reshuffling of deck chairs on a sinking ship and, at worst, smacks of a thinly veiled attempt to get rid of political opponents who have called out the president's excesses.

It is important that there be stability within the executive so that South Africa's policies, especially the National Development Plan, are implemented effortlessly. This Cabinet reshuffle is one of several witnessed in 2017 alone, and, according to media reports, the 12th under this president. Worryingly, this is also the 7th communications minister in eight years.

This does not bode well for South Africa's long-term political stability. It is vital that the nation's best interests are placed ahead of narrow party-political interests.

This article first appeared in The Centre For Constitutional Rights dated 17 October 2017.