19/02/2018 05:59 SAST | Updated 19/02/2018 08:43 SAST

Ramaphosa's Cabinet: Who'll Be In And Who'll Be Out?

Here is what President Cyril Ramaphosa is thinking as he mulls who will serve in his Cabinet.

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to deliver his state of the nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 16, 2018.
REUTERS/Gianluigi Guercia
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to deliver his state of the nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 16, 2018.

Buoyed by global and domestic reception of his presidency, President Cyril Ramaphosa is planning to drop "a series of bombs" when he announces his new Cabinet.

By yesterday, it was not clear who would deliver the national budget on Wednesday. Ramaphosa wants to keep Finance minister Malusi Gigaba in the Cabinet, but he is unlikely to hold on to his job at the national treasury. The young minister has quickly changed sides in the political transition from former president to Ramaphosa.

Getty Images
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba at the WEF in Davos.

For Ramaphosa, there are five Cabinet power positions that are vital: these are state security (intelligence), public enterprises, safety and security, finance and the department of international relations and cooperation.

"[For the new president], everything centres on taking the state because then everything reconfigures. The power to appoint Cabinet is the single greatest power [the president possesses]," said an adviser.

"But he will have to keep balances. These balances refer to the ANC tradition of ensuring geographic, racial, gender, generational and also factional balances in the Cabinet. This is why the Cabinet ballooned under Zuma while Ramaphosa has vowed to shrink the behemoth down to size. While Ramaphosa is emboldened, he is also wily and is likely to keep ministers who opposed his ANC presidency like Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

"Power is reconfiguring fast," said the aide, adding that Mokonyane and Mbalula had quickly aligned with Ramaphosa.

Although he is unlikely to shrink the Cabinet this week, Ramaphosa plans to cut the size of government and of the executive later this year. HuffPost interviewed four aides and strategists on the Ramaphosa transition team.

The Cabinet reshuffle is likely to take place anytime from Monday night to Thursday.

Ramaphosa's state of the nation address on Friday night provided key indicators about who is likely to get the chop. Here is HuffPost's assessment.


A number of ministers who were close to former president Jacob Zuma, as ministers believed to be part of the Zuma-Gupta patronage network and those considered to be underachievers, will be dumped immediately, sources with intimate knowledge of possible changes told HuffPost.

  • Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane
  • Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown
  • Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi
  • State Security Minister Bongani Bongo


A number of members of the executive and political leaders are on the ascendancy.

The minister of human settlements who ran with Ramaphosa on a ticket for the two top jobs in the ANC is emerging as the consensus candidate for deputy president. If ANC deputy president David Mabuza wants to move to central government from Mpumalanga where he is premier, then Ramaphosa will have to balance very carefully.

  • ANC MP and former minister of finance Pravin Gordhan is likely to come back as public enterprises minister.
  • Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel is being touted as mineral resources minister.
  • There is likely to be a role for the deputy minister of forestry and fisheries Bheki Cele, who would relish a return to the criminal justice cluster of Cabinet.
  • ANC MP and former chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
  • Former ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize has been in and out of meetings with Ramaphosa and is being touted for a central position.
  • The ANC head of organising Senzo Mchunu is also touted as a new Cabinet member, but he is also valuable to Ramaphosa at Luthuli House where he now holds a crucial position.

Outside Cabinet

Ramaphosa also highlighted a number of key civil service jobs he needs to sort out.

  • SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane

Ramaphosa has announced a commission of inquiry into tax administration because tax collection rates are going through the floor.

  • National director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams

The High Court ordered Ramaphosa, as deputy president, to appoint a new NDPP. He feels that he has to which means Abrahams is on skid row.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shaun Abrahams.


  • SARS commissioner – perhaps Ivan Pillay, the ousted deputy or a technocrat will be drawn in from the Treasury
  • NDPP – the former head of the asset forfeiture unit Willie Hofmeyr as well as a former incumbent Vusi Pikoli are on Ramaphosa's list

According to HuffPost's information:

  • A major Cabinet reshuffle will possibly only take place after the tabling of the budget on Wednesday, with Thursday 22 February 2018 believed to be a target date.
  • There is real worry about corruption and illegal spying in the department of state security and that the leadership of security and justice ministries will be revamped.
  • The department of public enterprises will be a prime focus of the new government's renewal efforts.
  • National Treasury will also come under close scrutiny from Ramaphosa, with the new president expected to be deeply involved in economic recovery efforts.

Although Gordhan, who was fired as minister of finance by Zuma in March 2017, is being touted to replace Brown as minister of public enterprises, there seems to be some debate about sending him to state security. There are real fears and serious concern about rampant corruption and illegal spying at the department by the incumbent spy boss Arthur Fraser.

Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

According to members of Ramaphosa's informal kitchen cabinet, of which Gordhan is a senior member, billions of rands have been pilfered and redirected to projects of which there is no oversight. The detail of the corruption at the state security agency is contained in Jacques Pauw's best-selling book "The President's Keepers".

The spy agency is also believed to have been deeply involved in the ANC's succession battle and that a strong, dependable hand as minister — as well as a new director-general — must be installed to bring the department to heel.

Besides the state security agency, the leadership of the whole security cluster (which also includes police, defence and justice) is set for an overhaul, with Ramaphosa believed to be determined to ensure that any lingering doubts about who is in charge are dispelled with. One source said security is an important Cabinet hub and the president needs to trust those running it.

Gordhan has emerged as one of Ramaphosa's trusted lieutenants. The two consult regularly and Gordhan was part of the new president's political committee that steered Ramaphosa's campaign for the ANC's leadership. After the conclusion of the ANC's national conference, there was fierce lobbying of Gordhan to make sure that he is available to return to National Treasury, or be deployed in another department.

The newly appointed president is keeping his cards close to his chest about what his plans with Gigaba at Treasury are. There is broad consensus among Ramaphosa's team that Gigaba will have to be removed, but that the department must not be destabilised. The working theory is that if Gigaba is kept in place for the immediate future, Ramaphosa will tightly manage Treasury and that the minister won't have much room to manoeuvre.

Word from within Treasury is that some senior officials cannot wait to see the back of Gigaba and that there is great hope that Ramaphosa will replace him immediately. He is not popular in the bureaucracy and his management style and approach to fiscal matters have frustrated many in the crucial department.

Ramaphosa will consult with the ANC and governing alliance leadership about any reshuffles and appointments, but aides say he is very clear in his mind about what needs to be done. One told HuffPost: "The president will appoint a strong team to surround him with. He wants people with integrity and whom he can trust."