27/02/2018 05:41 SAST | Updated 27/02/2018 06:16 SAST

Ramaphosa’s First Cabinet: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

President Cyril Ramaphosa's first Cabinet has a strong reformist flavour about it. But everything isn't totally hunky-dory.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces changes to the National Executive during a press conference at the Union Buildings on February 26, 2018, in Pretoria.
AFP/Getty Images
President Cyril Ramaphosa announces changes to the National Executive during a press conference at the Union Buildings on February 26, 2018, in Pretoria.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made sweeping changes to his Cabinet on Tuesday –- he made changes to 24 of the 38 Cabinet portfolios.

There is a strong reform impetus in his Cabinet: Nhlanhla Nene is back, as is Pravin Gordhan.

Both were axed for standing up to state capture and their reappointments make a significant statement.

But it is also a Cabinet of compromise: three ministers who have been tainted by allegations of state capture and corruption have been retained and three have been fired.

Here is HuffPost SA's first take on the good, the bad and the ugly of Ramaphosa's first Cabinet.


There is a clear anti-corruption and reformist agenda at play. Three appointments reveal this.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan

This is the most important appointment Ramaphosa made. The state-owned companies have bled the Treasury dry and bailouts are the order of the day. This is because these companies have been the target for capture by crony networks. Gordhan has been put in charge of a huge reform of state-owned companies; it is the biggest confidence-boosting appointment.

Rogan Ward / Reuters
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

As a former finance minister, Gordhan knows the state-owned companies' books off by heart. And as an ANC MP on the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, he showed himself to be an interrogator. Now he will have the authority to make the deep clean-up necessary and to ensure that the prosecutions that have started from the corruption at Eskom, Transnet and Denel are completed.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene (still to be sworn in)

Nene is a good technocrat and a man who withstood an assault on the Treasury before he was fired by former president Jacob Zuma in December 2015.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom

Tourism is South Africa's sunrise sector with the greatest potential to drive growth and tourism. He did well before he was fired by Zuma.

Minister in the Presidency

It is a masterstroke to have drafted in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to the Presidency. She is a good technocrat in a portfolio that is administrative and it is vital for Ramaphosa to have made a high-profile appointment from KwaZulu-Natal into his Cabinet.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe

The ANC's gruff but popular national chairperson makes his debut in the Cabinet. He knows mining and is passionate about the sector.

Minister of Police Bheki Cele

This strongman is passionate about policing and crime-fighting. He still has to give the nation answers on business contracts awarded when he was commissioner of police, but he will surely make a dent in South Africa's runaway crime levels.

The axing of former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane sends a strong anti-corruption message.


Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba

Gigaba is an energetic and loyal minister and it's understandable that Ramaphosa wanted to keep him. But to have returned him to home affairs at this point is an own-goal.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Gigaba is accused of having eased the path to permits and passports for the Gupta family and their cronies when he previously served as minister of home affairs. And just last week, the High Court found that Gigaba had abused his power in a dispute over a private airport while he served in that portfolio.

Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini.

What did women do to deserve this?


Deputy President David Mabuza

Mabuza is an architect of state capture and Mpumalanga (which he ran as premier until Monday this week) is a byword for corruption. But the role is largely titular so perhaps he will not be able to replicate the governance patterns he was infamous for as Mpumalanga premier.

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane

This is a vital portfolio because if key policy changes are not made, then South Africa will not volt into a future economy. Mokonyane left a chequered and questionable legacy at the ministry of water affairs and sanitation she has just left.