President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his long-awaited reshuffle on 6 March. This reshuffle has been anticipated ever since he secured re-election as ANC president at the party’s elective conference in December 2022. The reshuffle was further necessitated by the need to bring the newly elected ANC deputy president, Paul Mashatile, into government as national deputy president and to release then-transport minister Fikile Mbalula from cabinet to assume his new full-time duties as ANC secretary-general. In addition, the public service and administration portfolio had been vacant ever since the previous incumbent, Ayanda Dlodlo, left to join the World Bank in April 2022. Ramaphosa took the opportunity to overhaul his cabinet. In total, Ramaphosa made 11 changes at a ministerial level and nine changes among his deputy ministers. These appointments are as follows:
- Deputy President – Paul Mashatile
- Minister in the Presidency – Khumbudzo Ntshavheni,
- Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities -Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
- Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation – Maropene Ramokgopa,
- Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity – Kgosientsho Ramokgopa,
- Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies – Mondli Gungubele,
- Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) – Thembi Nkadimeng,
- Minister of Public Service and Administration – Noxolo Kiviet,
- Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure – Sihle Zikalala,
- Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture – Zizi Kodwa,
- Minister of Tourism – Patricia de Lille,
- Minister of Transport – Sindisiwe Chikunga.
- Deputy Ministers in the Presidency – Nomasonto Motaung and Kenneth Morolong,
- Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities – Sisisi Tolashe,
- Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation – Pinky Kekana,
- Deputy Ministers for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs – Parks Tau and Zolile Burns-Ncamashe,
- Deputy Ministers for Water and Sanitation – Judith Tshabalala (who will serve alongside incumbent deputy minister David Mahlobo)
- Deputy Minister of Public Works – Bernice Swarts,
- Deputy Minister of Small Business Development – Dipuo Peters,
- Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises – Obed Bapela, and
- Deputy Minister of Transport – Lisa Mangcu.
The 6 March reshuffle clearly reflects the new balance of power within the ANC and Ramaphosa’s increased influence over the party following the December elective conference. The most obvious change to the cabinet has been the removal of ministers and deputy ministers who openly challenged Ramaphosa ahead of the conference. Most notable of these are former tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu and former deputy minister of public enterprises Phumulo Masualle. The standout exception to this was the fact that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma remained in cabinet albeit shifted from the COGTA portfolio to the department of women, youth and persons with disabilities. This is despite her decision to defy the party whip and vote in favour of a parliamentary inquiry into Ramaphosa’s actions over the Phala Phala scandal in December 2022. Dlamini-Zuma was likely kept in the cabinet due to her continued influence within the party as well as the reportedly good working relationship between herself and Ramaphosa outside of ANC electoral politics. However, the move from COGTA to the women, youth and persons with disabilities department is viewed as a demotion. Notably, she will no longer oversee the state of disaster declared over the electricity supply crisis. Instead, former COGTA deputy minister Thembi Nkadimeng has been promoted and will take over this influential position.
The creation of the new position of Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity was another highlight of the reshuffle. Former Tshwane mayor and head of infrastructure in the presidency, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has been appointed to this role. Ramokgopa is a close ally of Ramaphosa’s and will be tasked with ending loadshedding. The creation of this new position is the latest effort by Ramaphosa to address a governance crisis by creating a new position within the presidency rather than fix or dismiss underperforming ministers and departments. It is unclear what powers Ramokgopa will have to achieve his task given that Eskom will still fall under the Department of Public Enterprises and require authorisations from the Department of Energy. This position was already the cause of significant bureaucracy, power struggles, and delays in dealing with the electricity supply crisis. The introduction of a third minister will likely worsen this situation.
In an effort to address the failing governance standards, Ramaphosa has resurrected the Ministry in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. This ministry will be headed by the ANC’s 2nd Deputy Secretary General Maropene Ramakgopa. It is hoped that the fact that Ramakgopa is an influential figure within the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC) will enhance her ability to assess her colleague and drive improved performance. However, previous iterations of this ministry and its facsimiles have largely failed to achieve this.
Almost as important as the reshuffle itself was the machinations preceding the announcement of the cabinet changes. In the weeks leading up to the reshuffle, the ANC replaced several of its MPs in order for them to qualify for inclusion into the cabinet. Among these newly sworn MPs were Mashatile, Parks Tau, Sihle Zikalala, and Ramakgopa who were all brought into cabinet. However, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel were also sworn in as MPs. This is significant as this freed Ramaphosa to make two new cabinet appointments who are not MPs as allowed by the Constitution. One of these slots was taken by the new electricity minister Ramokgopa. It is unclear how Ramaphosa will utilise the second slot but it is likely that this outside appointment will be the new deputy minister in the presidency for state security. The previous incumbent, Zizi Kodwa, has been appointed as the new minister for arts and culture.
This newly reshuffled cabinet underscores Ramaphosa’s increased control over the ANC and will entrench this influence further. The majority of new appointments are individuals believed to support Ramaphosa and as such he will likely head a much more unified and compliant cabinet. The fact that he has grown the cabinet by two ministers and three deputy ministers is a clear reversal of his previous promise to reduce the size and cost burden of the cabinet. This expanded cabinet is likely a result of Ramaphosa needing to reward key individuals who assured his December victory.
The focus on internal party politics over national needs has again resulted in a missed opportunity by Ramaphosa. This new cabinet is unlikely to be an efficient and lithe grouping able and willing to respond to the country’s multiple challenges. The fact that no changes were made to key underperforming ministries such as public enterprises, minerals and energy, education, and police suggests that little progress will be achieved between now and the 2024 general election. Furthermore, the fact that individuals such as Kodwa and David Mahlobo remain in the cabinet despite facing credible allegations of state capture-related corruption underscores the administration’s unwillingness to act decisively against corruption within its ranks.
This reshuffle may help entrench Ramaphosa’s control over the ANC but, ironically, may weaken his grip over the presidency. The ANC currently has its lowest-ever favourability ratings with the latest IPSOS poll suggesting that support for the party could fall below 45% in the 2024 elections. The only way for the party to reverse this decline is to aggressively address the country’s multiple crises and be seen to be introducing fast-moving reforms. This is not the cabinet to achieve such goals.