President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet announcement had a lukewarm reception. This was mostly because President Ramaphosa while introducing new faces to his team, also maintained a lot of old hands. The South African cabinet is organised into clusters that talk to different sectoral focus. These clusters were established with a view to improving inter-departmental coordination within government. These are following cabinet clusters: economic, infrastructure, community and human development, international co-operation, governance and administration; and justice, crime prevention and security. An analysis of President Ramaphosa’s cabinet through clusters reflects that there is an even spread of key credible individuals within the clusters. This approach helps in understanding how the composition of clusters will help neutralise those who might be determined to undermine the delivery of the current administration.

Economic Cluster

The economic cluster is composed in the main of the following departments:  trade and industry, finance, public enterprises and small business development. This department’s current composition reflects the importance that President Ramaphosa attaches to economic policy.

The Department of Trade and Industry is headed by Minister Ebrahim Patel who has a labour background and has served in the now collapsed Economic Development ministry for almost ten years. While Patel is a Marxist Leninist, none of this orientation seems to have had a major influence on his job as Economic Development Minister. Mr Patel is known for being a workaholic and stickler for rules.

As expected, the Department of Finance is led by Mr Tito Mboweni. The former governor suffers no fools, is hard working and has a no-nonsense approach. He has a more economic orthodox approach which will ensure much-needed stability at the fiscus. Mr Mboweni has indicated that he does not need the job, having ventured into business and farming after leaving the central bank. He is not shy to take on those that seek to undermine treasury and the central bank.

In addition to the two incorruptible and hard-working ministers is Mr Pravin Gordhan, a known anti-corruption crusader. Mr Gordhan is the Minister of Public enterprises, tasked with cleaning up the state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Having Mr Gordhan in this department is crucial in that SOEs pose the biggest fiscal risk to the country’s economy. His disciplined approach will ultimately save the SOEs and broader fiscus. President Ramaphosa strengthened the economic cluster through the appointment of a new Minister of Small Businesses Development Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Little is known about this new addition to the economic cluster family, except that she has a small business background (and no known scandal around her). In addition, she adds to the youth component of the cabinet.

An analysis of the economic cluster is indicative of President Ramaphosa’s intention to build the “developmental state”. Mboweni will bring fiscal stability, Gordhan will strengthen and rebuild SOEs, Patel will focus on investment-led trade and industrialization while Ntshavheni will focus on improving the development of an inclusive and vibrant SMME environment. However, a developmental state also requires a strong and visionary bureaucratic machinery. It is against this backdrop that President Ramaphosa placed some of his key lieutenants in the Governance and Administration cluster.

Governance and Administration

At the core of developmentalism is a capable state. Post-apartheid South Africa did try to establish such under the Mandela and Zuma administrations. Under the Zuma Administration, much of the capability built up since 1994 was dismantled. The Governance and Administration cluster is made up of the following ministries: Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Public Service and Administration, the Presidency (includes planning, monitoring and evaluation) and Communications. There is no doubt that President Ramaphosa deliberately placed the trusted hand of Mr Jackson Mthembu, as Minister in the Presidency; a workaholic and efficient administrator and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Mr Jackson Mthembu is a former Chief Whip of the ANC in parliament and was quite vocal against the excesses of the Zuma Administration. He had hinted on a possible retirement before the beginning of the current administration. This means he has no further ambitions and will do his best to monitor and evaluate his colleagues.

The cog of an efficient state is a skilled, focused and disciplined bureaucracy. It is this realisation that has led to President Ramaphosa to appoint someone whom he had initially intended to have at the hub of running the ANC, Mr Senzo Mchunu. Minister Mchunu lost the job of running the ANC to Ace Magashule. His appointment by President Ramaphosa to the Public Service and Administration department shows the trust the president has in Mchunu’s capabilities to operate large organisations.

Just as in the economic cluster, President Ramaphosa deliberately added a young, loyal and efficient person in this cluster. This is the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola. The president is aware that a young capable and ambitious cabinet member will in most probability go out of his way to prove himself. Mr Lamola is in charge of the justice institutions such as the National Prosecutions Authority and the courts. These institutions support a capable state if they are strong. Mr Lamola is therefore tasked with revamping them after they have been hollowed out during the Zuma years.

The departments of State Security and Police have also been allocated to not only loyalists but efficient and hard-working persons – Ayanda Dlodlo (deputised by Ramaphosa loyalist and hard worker, Mr Zizi Kodwa) and Mr Bheki Cele, respectively.

While the choice of President Ramaphosa’s cabinet was confusing in the beginning, a closer look from a developmental state and cluster approach, betray the president’s priorities. Where he could not appoint only loyalists, he ensured that in each cluster there is a trusted pair of hands and eyes. This is the case in the other clusters such as infrastructure development, community and human development and international co-operation.

Image: SABC News