Of committees and Cabinet

The ANC NEC meeting over the weekend did not discuss the new deputy president or the much anticipated cabinet reshuffle, according to dog-and-pony-show duo, spokesperson Pule Mabe and secretary general Ace Magashule, during an impromptu media briefing, shoe-horned into a comfort break on Sunday afternoon.

In the murky world of ANC politics, there is as much chance of this being true, as there is of it being false. After all, the ANC is not exactly known for playing open cards about its internal machinations.

However, the subsequent press conference revealed the outcome of the matter at hand: appointment of the various committee chairs who will exercise stewardship of the interpretation and implementation of ANC policy for the next five years.

Although committee chairs have no real power, they do represent the public face of ANC policy, so they have an audience.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made it quite clear in his response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) debate that he would, in the fullness of time, be announcing his new cabinet, but only “after extensive consultation and investigation”, and not at the behest of the “noisy ones on the left side of the House.”

“The noisy ones” of course, were liberal and generous with their advice as to who should go, suggesting the likes of Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane, Bongani Bongo, David Mahlobo, Faith Muthambi, and Lynne Brown should be axed forthwith, post haste and without further ado.

But President Ramaphosa is no Jacob Zuma: when he says he will consult, he actually means it.

He knows full well that he must heal the rifts in the Tri-Partite Alliance caused by his predecessor’s wrecking ball leadership for the last 10 years.

So, he will be talking to Cosatu, the SACP and the South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO), because without their support, he knows that his principle objective – ensuring the ANC maintains a majority in the National Assembly next year – will be a great deal more difficult to achieve.

We will be kept in the dark for a trifle longer – later this week or possibly next week – before all is revealed, but it is in the names of the new ANC committee chairs and senior Luthuli House appointments that some hints lie about the extent of the insidious dross of Zuma supporters remaining in the NEC, and what compromises President Ramaphosa could make in formulating his new cabinet.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – President Ramaphosa’s rival in the leadership race – cracked the nod as the chair of the education, health, science and technology committee. Aside from the fact that this creates a ridiculously complex and essentially unmanageable portfolio, it is one of the compromises Mr Ramaphosa will have made to appease the Zumerites.

Lindiwe Zulu, an ardent Zuma praise singer, gets to chair the international relations committee, but that poses little in the way of challenges, since foreign policy is the president’s prerogative, whatever the committee might recommend.

But it is in the national disciplinary committee that trouble lies, with the appointment of Edna Molewa as chair, and Nomvula Mokonyane as chair of the disciplinary appeals committee.

Neither has been reticent in their unvarnished, slavish adulation of Jacob Zuma.

But perhaps the most illuminating appointment, is that of Tony Yengeni, a convicted criminal who has served jail time, as chair of the peace and stability committee, which goes a long way toward contradicting President Ramaphosa’s assertion that the ANC has “self-corrected”.

Zizi Kodwa, that remarkably adroit spin-doctor, who kept legions of journalists entertained with his verbal gymnastics as the former ANC spokesperson, takes a spot in the president’s office, responsible for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of party resolutions, the performance of its deployees and assessment of service delivery progress.

Because Zuma-aligned KwaZulu-Natal has no representation in the ANC Top Six for the first time ever, the sop is the appointment of Premier Senzo Mchunu as chair of the organising and campaigns committee at Luthuli House.

With these compromise appointments, what is the likelihood that Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane, Bongani Bongo, David Mahlobo, Faith Muthambi, and Lynne Brown will go?

President Ramaphosa knows full well that aside from appeasing the still significant Zuma faction in the ANC, the rating agencies the international investment community, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are all watching his every move.

So, Bathabile Dlamini might remain in a less sensitive post, and her sister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will probably also end up in cabinet.

Hopefully the rest of the deeply compromised members of Jacob Zuma’s last cabinet will be fired, the portfolios rearranged for greater effectiveness, and also rationalised to shrink the cabinet dramatically.