CR digs in, JZ bedridden, Motlanthe apprehensive
Johannesburg – While President Cyril Ramaphosa was making a power play that consolidates his grip on the executive, his predecessor Jacob Zuma was being hospitalised following his recent jailing, while another past office-holder, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe cautioned that tensions in the country were not dying down and needed to be holistically dealt with.
President Ramaphosa rang the changes in his cabinet this week, roping in close allies and housing the state security portfolio under his office.
As that was happening, Zuma – jailed last month for contempt of court in relation to his non-co-operation with a graft probe – failed to appear in court on Tuesday as he was hospitalised for an as yet unstated ailment. There are indications that Zuma could be ill-disposed for months to come, thereby putting the brakes on the probe into alleged corruption during his 2009-2018 presidency.
The Zuma jailing itself is believed to have had an influence on President Ramaphosa’s reshuffle. Rioting, looting and street killings followed Zuma’s arrest, and there were claims that the security architecture did not do enough to safeguard stability before the chaos broke out.
Analysts have said the cabinet changes not only infused new life in the executive, but also helped President Ramaphosa consolidate his authority at state and ruling ANC party level.
Political analyst Ms Esther Mchunu told The South Times that the appointment of Mr Enoch Godongwana, for instance, as Finance Minister was a positive move as he had a strong economic and financial market background and was respected in the sector.
On Mr Joe Phaala’s appointment to the Health portfolio, she said: “Although he doesn’t have a powerful political background, Phaahla knows all the corners of the department since he has been there for some time.”
Analysts Mr Kenny Siziba said Thandi Modise’s ascension to head the Defence Ministry was overdue.
“She is one of the few uMkhonto we Sizwe female combatants who actually ran in the bushes with guns and grenades defending our sovereignty. She received military training during the war against apartheid and placing her in that ministry means she knows what it means when she tell the army to retreat or to advance,” said Mr Siziba.
With reference to President Ramaphosa’s decision to take direct control of state security, Mr Siziba said: “State security is a key sector in government. Placing it in his office is his way of consolidating himself into power. That way the president knows that all security issues will be centralised.”
Meanwhile, former President Motlanthe said the country should not have to worry about rioting if the leadership dealt decisively with inequality as it is seen in unemployment and poverty.
Delivering the Black Management Forum-organised Lot Ndlovu Lecture on August 6, Mr Motlanthe said, “We must remember that tensions remain high. These tensions are not beginning to die down. On the contrary, they are only rising. This (COVID-19) pandemic has fueled this ongoing sense of rage that is in the country.”