A strategic move that is both risky and cunningly smart from the president.
On Thursday afternoon, proceedings were delayed at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria. President Cyril Ramaphosa was making his way from Ekurhuleni to announce the latest Cabinet reshuffle.
Hours after the president had delivered his address to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), he had the daunting task of announcing his new Cabinet staff.
A brief recap: The two vacant positions that were available for occupation were; the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Environmental Affairs, with the latter being the most controversial.
Read – Cabinet reshuffle: Full list of changes made by Cyril Ramaphosa
Dr. Siyabonga Cwele took up the position at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Nomvula Mokonyane was announced as the Minister of Environmental Affairs, filling up the big shoes that were left by the late Edna Molewa.
The other major talking point was the president’s merger of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services and that of Communications. This was a clear move that sought to show that Ramaphosa had heeded the calls to shrink the Cabinet.
One of the most shocking outcomes of the announcements came after Ramaphosa concluded his address: Minister of Women in the Presidency, Bathabile Dlamini survived the chop.
This, of course did not sit well with many, who could not believe how Ramaphosa could have overlooked the damage she had caused in her role as the Minister of Social Development.
However, one only has to look at how the president has approached the role of women in our society to understand why he may have resisted the urge to do what many would think was the right thing to do.
Read – Cabinet reshuffle: Siyabonga Cwele replaces Gigaba as Minister of Home Affairs
For Ramaphosa, the question really was about ‘what is right’ vs ‘what is best’ for the ANC ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The right course of action would have been to follow the precedent set by Nhlanhla Nene and Malusi Gigaba and force people like Mokonyane and Dlamini to resign.
However, that would not have been the best course of action. Dlamini, as controversial as she may be, has a large concentration of support among her supporters in the ANC Women’s League. In a broader context, she is the rock, or imbhokodo, that the women sing about at public gatherings.
Read – President Ramaphosa has seven days to fire Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba, says DA
Ramaphosa is well aware of this. Any move to sway the progress he has made with female ANC supporters could be detrimental to his wish to retain power after 2019.
According to a Sowetan article written Moipone Malefane and Neo Goba, there are insiders from the Presidency’s office who have spoken out about Ramaphosa’s decision to keep Mokonyane and Dlamini in power.
They have told the publication that Ramaphosa’s decision to not act against the two embattled ministers was a conscious one, a bid to avoid any further alienation with the party all-women leadership wing.
Let us not forget that Ramaphosa had, on Thursday, also promoted Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to head up the merged Ministry of Communications, a clear indication that he is set on putting more women in power.
A gamble, to say the least, that stands to be tested in a few months when South Africa comes out to vote for their next leadership.