Early this morning President Zuma announced a major Cabinet reshuffle, involving the appointment of ten (10) new Ministers and ten (10) Deputy Ministers.
We respect the fact that President Zuma has the Constitutional mandate to constitute the National Executive and therefore has the right to appoint and dismiss Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
However the Cabinet reshuffle occurs at a time when there has been much persistent and serious public concern and unease about the state of the nation with regard to many of its major elements, including the political, governance, economic, and social.
That concern and unease was expressed by the general public during the August 2016 Local Government Elections which, among others, resulted in significant loss of support for the ANC, the dominant governing party in our country since 1994.
It is absolutely certain that the major change in the membership of the National Executive represented by today’s extensive Cabinet reshuffle will further deepen this serious public concern and unease.
In its 2014 Election Manifesto, on whose basis it was elected as our current governing party, the ANC said, among others:
“Poverty, inequality and unemployment still affects the lives of many people. Corruption continues to erode our social fabric and undermine our development efforts. Our economy continues to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown, making our goals all the harder to reach.
“The ANC is committed to work with our people to address these challenges and move South Africa further forward towards the achievement of the vision of the Freedom Charter.
“The second phase of our democratic transition calls for bold and decisive steps to place the economy on a qualitatively different path that eliminates poverty and unemployment, creates sustainable livelihoods and substantially reduces inequality…
“In the next five years, we will build on the progress made in implementing our 2009 Manifesto priorities:
• Creation of more jobs, decent work and sustainable livelihoods for inclusive growth;
• Rural development, land reform and food security;
• Fighting crime and corruption.”
We must assume that the many changes announced today by President Zuma were made to strengthen the capacity of the National Executive to achieve these objectives, as stated in the 2014 ANC Election Manifesto.
We have no doubt that President Zuma and the rest of the ANC leadership understand very well that they and the ANC as a whole are accountable to the people of South Africa in their conduct, including as the governing party.
Given unprecedented nature and widespread public concern surrounding this reshuffle, we therefore hope that President Zuma will take the necessary and urgent steps to explain to the country more than he has, why the changes in the National Executive he has effected were necessary in the public interest, including as this relates to such portfolios as the Treasury, Energy, Public Works, Transport, Public Service and Administration, and the Police.
We accept that under normal circumstances there is no need for the President publicly to explain changes to the composition of the National Executive.
However both the extent of the Cabinet reshuffle and the circumstances in which it has occurred are not normal.
It is therefore imperative that President Zuma and the rest of the ANC leadership use the occasion of today’s major Cabinet reshuffle constructively to respond to the existing serious public concern and unease about the state of the nation, which could result in major and very serious social instability if it is not addressed honestly and properly.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation
March 31, 2017