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[OPINION] The disgraceful duo of Dlamini and Gigaba

If ever there were two ministers who were serially incompetent and who deserved to be fired, it’s Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba. Granted, they have had stiff competition from some of their colleagues, but whatever they touch seems to turn to unethical ruin.

When President Ramaphosa appointed his Cabinet in February this year, many were understandably surprised that Gigaba and Dlamini made the cut.

But it’s trite to say that we could not have expected wholesale changes. Ramaphosa’s narrow victory at Nasrec and his ‘deal with DD’ (David Mabuza) created a difficulty of its own complex kind: Mabuza, the former Mpumalanga premier, had been tied to several alleged corruption scandals and political assassinations. At Nasrec he committed his Mpumalanga delegates to the Ramaphosa camp. His ‘betrayal’ of the Zuma camp shows what a political chameleon he is. As Mathews Phosa has said about the compromises at Nasrec, "Nothing principled guided the combination of the so-called 'unity' slate. Nothing. It was more about, you give me power, I give you power. There’s [sic] no principles."

When Ramaphosa announced the reshuffle, Zuma was the proverbial elephant in the room. Ramaphosa has inherited a broken country, a broken ANC and a broken economy. Added to that, the detritus of Zuma’s bloated, inefficient Cabinet, filled with far too many corrupt and ineffective ministers, could not simply be cleaned up in one fell swoop given the fractious nature of ANC politics. Inevitably, there were the contradictions.

Of course, Gigaba should not have come anywhere near a ministerial position given the Pretoria High Court findings against him. Earlier this year, Judge Neil Tuchten found that Gigaba had breached the Constitution and had told deliberate untruths in relation to the Fireblade matter in which the Oppenheimer family had sought to open a private terminal at OR Tambo. Gigaba, in response, said he would take the matter on appeal. His return to Home Affairs reminds us of his expediting the Guptas’ naturalisation and the many questions that still need to be answered by Gigaba in relation to that. His relationship with the Guptas and his appointment as Finance Minister in controversial circumstances raise even more questions about his ethical compass. But, he survived and remains a Cabinet minister despite the controversy and Judge Tuchten’s findings.

And then there was the other Great Survivor, Bathabile Dlamini. Having achieved nothing at Social Development, she moved to the portfolio of irrelevance – Women. That ministry has never done anything worthwhile, seeming to come alive only for sixteen days every December, declaring ‘activism’ in relation to violence against women and children. Frankly, it should be scrapped.

Dlamini was quite possibly only being retained but demoted because of her ANC Women’s League ties and its support.

This past week saw both Dlamini and Gigaba in the news yet again - ignominy and notoriety combined.

Dlamini was ordered to pay 20% of the costs in the Sassa matter relating to the further extension of the invalid Cash Paymaster Services contract when she was Minister of Social Development. The unanimous judgment of the highest court delivered by Justice Froneman was scathing. The ConCourt held that, "Some of Minister Dlamini’s evidence under oath in affidavits before the court and orally in the inquiry was false. The registrar of the court must be directed to forward a copy of the inquiry report and this judgment to the director of public prosecutions to consider whether minister Dlamini lied under oath and if so must be prosecuted for perjury.” Damning indeed.

Meanwhile, Minister of Home Affairs Gigaba has been suffering from ‘foot in mouth disease’ on Twitter and entering Twitter ‘wars’ with journalist Redi Thlabi. In the latest part of the unhelpful saga, Gigaba announced that he was suing Thlabi for defamation. Gigaba did so on a state letterhead. Is Gigaba using state resources to ‘defend his name’ and sue a journalist for defamation? If he is, then we have the right to know why public money is being used in such a wasteful manner? If Gigaba wants to sue Thlabi, he should do so in his personal capacity and not drag us all into it.

Besides, being a politician means Gigaba needs to develop a thicker skin and roll with the punches of public opinion - whether good or bad. That’s democracy. One would also have hoped that Gigaba had more important things to focus on than a blow-by-blow argument with a journalist. Gigaba may be well served to simply stay under the radar given his chequered history and possibly dubious links to the Guptas.

Various calls have been made for both of these embarrassing ministers to be axed. And so the question remains, what will the president do? Has Ramaphosa made the political calculation to do so? That remains to be seen.

But surely, surely, Dlamini and Gigaba have both done more than enough damage across various portfolios to say, enough is enough? They are unfit to serve.

Judith February is based at the Institute for Security Studies and is also a Visiting Fellow at the Wits School of Governance. She is the author of 'Turning and turning: exploring the complexities of South Africa’s democracy'. Follow her on Twitter: @judith_february

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