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[OPINION] Dlamini & Gigaba: All they touch turns to unethical ruin

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

When President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed his Cabinet in February 2018, many were understandably surprised that Gigaba and Dlamini made the cut. In the past few weeks it has been Gigaba who has mostly come under the spotlight.

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 International Airport. The Constitutional Court gave Gigaba short shrift and dismissed his application for leave to 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 as well as a string of inappropriate tweets and dare we say, videos?

Recently the Public Protector - who herself operates under a cloud - found that Gigaba had breached the executive ethics code for lying under oath and that Ramaphosa should discipline him. And so he should - as a matter of urgency. Gigaba has very little credibility left.

And then there was the other Great Survivor, Bathabile Dlamini. Granted, she has been slightly in the background of late, but her history as regards the Sassa debacle has left us all questioning her competence for office. 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 16 days every December, declaring “activism” in relation to violence against women and children. Frankly, it should be scrapped.

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

Both Dlamini and Gigaba are ignominy and notoriety combined. Dlamini was ordered to pay 20% of the costs in the Sassa matter in September 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 Constitutional Court 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 Malusi Gigaba has been suffering from “foot in mouth disease” by showing the his finger to opposition MPs in debate this week. Yes, this is what our Parliament has become; a place of thuggery and showing the finger. If one can’t win the argument, then this is what happens. Gigaba apologised and cited ‘pressure’ for this gesture. Self-inflicted pressure, one might add.

He seems to have a complex personal life which does not help matters and lowers the dignity of his office. His judgement has been poor and he may do well to resign also, given his chequered history and possibly dubious links to the Guptas. But he will not. That’s not the South African way. In fact, the ANC Youth League came out in his support and Gigaba has said that the allegations against him are part of a plot to stymie his future presidency. Yes, presidency. Would the ANC really sink so low again by appointing a vacuous incompetent to the top job?

Various calls have been made for both 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 for the president to say enough is enough? They are unfit for office.

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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