Who's out: Casualties of Ramaphosa's Cabinet reshuffle

Three ministers are no longer in South Africa's executive.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation on 28 February 2021. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday in a live announcement made several changes to his Cabinet. Ramaphosa was under pressure to make adjustments to his Cabinet for a while now, with scrutiny mounting when security cluster ministers were unprepared for last month’s the deadly violence and looting. ANC national working committee members urged Ramaphosa to deal with the security ministers.

These are the ministers who are no longer in Cabinet.

Tito Mboweni (62) - Former Finance Minister
Mboweni resigned from his position as minister of finance, a position he made very clear was not sought by him. On several occasions, ahead of his maiden Medium Term Budget Policy Statement speech in October 2018, he made light of the way in which he was approached for his portfolio, implying it was less of an ask, and more of a you-don’t-have-a-choice situation.

Mboweni inherited a mess of ministry, with Nhlanhla Nene resigning as finance minister after he acknowledged that he had visited the Gupta family on several occasions. Then there was the “The Weekend Special” Des Van Rooyen - who’s appointment and axing by then-President Jacob Zuma caused havoc in the markets. There was consistently low growth, wide-scale corruption and leakage; his own Treasury staff were battered and bruised following years of uncertainty; the South African Revenue Service (Sars) was a wreck, hollowed out of key talent and a shadow of its former efficient self.

Under his political leadership, Sars rebuilt, and gradually turned itself around. Mboweni took a hard line on tax evaders.

One of the key components in Mboweni’s fiscal rightsizing plan was addressing the public service wage bill. In his first Medium Term Budget Policy statement, he flagged the bloated salary bill as a serious concern. Every time the issue came up, he would say the country simply couldn't afford it.

In 2020, his decision not to honour the multi-year bargaining council wage increase agreement signed two years earlier infuriated unions, though his stand was endorsed by the Labour Court.

Zweli Mkhize (65) - Former Health Minister
Ramaphosa also said on Thursday that Mkhize resigned from his position as health minister. After a bruising ANC presidential contest, he revived his political fortunes and was hailed a hero for what started as steady leadership when COVID-19 hit South African shores in March 2020.

He was even labelled man of the year by some media houses, with some tipping him as a possible replacement to the president when he eventually stepped down.

However, his short-lived stint in government ended with him as a disgraced minister, implicated in the looting of funds meant to assist in the fight against a pandemic destroying lives and livelihoods.

Once Zuma's ally, he had a Damascus moment in 2017 when he came clean about mastering slate politics to benefit the former president.

His fall from grace, came with a February Daily Maverick expose that linked him to a R150 million tender irregularly awarded by his department to his close associate Tahera Mather and former personal assistant at the department Naadhira Mitha.

The media house also detailed how his family directly or indirectly benefitted from the loot.

And while he was on suspension for over a month – he was said to have resigned just hours before Ramaphosa was due to fire him – a move seen as a desperate attempt to try and save his tattered image.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (65) - Former Minister of Defence and Military Veterans
One of the longest-serving ministers in Ramaphosa's Cabinet, Mapisa-Nqakula held on to her post for a startling eight years, ever since she was given the defence portfolio by Zuma in 2012.

Over the nearly two decades in which she was in charge, the South African Defence Force experienced a general decline in skills, capacity and resources.

Mapisa-Nqakula, who first cut her teeth in Cabinet as minister of home affairs and then moved on to correctional services, managed to ride out many scandals during her long tenure.

Her generosity with state resources landed her in hot water and saw Ramaphosa order her to pay three months of her salary to the Solidarity Fund for her “error of judgement” in allowing a delegation of ANC leaders to hitch a ride in an Air Force jet to Zimbabwe in September 2020.

Four years earlier, Mapisa-Nqakula came under a hail of criticism after smuggling into South Africa a young undocumented Burundian woman she said was a friend of the family.

The recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng thrust her – and the Department of Defence – into the spotlight, when she was compelled by Ramaphosa to increase from 2,500 to 25,000 the number of troops deployed to help quell the violence.

She admitted to Parliament that the security cluster had been “caught with its pants down”. Mapisa-Nqakula complained that intelligence on the rampage had “come too late”.

She further demonstrated the security cluster’s lack of communication and coordination when she contradicted Ramaphosa over his description of the violent mayhem of recent weeks as an attempted insurrection, before back-pedalling after the minister in presidency rebuked her comments as not government position.

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