The 25th of May 2019 signified a dawn of a new era for South Africa, with the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa who is known as an anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader, businessman and a prominent member of the ruling party in South Africa, the Africa National Congress (ANC).
As he took oath of office Ramaphosa expressed his desire to end corruption and inequality. His political journey is one that is unique, and presents a possibility of amalgamating two worlds of the private and the public sector. In his journey, his active political career was abated during his business pursuits, only to pick up years later to him now being the president of South Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s political resume includes being one of the lead negotiators for the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) which led to South Africa being a democratic state. A controversial aspect of his political resume is his 1982 position as the founding member and secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers. Ironically, years later in his business endeavours and capacity as a non-executive board member of the mining giant Lonmin, Ramaphosa sparked controversy when emails revealed that he asked for “concomitant action” to be taken against mine workers. This resulted in the death of 34 Lonmin miners and families severely affected by what occurred during what became known as the Marikana Massacre were police opened fire in August 2012, after weeks of a wage dispute strike.
This issue challenges the legitimacy of the president’s duty to protect the civil rights of citizens. Can we really trust that his executive powers will be exercised in a way that will protect the citizens of South Africa, without prioritizing his interests as a business man?
When it comes to selection of cabinet, earmarked ANC members have recently appeared before the integrity committee which has given recommendations, in the face of controversy surrounding some prominent ANC members such as Pravin Gordon and Malusi Gigaba, following allegations of corruption by the public protector. There is also a case of adequate representation which calls for the president to elect cabinet members against the backdrop of the constitutional values of the Republic of South Africa which include the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms as well as no sexism and racism. With the ANC having the majority of votes with 57.5% (230 seats), the cabinet members to come from this group will be a crucial reflection of how committed the president is in advancing constitutional values.
Representation goes beyond appointing ministers to handle specific socio-economic issues. The values entrenched in the constitution ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness. This means proportional representation which ensures that other parties have a seat at the table. This includes the official opposition, the DA which has 84 seats and the EFF with 44 seats. Minority groups have already been considered in terms of how seats have been occupied in parliament; this in itself reflects a dawn of a new era.
It is without question that the major aspects of representation to consider in public office in the current era are age and gender. During the swearing in of members of parliament, the three leading parties (ANC, DA, and EFF) changed the status quo by including younger members of parliament. The list included Sibongiseni Ngcobo (23) of the EFF. Additionally, as it stands, 45% of the legislature comprises of women, with the youngest 21-year-old Karabo Khakhau to represent the DA on a provincial level. These incremental and yet monumental changes to signify the dawning of a new era, which embraces representation in terms of gender and age.
Ramaphosa’s rationale for the reduction of the cabinet from 34 to 28 was to promote coherence, co-ordination and efficiency, some ministerial offices were also combined. There have however been some concerns with cabinet members. For starters, the deputy minister’s appointment was met with much reservation with cases such as that of Deputy president David Mabuza, who has allegedly been involved in corruption, tender fraud, and being a key player in the assassination of opponents in Mpumalanga while he was a premier. This also supports the findings by the integrity commission, prior to him being sworn in as a member of parliament, were they recommended that he and other ANC members be removed from the party’s candidate list.
In a broader sense, the sense of representation exuded by the selection of cabinet members showed some interesting changes. The proportion of women represented has increased, with representation in “hard positions” such as state security which is occupied by Ayanda Dlodlo. A surprise appointment was that of Patricia De Lille, who, with only \0.4% of nation-wide votes after forming a party 5 months before elections (considering the controversies with her former party and official opposition which is the DA), was appointed as the Minister of Public works and Infrastructure. Furthermore, there have been some shifts, in order to accommodate the merge of certain ministerial houses. This includes Naledi Pandor moving from the Education and Technology portfolios to International Relations and Cooperation, to Maite Nkoana-Mashabane who moved from Rural Development and Land Reform to a new ministerial portfolio namely the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.
With these shifts and changes to signify this new dawn of leadership, we will patiently wait for the fruit of these changes. One thing is certain, change has come. Whether it will be a positive or a negative one, we are yet to see.
Featured image | President Cyril Ramaphosa during oral replies at the National Assembly in Parliament, Cape Town | Government ZA | flickr
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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