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Important responsibility for new Minister of Electricity, but reshuffle questionable – commentators

7th March 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


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There are some positives in the Cabinet reshuffle announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, with some appointments having been welcomed by industry organisations; however, many were concerned by underperforming Ministers being kept on and some reassigned, changes not being sufficiently decisive and the Cabinet size not being reduced.

Importantly, Ramaphosa named a new Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, and while the role he will play has been emphasised by some, other organisations have questioned the need for the position at all.

Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle resulted in the appointment of Khumbudzo Ntshavheni as Minister in the Presidency; Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities; Mondli Gungubele as Communications and Digital Technologies Minister; Thembi Nkadimeng as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister; Noxolo Kiviet as Public Service and Administration Minister; Sihle Zikalala as Public Works and Infrastructure Minister; Zizi Kodwa as Sports, Arts and Culture Minister; and Patricia de Lille as Tourism Minister.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) expressed the hope that the new Cabinet would provide fresh impetus to the important structural reforms that were under way.

However, it was simultaneously concerned at the addition of two new ministries within the Presidency – Minister of Electricity Ramokgopa, and the new Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Maropene Ramokgopa, given that the Cabinet was “already bloated”.

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) said Ramaphosa did, however, announce measures to rationalise government departments, entities and programmes which would result in fewer ministries in the configuration of government “going into the next administration”.

It outlined that Ramaphosa was bestowing wide powers on the Electricity Minister and, in terms of Section 97 of the Constitution, would transfer “certain powers and functions” from other entities to enable the Minister to execute his mandate, which was primarily to significantly reduce the severity and frequency of loadshedding.

To effectively oversee the electricity crisis response, Ramokgopa will have political responsibility, authority and control over all critical aspects of the Energy Action Plan. He will be expected “to facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity”.

BLSA said it hoped government would be united in implementing the Energy Action Plan, but that it was concerned this attempt to endow the new Electricity Minister with overall responsibility may lead to turf wars which may not be beneficial to smooth progress.

Citing her experience, BLSA said it hoped Sindisiwe Chikunga as Transport Minister would be able to accelerate urgently needed reforms, including that of rail operator Transnet, to enable an efficiently functioning transport and logistics sector.

BLSA said that while there were several new Ministers in the reshuffle, some had been transferred from previous ministries, and it was concerned that some underperforming ministries were unchanged.

The Minerals Council South Africa, meanwhile, congratulated Paul Mashatile on his appointment as Deputy President, and welcomed the appointment of Ramokgopa as the Minister responsible for electricity to guide the country out of its electricity crisis in partnership with the private sector.

“The appointment of Dr Ramokgopa is a good appointment. The Minerals Council has worked with him in the past and we look forward to working with him to help resolve South Africa’s electricity crisis. It’s important that the other components of government align with The Presidency to achieve the objectives of the electricity recovery plan,” said Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter.

The Minerals Council’s members and the private sector have more than 9 GW of renewable energy projects worth more than R160-billion that can be built in the next five years, taking pressure off Eskom so it can conduct its critical maintenance programmes and restore its aging fleet of power plants to stability, it said.

“We look forward to working with Dr Ramokgopa to expedite these projects, removing all red tape and bottlenecks, including strengthening the transmission infrastructure which is vital to unlock the private sector’s contribution to resolving the crisis,” said Baxter.

Busa termed the appointment of Ramokgopa as “critical”, and said the organisation would engage him urgently to see what his thinking was on dealing with the short-term loadshedding crisis and the medium-term energy crisis.

“We were of the view a new Minister of Electricity should not be appointed, but now that the President has appointed him, we will continue our support to help implement the President’s Energy Plan as a matter of urgency. He will have a significant challenge in coordinating roles between his department and that of the Minister of Resources and Energy and how he utilises the powers accorded to him under the State of Disaster,” Busa said.

It added that the Cabinet would have to demonstrate, with urgency, that Ministers would be moving with speed to address the numerous crises being experienced.

“Business has consistently indicated its readiness to work with government to shift the needle significantly in attracting investment and putting our country onto a sustainable and inclusive growth path. We remain committed to pursue this and urge relevant Ministers to collaborate with us in a real partnership,” Busa noted.

It said it would monitor urgent indications from the Cabinet about its priorities in the next few weeks, and would, on the basis of these, engage and see if there were possibilities of collaborating.

 “Our new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, needs to seize the opportunity for collaboration with the private sector for funding and with our member companies who have the technical knowledge and capability to deliver results with the speed that our country so desperately needs for economic growth,” asserted Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) CEO Chris Campbell.

While Campbell acknowledged that with the interim Cabinet reshuffle, it was unlikely that there would be much difference in the short term, he said he looked forward to Ramaphosa delivering on his promise of improved infrastructure delivery in the next two years post the ‘real’ Cabinet being announced.

CESA and its close to 600 member companies, employing 17 000 people, remain ready and available to partner with government, Campbell indicated.

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), meanwhile, welcomed the appointment of De Lille as Tourism Minister.

Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said the organisation looked forward to working with her and unlocking the considerable potential that tourism held for South Africa. “We trust that Minister De Lille’s appointment will be a catalyst for change, moving tourism forward by overcoming the current stumbling blocks and facilitating new opportunities for growth, such as the provision of digital nomad visas and the long-awaited eVisa system,” she commented.

Satsa co-chairperson Oupa Pilane said the organisation looked forward to working closely with De Lille and the Department of Tourism to advance tourism in the country through meaningful structured engagement, so that more South Africans directly experienced the benefit that tourism could bring to the economy.

“We are also grateful that there is continuity within the Department of Tourism with Mr Amos Fish Mahlalela remaining as Deputy Minister. We thank him for his continued service in this role,” he added.

North-West University Business School economist Professor Raymond Parsons commented that the reshuffle would be judged by the outcomes achieved in the period ahead.

He emphasised that the reshuffled Cabinet in its new configuration must now set the pace on the urgent implementation of key policies and projects in the rest of the year, especially in the key portfolios that affect the economy, such as energy, transport, public administration and local government.

“In particular, the new Minister of Electricity has a heavy responsibility to ensure the turf problems that have bedevilled Eskom will indeed be a thing of the past, that all the key decision-makers in energy policy can soon be got on the same page, and that loadshedding will steadily recede,” Parsons stated.

He said that, with urgency needed, timelines must be set and enforced, with consequences if they were not met.


On a less optimistic outlook, Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy campaigner Thandile Chinyavanhu said the announcement “does not inspire confidence”.

Gwede Mantashe remaining Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy is much ado about nothing; he remains obsessed with fossil fuels which keep South Africa in the dark. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, new Minister of Electricity in the Presidency, does not arrive at his new post with a clean record, in spite of his history of irregular expenditure costing the city of Tshwane billions of rands, he has been brought to the helm of the biggest crisis in South Africa today.

“The President must clearly delineate the roles between the new Minister of Electricity and the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister to promote transparency and interdepartmental coordination, and to avoid interference and fragmented approaches to the crisis,” Chinyavanhu emphasised.

The organisation has called for Ramaphosa to enact real change to solve the country’s energy crisis by fast-tracking the just transition to renewable energy.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) was also not optimistic, positing that it was “a soft shuffle to a poor-performing Cabinet”.

It averred that Ramaphosa missed the opportunity to show his commitment to dealing with accountability in poorly performing ministries.

“Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) has been a role played within the Presidency and we are surprised that it requires a new position in the Presidency, especially when we see deterioration of performance in ministries of Police, Higher Education, Mineral Resources and Energy and Public Enterprises.

"We trust the new Ministry of PME will lead to publicly announced updated performance agreements for all ministers, that these will be transparent to the public and, crucially, that the ministers will be held to them,” Outa stated.

While the appointment of Ramokgopa in the new position of Minister of Electricity may be a welcome appointment, Outa reiterated its stance that the country did not need a new ministry to address the electricity crisis, but instead called for accountability, clarity of roles and strong delivery focused leadership from the ministers of Mineral Resources and Energy and Public Enterprises.

“Sindisiwe Chikunga is Minister of Transport after a largely hidden role as the deputy minister. We hope she will address the many problems left behind by her previous boss, Minister Fikile Mbalula.

“We are encouraged to see Lindiwe Sisulu fired from Cabinet and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma removed from Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Dlamini-Zuma has failed dismally to arrest the chronic decline in local government performance,” Outa stated.

“The newly appointed Minister Thembi Nkadimeng was Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister since 2021 and she has a mammoth task ahead of her to turn things around in our collapsing towns and cities,” it added.

However, Outa said the reassignment of a “poor performer” – Dlamini-Zuma – to Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Minister, signalled the lack of interest which the President has in this portfolio.

Outa is, however, hopeful about the changes in the Ministry of Tourism.

“This was a shuffle which extended a Cabinet which should have been trimmed, but left little change in crucial departments with big problems. Adding ministers in the Presidency consolidates power without improving public accountability. All eyes will be on these appointees to deliver,” Outa emphasised.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) also posed questions about the reshuffle and its process.

“While some of the appointees like Dr Kgosi Ramokgopa are no doubt outstanding and talented individuals, the government needs to eliminate the appearance of randomness in its recruitment and selection process.

“A science-based approach in identifying, selecting, and assessing capabilities should be a key component and requirement of the appointment template if we are to build a system based on a meritocracy. Talent identification and management should be decoupled from political considerations,” Sacci stated.

It averred that there did not appear to be congruence between a number of incumbents who had kept their positions, and the clear and unambiguous track record of poor performance.

“There are certainly a number of talented and skilled people in the Cabinet. At the same time there are those who are visibly not at the right level for the challenge. It is this asymmetry that poses a risk on sustainable performance,” Sacci warned.

It said the Cabinet reshuffle did not appear to be aligned to the complex challenges facing South Africa currently and the long-term objective of eliminating joblessness, poverty and inequality.

Sacci echoed sentiments that Ramaphosa had missed an opportunity to capture the urgency and seriousness of the crises facing the country, and to calibrate, reset and infuse the executive leadership cohort with the appropriate level of skills and competencies equal to the task facing South Africa today and the challenges that continued to grow in scope and complexity.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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