Marius Oosthuizen
Marius Oosthuizen

Open Letter to President Zuma: Reshuffling for a Dream Team Cabinet

Dear Mr. President, the grapevine is abuzz with news that you’re thinking of playing a national game of Russian roulette with cabinet – pun intended. I understand your desire to reshuffle. You can’t be very comfortable surrounded by individuals who have their own mind, a sense of conscience and a commitment to principles of good governance. Why would you retain the services of minister Pravin Gordhan, a fiscal conservative stymieing your energetic expenditure programme? Why would you tolerate the likes of Derek Hanekom who joined in at a SaveSA protest in support of your removal? Who would put up with their intransigence, especially if you have a proven cadre in the calibre of Brian Molefe suddenly in the job market since being shown by the Public Protector to be frequenting your Saxonwold war-room on “white monopoly capital”?

It sounds like you have a lot to think about at the moment Mr. President; there is the small matter of slow economic growth and rising sovereign debt, the unease among the youth and the creeping xenophobia in response to which the police commissioner has mobilised a “stabilisation force” to keep the peace. This must worry you as it worries me. Complicating things is the small matter of the poor prospects of your personal freedom once you’re out of power and those who value the rule of law have reinstated corruption charges against you. No no, it sounds like hard work and not even your salary increase to over R3 million will soften the blow.

So Mr. President as a concerned citizen of South Africa I have scribbled some names on my napkin for you to consider for a dream team cabinet. Cabinet is a critical institution; it should be resourced with the best of the best.

For starters, you (on the ANC’s behalf) could deploy two deputy presidents, one focussed on foreign affairs and our African relations in particular and the second on our domestic governance and the economy. As you know, relations with Nigeria are a little strained and with Morocco now in the African Union we need a statesman abroad to represent our leadership in the region and the globe. May I suggest Cyril Ramaphoza for this role. He is articulate, has a brilliant mind and has the personality of a global leader. Why don’t we make Pravin Gordhan VP for the domestic agenda, a de facto prime minister? The people trust him, he gets the economy and he’s a tough boss, apparently. I’m sure the professionalization of the state will be his legacy.

Ok, I know this won’t unite the ANC and ANC unity is crucial to retaining power, so let’s give Naledi Pandor the Presidency. She is a battle-hardened public servant. She has a view into the technological dimension of future national competitiveness and understands the role of education. Also, she is a woman and won’t that be something special, a functioning African democracy led by a woman. Between them, a bull of a man, a servant of the people and a mother of the nation, we’d be well led.

Wait Mr. President, there is more. Pull Tito Mboweni out of political retirement to run the National Treasury with Mcebisi Jonas as his deputy. Tito handles the politics and Jonas runs the place. To me it sounds like continuity and stability, the business sector would love it. Then, merge the DTI, Economic Development and the Department of Labour to create a single ministry on the economy, a NEDLAC-style one-stop shop and fast-tack David Makhuru to run it with Rob Davies as his deputy. Minister Davies knows what the economy needs and Makhura has proven himself to be an efficient, straight-up public servant with a penchant for accountability to the people. Investor confidence will spike and we’ll have the growth we need so desperately. Industrial revitalisation isn’t out of our reach, we just need to implement our own policies.

This is where it becomes fun. Imagine having Tuli Madonsela run the department of justice! Alongside the likes of Moegoeng Moegoeng at the Constitutional Court, our judiciary will be in good hands – you know – the humble, gentle kind that aren’t easily bullied.

As for the state owned enterprises, merge these with public works and create a single department at the core of enabling our envisioned “developmental state”. Minister Lindiwe Sisulu could lead this. She is tough and a powerful leader with impressive experience. Given the size of the portfolio, call up Parks Tau to be her deputy. Now there is a young cadre with poise and a good mind. What a team. The experience of Mrs. Sisulu and the youthful vigour of Mr. Tau, wow. The SOEs would hum! As for health, Minister Motsoaledi has some impractical ambitions but he understands health and is someone you can work with. Pull some of the big guns in private healthcare around him in a council of sorts and he’ll be a strong anchor in his current role.

As for Home Affairs, surely this can be merged with Cooperative Governance to create a more seamless interface with the public. Minister Gigaba has been good in his current role, perhaps give him some backup in the likes of Philly Mapulane and let him get on with it. Similarly, Water and Energy are distinct yet intertwined. They are the bedrock of our national systems for sustainability and growth. I can think of no one better than Zweli Mkhiza to give this critical portfolio to. Zweli is relatively young, strong politically and with the right team, could turn these systems around. Let Lynne Brown stay on as his deputy, she knows the terrain and is a strong executive and administrator. Also, who knows to which heights this will lead Zweli in a few years?

Now for the sensitive matter of State Security. Here trust and street smarts make all the difference. Who would I want running the intelligence agencies? Definitely David Mabuza, a solid guy who won’t be manipulated. For good measure, why don’t we show some largess and forgive Bheki Cele for his mistakes in the police and let him back up Mabuza as deputy. That also gives the KZN constituency, an important pillar of the party as you know, a set of ears in the room. The police service is a sensitive one. Ranging from keeping the peace during citizen’s protests, to having to contend with some of the worst crime levels in the world. Who has the fortitude and the no-nonsense approach to give guidance to the police? Jackson Mntembo is my man. If anyone could whip the police service into shape it is the ANC’s man in parliament.

For South Africa to succeed we will need strong friendships with other states. Our diplomatic core is being eroded and its time for a new chapter at DIRCO. Why don’t we move Jeff Radhebe to this portfolio, with Paul Mashatile as his deputy. Think about it, ever the diplomat, the soft spoken Radhebe with the clear minded Mashatile, what a combination. Let Zizi Kodwa go and back up minister Siyabonga Cwele, but please, merge telecoms & communication. These are the left and right hands of our future digital economy. They have to sing off the same script.

Now for education, Sir., this is such a crucial portfolio. It is the greenhouse for our future. We simply cannot get it wrong. So who do we trust with this massive responsibility? Personally, I would pull Joel Netshitenzhe out of retirement for a last hurrah and create a single systems view of education and resource Joel with three deputies; Angie Motshekga stays focussed on basic education, pull Derek Hanekom across to focus on tertiary education. Then, do something radical with secondary – pull in the rising star of Dr. Louise van Rhyn, the inspiring social entrepreneur fixing our schools one at a time through partnership with the private sector. Mr. President, this team, aligned towards a renewed system with schools at the centre of community development would be a winner.

Mr. President, I have left two portfolios for last knowing that a lot depends on their success. Firstly, given the importance of land reform and food security, we need a new approach here. How about we create a single ministry for Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries and get some young blood to tackle the problem. I know this is idealistic Mr. President, but how about we head-hunt Lindiwe Mazibuko to come run it. She is young, passionate and on the face of it can keep calm under pressure and scrutiny while holding together fraying interests. It will also give Lindiwe an opportunity to grapple with the complexities of rural South Africa. Who knows, maybe she inspires a young cohort of “clever blacks” to reengage the ANC as their political home.

Finally, I realise the there are a few ministries I have not touched on, but didn’t want to leave of the most crucial reshuffle of the lot. Mr. President, please shuffle along and allow someone with credibility to run the country. It’s not that we don’t like you Mr. President, it’s that we don’t trust you, and trust is the basis for cooperation. If ever South Africa was at risk of pulling apart it is now. If ever we needed to work together, it is now. For that we need a unifying leader. We need someone we can trust. Someone who inspires our confidence. Who puts the country before the party, before their clan, their family, their friends and themselves.

Mr. President, if you must reshuffle, stack the deck in favour of the national interest.

Marius Oosthuizen

Marius Oosthuizen is a member of faculty at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa. He teaches leadership, strategy and ethics. He oversees the Future of Business in SA project that uses strategic foresight and scenario planning to explore the future of South Africa, Africa and Brics

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