Shareef Blankenberg
Shareef Blankenberg

This ‘business unusual’ government

On February 8 2008, the president of the Republic of South Africa, the Most Honourable Thabo M Mbeki, delivered his annual State of the Nation address to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. The thrust of the address was the new government theme, “business unusual”.

In line with this theme, the Cabinet will introduce the Constitution 15th Amendment in the National Assembly next week. This specific piece of legislation will be prioritised and must be passed by both Houses before the end of March 2008. The main objective of the legislation is to amend clause 91(3)(c) of the Constitution, which states that the president “may select no more than two ministers from outside the [National] Assembly“. The amended version would give the president the power to appoint any number of non-MPs to the Cabinet, or as deputy ministers.

The president wants 2008 (his last full year as president) to be a year of great changes, a year of business unusual. In line with this vision, he wants to appoint some opposition members as ministers and deputy ministers, without affecting their status as the opposition. This new Cabinet would be announced round about middle March, to assume office on April 1 2008. The changes that would be made are as follow (though numbered, this does not reflect order of importance):

1. Pieter Marais to replace Pallo Jordan as minister of arts and culture (Pieter is more entertaining).
2. Helen Zille to replace Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as minister of home affairs (this minister is supposed to be the chief confidante of the president, and, according to Helen, she is that. Also, she can’t do much worse than Nosiviwe, or can she?).
3. Patricia de Lille to replace Ronnie Kasrils as minister of intelligence (this way, she can no longer ask thorny questions without embarrassing herself also. But I worry that Terry Crawford-Brown would then be made the DG of intelligence).
4. Simon Grindrod to replace Marthinus van Schalkwyk as minister of environmental affairs and tourism (Simon was previously a hotel manager).
5. General Bantu Holomisa to replace Mosiuoa Lekota as minister of defence (at last, a military man in the office. Just need Patricia — read point three above — to keep a close eye on him, incase he might be planning a coup).
6. Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi to replace Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile as minister of sports and recreation (Gatsha was always a good sport, wasn’t he?).
7. Abe Williams (remember him?) to replace Ngconde Balfour as minister of correctional services (having been in a new South African prison, Abe would know what to do with those prisoners).
8. Zwelinzima Vavi to replace Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi as minister of public service and administration (let him deal with the thorny issue of redirecting the public service and keeping the unions happy. Besides, we need a representative from organised labour).

The replaced ministers would be accommodated by postings as ambassadors, high commissioners or consul generals.

The changes would take effect on March 31 2008 at midnight exactly (or an hour later, if we have daylight savings time by then; also provided the electricity is still on).