The slump of Ramaphoria: A look at the Ramaphosa cabinet reshuffle

With the rise of the current president of the Republic of South Africa; President Ramaphosa there came a sense of euphoria in the country which was wittingly coined as “Ramaphoria”. With Ramaphoria came a sense of optimism for a ‘new dawn’ in South Africa and her political climate. Like most newly elected leaders, President Ramaphosa made many alluring promises delivered in the most tantalising manner having many South Africans hypnotised.

The State of Ramaphoria came tumbling down at full tilt when many realised that this administration is more of the same with just a different face attached to it. Which reiterates the notion that South Africa has never had a Jacob Zuma problem or a Ramaphosa problem, we have just always had and still have an ANC problem. President Ramaphosa inherited a highly factionalised party which made leading a big issue because unlike his predecessors; he did not have the full backing of the NEC and the top Six of the party right from the onset. This made his decision-making very tentative and more reactive rather than proactive in many instances. Nothing was different with the recent reshuffle of his cabinet which many would agree was long overdue.

President Ramaphosa had made a promise that under-performing ministers would be given the boot expeditiously at the beginning of The State of Ramaphoria address in early 2018. This, coupled with an undertaking to manage ministers through stringent key performance indicators, which was meant to bolster governance. Needless to say, this has remained an elusive myth.

On the 5th of August 2021, over three years later after his ascension to the role as The President of the Republic he finally made much awaited changes to his cabinet. Starting with the acceptance of the resignation of former Minister of Health; Dr Zweli Mkhize which many had anticipated due to his scandal with a dubious contract which he indirectly benefitted from with funds that were meant for the Covid-19 response programme.

President Ramaphosa made some changes that many had welcomed while others criticised that it should have been done much sooner. The president seems to still be tentative in his decision-making at a time that South Africans need a firm and decisive leader to turn around the plummeting economy.

This first cabinet reshuffle offers a glimmer of hope that the President is finally taking the first steps to becoming the decisive and strong leader that will rescue the nation from the numerous issues the country has been facing in the recent years and possibly reuniting the once united ANC to its former glory.

The President made an interesting decision to dismantle the Ministry of State Security and put it under the Presidency which he did mention is a trend in other nations. This comes after the disastrous response (or rather lack thereof) to the recent insurrection that took place in the country in a few provinces following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma.

This bold move raised many questions. Whether the President has a lack of trust in his comrades, is he showing a bit of paranoia or is he trying to centralise the power to himself as the President. These are questions that only time can answer but it will be quite interesting to watch this unfold.

Another questionable decision was the appointment of more deputy ministers especially in the Presidency where there is a newly appointed  deputy and an advisor. A highly criticised move which many would describe as unnecessary and wasteful expenditure in an already bloated cabinet and an added expenditure on an already limited fiscus.

Which is a direct contradiction to his sentiments in his first SONA in February 2018 and his opening remarks where he mentions the point of the changes are to mobilise “…all available resources and capabilities to rebuild our economy..” In his address the President also missed the opportunity to mention the soaring unemployment rate in South Africa in his opening remarks when talking about the economy and offering relief to the most vulnerable.

The president could have been more direct in this regard to inspire the confidence of South Africans (which is dwindling rapidly) in him and his administration that they are truly prioritising this issue that affects many South Africans. The unemployment rate is too large of an issue for it not to be mentioned explicitly as one of the burning issues that has prompted the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle.

In conclusion this cabinet reshuffle was a mixed bag of emotions. The President is finally showing signs of taking charge and showing a bit of the decisiveness and grit that many have been begging for. However it still remains to be seen whether these changes will offer a much needed shift that will usher in a new dawn for the country and much needed changes in the government.

Omphile Moiloa, holds a BA in Administration with core focus in Political Science and Public Administration. She is currently a senior administrator in the South African government.

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