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South Africa

Ramaphosa reins in the spooks and picks new finance chief

Cautious to a fault, the President has shuffled the pack sending out mixed signals to ANC loyalists and investors

Two weeks after a failed insurrection cost 337 lives and inflicted over US$4 billion in damage to the already stuttering economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 5 August that he has dismantled the State Security Agency (SSA), which was set up by his predecessor Jacob Zuma. Early the next day it was announced that Zuma, currently serving an 18-month sentence for contempt of court, had been taken into hospital.

Whether the Zuma-era securocrats were guilty of sins of commission or omission is to be determined by a full investigation into the attempted insurrection and the laggardly response from South Africa's security system (AC Vol 62 No 16, After the insurrection).

Ramaphosa hasn't waited for its conclusions. He has centralised the key intelligence and security functions in the office of the president, in the tradition of another predecessor, Thabo Mbeki. Sydney Mufamadi, security minister under Nelson Mandela, is to be Ramaphosa's National Security Advisor. He led the probe into the security services, which had been highly politicised under Zuma. He will also play a critical role in the panel set up to review the intelligence services.

Ramaphosa has also sacked Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. She had insisted the uprising in protest at Zuma's jailing had not amounted to an insurrection despite the attacks on electricity sub-stations, a water purification plant and the organised distribution of firearms and ammunition. After Ramaphosa's office slapped her down, she reluctantly changed her line. She has now been replaced by Thandi Modise.

Another Zuma appointee, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, has been demoted. The President brought in Zizi Kodwa as Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for intelligence to replace her.

More problematic for security is the survival of Police Minister Bheki Cele, whose explanation for inaction in the early stages of the insurrection stretched credulity. Worse still, Cele is at war with another Zuma appointee, Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, who was judged by the Court of Appeal to have 'breached his duty' in a probe into claims of corruption in police procurement.

The other big news is the appointment of former head of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Enoch Godongwana, as Finance Minister in place of Tito Mboweni, who had asked to leave the government. Godongwana has far more traction with the governing African National Congress than the periodically irascible Mboweni. But Godongwana also has his critics in the party who have raised questions about his role in the crash of Canyon Springs Investment, which had managed the pension fund of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union. Godongwana denies wrongdoing in the matter.

Mondli Gugubele, former Deputy Minister of Finance, takes over as Minister in the Presidency after the death of the highly-regarded Jackson Mthembu. The promotion of Joe Phaahla to Health Minister from the deputy position has been widely applauded after Zweli Mkhize, suspended after a corruption probe, sent his resignation to Ramaphosa.

Likewise, the appointment of Senzo Mchunu as Minister for Water Affairs, now a critical economic and security issue across the country, has been welcomed. In recognition of that, the Water Affairs portfolio has been separated from the Human Settlements ministry.



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