Zuma Favors Loyalty Over Expertise as He Tightens Cabinet Grip

  • Dlamini, Zwane, Muthambi, Van Rooyen keep cabinet posts
  • Posts unrelated to performance: politics lecturer Sarakinsk

South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire his respected finance chief Pravin Gordhan while retaining poorly performing ministers, shows that he favors loyalty over performance.

“Performance is not the criteria for getting into cabinet and it’s not the criteria for remaining in cabinet,” Ivor Sarakinsky, a senior lecturer the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance in Johannesburg, said by phone on Friday. “It’s pure, vulgar brutal politics and it’s the politics of loyalty.”

While Gordhan, 67, was lauded by international investors for containing state spending and cutting back on waste, Zuma, 74, has been criticized after being implicated in a succession of scandals, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home. The two men have clashed over the management of state companies and a proposed nuclear power expansion program.

Zuma “has watched with growing rage the increasing support being generated by Gordhan, and his own decline in reputation,” said Robert Schrire, a politics professor at the University of Cape Town. “This has been fueled by the finance minister’s tough stand on corruption and wasteful spending which have blocked many of Zuma’s policies. We have watched the visible rage in Zuma growing.”

‘Divisive’ Influence

The president told a meeting of the top six officials of the ruling African National Congress that Gordhan was divisive in cabinet and thwarted efforts by other ministers to deliver services, a person with knowledge of the matter said earlier this week.
Gordhan will be replaced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, 45, who has no financial or business experience, while lawmaker Sfiso Buthelezi will succeed Mcebisi Jonas as deputy. 

Zuma decided to retain the following ministers:

*Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who failed to comply with a 2014 court order to find a distributor to pay out welfare grants to replace Net1 UEPS Technologies Inc., whose contract was ruled invalid. While Dlamini took responsibility for the failure in court papers, she later blamed her staff. It took an application to the Constitutional Court by a human rights organization to ensure that more than 17 million people continue to get their monthly pension, disability and child grant payments.

*Faith Muthambi was named minister of public service and administration, ignoring a recommendation by a parliamentary oversight committee that he establish an inquiry into her fitness to hold office following her interference in executive appointments at the South African Broadcasting Corp. during her tenure as communications minister.

*Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane remains in his job after flying to Switzerland to speak to Glencore Plc’s Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg about selling a coal asset to a company in which Zuma’s son and his friends, the Gupta family, held stakes. Nedbank Group Ltd. said he urged them to reconsider a decision to close accounts held by the Guptas.

*Cooperative Governance Minister David van Rooyen keeps his post. The graft ombudsman said in a report that he’d had questionable dealings with members of the Gupta family. The minister, Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

The changes have got very little to do with government policy and “are authoritarian in the sense of Zuma centralizing so much power in himself,” said Susan Booysen, a professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance. “It is an endorsement of non-performing aspects of the current political system, in the retention of some of the worst performers.”

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