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Ramaphosa’s egg dance

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Ramaphosa had very few options available to him, given the factionalism that has riven the ANC

26 February 2018 Union Buildings, Pretoria. President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing changes to his cabinet during a live broadcast. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

THE omens were clear for all to see. First the deadline for the announcement shifted, then it shifted again. Finally, after 10pm on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet.

The time of night was the only similarity with the practice pioneered by his predecessor , Jacob Zuma, who became so enamoured of late-night cabinet changes.

Instead, this time the delay was occasioned by the president’s need to consult with the ANC’s alliance partners, a practice that had fallen into disuse on purpose during the last years of Zuma’s tenure and the often manic and inexplicable cabinet changes well after newspaper deadlines – and even the bedtimes of the ordinary citizenry.

The result is a cabinet that both adheres to the gospel of unity – headlined by the appointment of DD Mabuza as deputy president – that Ramaphosa has been preaching since his ascent to the top of the ANC at Nasrec last year and keeps to his stated intent to clean up government.

Pravin Gordhan returns to head up the public enterprises portfolio, after successfully becoming his predecessor Lynne Brown’s nemesis from Parliament’s back benches. Derek Hanekom returns to the cabinet, to his old portfolio of tourism, while Nhlanhla Nene makes a critically important return to his old portfolio, finance.

The hard man of law and order, former police commissioner Bheki Cele, takes over police in a very strong message about law and order, while Lindiwe Sisulu foregoes her presidential ambitions to provide a coherent and respected face to the world as our minister of international affairs and co-operation.

The president forged tighter bonds with his erstwhile rival, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, making her minister in the presidency, while replacing the singularly awful Bathabile Dlamini as social development minister with Susan Shabangu.

Ramaphosa managed to unceremoniously boot out some of the worst culprits fingered in the state capture exposes; Des van Rooyen, Mosebenzi Zwane and Brown, along with David Mahlobo and Faith Muthambi, among a total of 10 fired ministers.

Others were redeployed, effectively sidelined to areas where they could do less damage.

It is a compromise cabinet and as such will please no one.

In truth, Ramaphosa had very few options available to him, given the factionalism that has riven the ANC.