The Zuma Shuffle Do You Know The Moves?

JZ’s been busy. Appointing SABC’s new board after a month of twiddling his thumbs, reshuffling the cabinet just for the heck of it, etc. Why?
Jason Snyman
Zuma’s been a busy boy. A number of announcements were made yesterday, 17 October. The biggest among them – his 12th cabinet reshuffle in eight years. This won’t come as a big surprise to many people. It’s pretty clear that our Teflon President isn’t a fan of anybody who opposes him or state capture, dishonesty and mass-scale corruption. It’s the second game of musical chairs Zuma has implemented this year alone. Hot on the heels of the cabinet reshuffle, came the news that JZ had appointed a new SABC board, as well. The list of names featured good old Msholozi enthusiasts Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and Bongumusa Makhathini. Ah, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the muti is strong with this one. Gedleyihlekisa, for those who didn’t know, translates to ‘the one who laughs, while physically hurting you.’  

Zuma’s New SABC

On Friday the 13th, labour unions representing a number of SABC staff gave CEO, Nomsa Philiso, seven days to deliver on a list of 13 demands, or they will go on strike. A joint letter was written by the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CMU). In the letter delivered to Philiso, the two Unions stated that the SABC has been plagued by bad management. Bad managerial decisions have cost the public broadcaster a deficit of more than a billion rand. They have also been given a lot of bad publicity, caused by the board, chairperson of the board and top management. The employees reported that they had been subjected to threats, fear, unilateral restructurings, change of work practices and shift rosters, and a zero-percentage increase. All of this while witnessing new appointments made without advertising positions. The Unions referred to this as a ‘Gestapo-styled management.’ They stated in the letter that should the 13 demands not be met, a protected strike will take place. Among the 13 demands, the immediate appointment of the new SABC board was included. At the time of this letter’s delivery, Zuma had still not appointed a board. It was alleged that he and Communications Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo, were deliberately delaying the appointment of the SABC board in order to make their own appointments for the executive positions. They had been sitting on a list of names for over a month. Yesterday, Zuma announced the new board. Bongumusa Makhathini and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule were announced as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the board, respectively. The rest were:
  • Krish Naidoo;
  • Khanyisile Kweyama;
  • John Matisonn;
  • Mathatha Tsedu;
  • Rachel Kalidass;
  • Michael Markovitz;
  • Victor Rambau;
  • Dinkwanyane Mohuba;
  • Jack Phalane.
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Other Demands Included:

  • Suspension of all enforcers of the protest policy, of which they have alleged four names are responsible;
  • Suspension of managers who were appointed without due procedure, or who had contributed to the SABC’s dire financial constraints, of which they have listed eight names, including company secretary, Theresa Geldenhuys;
  • Structural work patterns must return to normal;
  • The restoration of the merger between Henley and SABC News;
  • Salary increase of 10% across the board, backdated to April;
  • Appointment of all workers on fixed-term contracts that have lapsed;
  • The removal of Kenneth Makatees as acting head of news, and the redeployment of Themba Mathonsi;
  • Probes into various longstanding editorial decisions at the broadcaster.

The Zuma Shuffle

Because why the hell not, right? In a statement released on Tuesday, JZ announced that the following changes would be made to the national executive:
  • Hlengiwe Mkhize moved to the Minister of Higher Education and Training;
  • Ayanda Dlodlo moved to the Minister of Home Affairs;
  • Mmamaloko Kubayi moved to the Minister of Communications;
  • David Mahlobo moved to the Minister of Energy;
  • Bongani Thomas Bongo made the Minister of State Security;
  • Buti Manamela moved to the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training.
These antics, though illogical and unsurprising to many, are nonetheless cause for concern. The most notable change in this list – the sacking of Blade Nzimande – has had the biggest impact. This, of course, is no big surprise either. Bra Blade has been a thorn in Zuma’s side for some time now. As the South African Communist Party (SACP) General Secretary, Nzimande has taken a critical stance against the President, with the SACP even calling for him to step down. In a contemptuous statement, the SACP called the move a ‘factional reshuffle’ and said it believed Nzimande was being targeted.
“If the president thinks that by removing Dr Nzimande from Cabinet he will silence the SACP from the leading role it has played to expose and confront state capture, he is glaringly mistaken,” the statement read.
Other changes are also notable, and one can’t help but wonder, what exactly is JZ up to? Has the entire reshuffle only been to remove Nzimande? Or are we focusing on the wrong thing here? Nzimande’s sacking may just be a smokescreen for something a little more, how do you say, Gedleyihlekisa.
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Energy, State Security and Communications

Permission was recently granted by the department of Environmental Affairs for the construction of a new nuclear plant. The reshuffle arrives right in the middle of developments surrounding this programme. It has been insinuated that the replacement of Kubayi with Mahlobo may be Zuma’s way of putting a pro-nuclear Cabinet in place. In fact, it’s pretty much certain. In September, it was also reported that Mahlobo allegedly travelled to Russia with Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie, where a multi-billion Rand gas deal was negotiated. Mahlobo’s old position at State Security will be filled by Bongani Bongo. Most people have never even heard his name. He was a part of the hearings to appoint a new public protector. During an interview with the South African Litigation Centre (SALC), he raised concerns about the role of NGOs acting against the state. Bongo is believed to support Mahlobo’s anti civil-society rhetoric and a belief that NGOs are agents of regime change. So, fun times ahead. In addition to the appointment of the new SABC board, Minister of Communications, Ayanda Dlodlo, found herself on the reshuffle list, as well. Dlodlo will now serve as Minister of Home Affairs, taking over from Mkhize, who will take Nzimande’s old job. Her position at the Communications ministry will be filled by Kubayi. The fact is, there’s no discernible stability to these portfolios, and therefore a poor understanding of them. This shuffle, when you think about it, may not be significant at all. We’re just as worse off as we’ve already been. It’s just a way for Zuma to fire his critics and offer promotions in return for support. An excuse to remove Nzimande and build a pro-nuclear, pro-corruption, pro-state capture cabinet of Gupta allies. It’s only a matter of time before Ramaphosa gets the axe, too.