The lame duck shuffle

Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle was one of the last quacks of a lame-duck president. It will be a surprise if new Energy Minister David Mahlobo can advance binding nuclear procurement agreements in the eight weeks before the ANC’s elective conference.

The best Mahlobo might hope to achieve is a “consolation prize” deal.

Under the auspices of a joint venture between PetroSA and Russian energy vehicle Rosgeo, Mossgas will process hot air and noxious gasses — generated primarily by carbon fuel scientists Prof Gayton McKenzie and Dr Kenny Kunene — into “liquid fuels” and “special payments”.

The dismissal of Blade Nzimande as higher education minister is of more interest. Zuma may be planning to rubbish the findings of a commission of inquiry into higher education fees and to declare that White Monopoly Capital must pay.

In his eyes at least, this will burnish his radical credentials and help him to prize open the chests of the public sector pension funds.

Zuma’s security goons may also hope that the mobilisation of student protest can form part of a wider effort to scupper the ANC’s elective conference.

It is rumoured that KPMG has recommended to Mahlobo that they hire ADT as strategic planning consultants to run the student protests. Unfortunately, the company is already on a long-term contract to serve as the military wing of the DA.

Meanwhile, a long-awaited probe into Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s links to international capital and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is apparently on the way. Sources in the intelligence world suggest this report will include the alarming finding that messages were smuggled from the CIA’s Langley headquarters to Ramaphosa inside packages of frozen McDonald’s beef burgers.

EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema provided his own special insights into the meaning of the reshuffle in a media conference on Tuesday. He lauded certain ministers generously, likening the appointment of Malusi Gigaba as finance minister to “placing a rat in charge of the cheese”.

This is high praise indeed, given that rats are intelligent creatures with lovable characters, albeit mostly with an imperfect grasp of fiscal and monetary policy.

Malema celebrated the divine wisdom of Rev David Mabuza, holy ANC chair in Mpumalanga, who can apparently make his delegates stand up and sit down at will. Mabuza does indeed have one important insight: that the elevation of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to the ANC presidency would render the ANC unelectable in 2019.

Malema also said the EFF would not work with the ANC if secretary-general Gwede Mantashe were to be retained in the top leadership. This unscripted remark suggests Malema is indeed preparing to work with the ANC leadership — but with one that does not include Mantashe.

Does Malema think he has done a deal with Mabuza to negotiate an EFF-ANC coalition? It may be so. Indeed, he was lobbying on Tuesday for Ramaphosa to ditch Mantashe on the basis that the ANC secretary-general had blocked Mabuza’s inclusion on his slate.

Malema argued fancifully that Mantashe wants the ANC presidency for himself in 2027. This is nonsense: Mantashe is 63 and far too old to wait a decade to ascend to the presidency. He may have unwisely expressed a personal preference for a Ramaphosa presidency.

The key issue is whether he has put in place systems that will enable a fair and legally robust voting process in December.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

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