President Cyril Ramaphosa is under fire for failing to axe deadbeat ministers in a cabinet reshuffle. Experts say he's wary of ministers still loyal to his predecessor Jacob Zuma who could ruin his 2019 election bid.
Bathabile Dlamini, the minister of women in the presidency who previously served as social development minister is at the center of the controversy. In September, the Constitutional Court found she had lied about her role in the mismanagement of the national social grant system, on which some 16 million people rely.
Forced to resign
The court has ordered the public prosecutor to decide whether Dlamini should be charged with perjury for lying under oath. Dlamini was appointed by Ramaphosa's predecessor Jacob Zuma, who was forced to step down amid corruption allegations in February.
Ramaphosa said the reshuffle was intended to align the cabinet with a mix of experience, gender, youth and officials who are committed to serving the public.
Opposition parties, however, said the move fell far short of expectations. Ramaphosa has been under pressure to replace incompetent and underperforming ministers. The cabinet reshuffle comes weeks after the finance and home affairs ministers were forced to resign over serious allegations of corruption.
The Economic Freedom Fighters party lawmaker Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Ramaphosa failed dismally by not removing ministers with poor performance records.
Ruling ANC pleased
"The reason he is not confronting Bathabile Dlamini and the disaster that she has left in the Department of Social Development is because Ramaphosa is a coward. He may possibly not be back in 2019," Ndlozi said.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance said the reshuffle showed that the ruling African National Congress does not take the people of South Africa seriously. "I think that is a missed opportunity. We haven't heard anything from the president with regards to any decision making on her and the fact that she remains in parliament, in cabinet shows that the president is weakened," DA lawmaker Solly Mlatsi said.
The ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu disagreed. "What can you expert from the EFF? They have nothing else to criticize Ramaphosa on because there is the 2019 elections looming. Anything that he does now, they will find fault with it," Mthembu said.
Experts say sacking Dlamini is not a simple matter. She is president of the ANC Women's League and enjoys a lot of support from the ANC faction that opposed Ramaphosa's election. A purge of his opponents within the party could result in a backlash in the election six months down the line, which could cost Ramaphosa his chance at a five-year presidential term.
The ANC veteran and billionaire businessman won leadership of the party by a very small margin over Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the weeks before Zuma stepped down as president.
The cabinet reshuffle on Thursday saw telecommunications minister Siyabonga Cwele given the home affairs portfolio and the environmental affairs portfolio go to communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Mokonyane served as water and sanitation minister under Zuma.
During her time at the head of the ministry, the city of Cape Town experienced an unprecedented water crisis and her successor has said she left the water and sanitation ministry in a financial and administrative mess. But political commentators say Dlamini, Mokonyane survived the reshuffle because of the influence of the Zuma camp.