Cabinet fat-trimming plan not nearly enough

Issued by Zakhele Mbhele MP – DA Shadow Minister for the Presidency
14 Jun 2022 in News

Please find attached soundbites in isiZulu and English by Zakhele Mbhele MP

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval of changes to the Guide for Members of the Executive, also known as the Ministerial Handbook, which will reduce some perks for members of his executive, is long overdue and barely scratches the surface of what needs to be done.

The DA has long called for the rationalisation of the national Cabinet, both in its size and configuration. Over the past two decades the cabinet has ballooned into one of the biggest in the world. The country cannot afford to prop up a bloated collection of cadres when South Africans are grappling with the skyrocketing cost of living.

So, while this executive fat-trimming is a step in the right direction, it does not offer any hope for ordinary South Africans who are grappling with difficult financial times as a result of the fast growing cost of living and whose earnings are failing to keep up with rises in fuel and food prices. If households are being forced to tighten their belts and reduce their spending budgets, the executive elite must do the same.

The changes that have been adopted do not go far enough. The permitted staff cohort in the Deputy Minister’s office, for example, has been lowered from eleven (11) to just ten (10) people.

What on earth do most Deputy Ministers do in their jobs that necessitates such a large support staff?  What unique, material and compelling value-add is the public getting from these office-bearers that clearly justifies allotting them so much in human resource capacity?

But more than this dainty-fingered Cabinet fat-trimming, President Ramaphosa needs to do some bold and brutal cabinet culling, not just as an austerity measure to cut costs in government, but also because he can practically afford to do so.

We have been witnessing the inflation of a super-Presidency that runs parallel to and duplicates functions and initiatives that should be run through the Cabinet and the Ministers appointed to it, while we simultaneously bankroll one of the largest national executives in the world (which is just a cumbersome basket of patronage for accommodating and balancing ANC factions and party power-players).

If the Presidency is going to take on myriad responsibilities within itself, from red tape reduction and infrastructure development coordination to the intelligence services and state-owned enterprises reform, then the President might as well chop those functions from the Cabinet by permanently getting rid of deadwood Ministers and Deputy Ministers.