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spicy questions about the cabinet reshuffle

Politics is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean we can’t poke fun at it. We asked Ray Hartley, author of ‘Ramaphosa: The Man Who Would Be King’ to answer some pointed questions about the recent cabinet reshuffle

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conference held at Nasrec in December 2017. 
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times

1. David “The Cat” Mabuza has survived many poisoning attempts. Now that he’s the deputy president and likely to share a lot of meals with the president, do you think the government should employ a professional food taster?

It looks like Cyril Ramaphosa is adopting the old plan of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer. David “DD” Mabuza is very difficult to fathom. He said outright that he didn’t want to be deputy president, but switched and insisted on it at the last minute. If I were Ramaphosa, I would use a different chef and a long spoon, and have antihistamines close by.

2. We thought the president said he’d make the cabinet smaller, but it looks the same. How come more people didn’t get axed? Did we run out of golden parachutes?

Ramaphosa has launched an investigation into how to cut the cabinet down to size. Until he gets the results of that inquiry, he’s sticking with Zuma’s enlarged and expensive executive. He’s calling it a “transitional” cabinet. In the meantime, we will have 35 ministers and almost the same number of deputy ministers. The US cabinet has only 15 members.

WATCH | Who’s in and who’s out: President Cyril Ramaphosa reshuffles his cabinet

3. What happens to the ministers who were booted out of the cabinet because of their alleged Gupta connections? Do they get free SAA tickets to Dubai?

Ministers are paid a pension based on their last salary. But they have to be quick and resign from Parliament before the next payday or their income will fall to that of an MP — half that of a minister. No tickets to Dubai are included and they are hard to get once you can no longer influence who sits on the board of a state-owned company.

4. Why did our former finance minister Malusi Gigaba survive the chop? Is it so he can sort out the Guptas’ citizenship papers, which he was working on last time he was the minister of home affairs?

In the interests of party unity, Ramaphosa had to keep some of Zuma’s people on board. He probably thought Gigaba was better than the rest, not to mention better dressed. Also, Gigaba was fiercely loyal to Mbeki, then fiercely loyal to Zuma. Who says he won’t now be fiercely loyal to Ramaphosa?

5. Speaking of Gigaba, now that we’ve got a new finance minister, shouldn’t we get a new budget? Nhlanhla Nene’s “been there, done that”, so surely he could quickly whip something up?

The drawing up of the budget is a lengthy, technical process done by a lot of people in grey suits (or pants suits) with calculators in the Treasury. There’s not a lot a finance minister can change because it is all based on how much money the government needs to spend and where it will come from. Ramaphosa was already president when Gigaba delivered the budget and he would have had the final say. Nene’s probably pleased that somebody else got to deliver the bad news on taxes and VAT.

6. Wouldn’t Bheki “Stomach in, Chest out” Cele have been a better choice for health minister than minister of police? 

Probably. The last time he was let loose on the police as commissioner, he introduced military ranks, gave himself the title of “General” and told them to shoot criminals first and ask questions later. He later disputed this, but there’s no doubt he took a hard line. He also signed off on a dodgy lease deal. Even Zuma, who has a very low bar on these matters, was left with no choice but to fire him because of the stench.

WATCH | The music video of DJ Excess’s track Stomach in, Chest out!, which includes famous sound bites from Bheki Cele

7. Everyone’s freaking out on Twitter about Bathabile Dlamini being appointed the minister of women. Is it because she’s got such a terrible fashion sense?

That and the fact that she forgot to organise who would pay social grants to 16-million people when the existing contract ended, nearly causing massive social instability. Most people on Twitter want her to carry on as minister because of the endless supply of material.

8. Now that Fikile Mbalula’s been “voted off the island”, which cabinet minister should we follow on social media for a laugh?

Good news. Mbalula is continuing with his Twitter habit. He’s still on the handle @MbalulaFikile, but has rebranded his account “ANC Elections Chair” to reflect his new (lower) position in public life. His 1.3-million followers are no doubt relieved.

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