By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South Africa’s president announced a Cabinet reshuffle late Thursday, saying it was necessary to help improve the government’s capacity in dealing with the numerous challenges the continent’s most developed economy faces.
It marked Cyril Ramaphosa’s first national executive reshuffle since he was elected to office three years ago.
Ramaphosa said the country faces numerous challenges, including the need to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccination program, the need to rebuild the economy, and ensuring peace and stability in the country following recent incidents of violence.
“I am therefore making changes to the National Executive to improve the capacity of government to effectively undertake these tasks,” he said in a televised broadcast to the nation.
Ramaphosa said the reshuffle had been necessitated because there were also a number of vacancies that needed to be filled.
“These include vacancies created by the tragic passing of Minister [in the Presidency] Jackson Mthembu and Deputy Minister [of Mineral Resources and Energy] Bavelile Hlongwa,” he said.
Ramaphosa also announced that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had requested that he be allowed to step down after he was placed on special leave two months ago amid allegations of corruption.
Mkhize was accused by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) of influencing the irregular awarding of a 150 million South African rand ($10.3 million) communications contract to Digital Vibes, a company owned by people close to him.
”I have also accepted a longstanding request by Minister Tito Mboweni to be excused from his position as finance minister,” he said.
In a surprise move, the president did away with the Ministry of State Security and moved the portfolio of the State Security Agency directly to his office in the Presidency.
Ramaphosa said the move was intended to ensure “the country’s domestic and foreign intelligence services more effectively enable the president to exercise his responsibility to safeguard the security and integrity of the nation.”
Last month, violent riots and looting broke out in KwaZulu-Natal province and Johannesburg in Gauteng province following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.
Major shopping venues in the two most densely populated provinces were ransacked and some set on fire. Over 200 people lost their lives during the violence. Authorities described the violence as an insurrection.
Many experts blamed the State Security Department for failing to detect and act on the planned insurrection on time.
State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo was appointed as minister of public service and administration while Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was replaced by former speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise. The new health minister is Joe Phaahla and the new finance minister is Enoch Godongwana.