Zuma Bids to Settle Cabinet Turf War
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has moved to settle the turf war in the ruling alliance over economic policy, evidently acceding to trade union demands for Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel to be given a key role in policy formulation.
Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel has been left off the economics cluster, and will serve instead in the infrastructure development cluster, which includes Patel. Neither minister will chair his cluster.
Patel's role in the government has been a sore point in the alliance, with suggestions that without a pre-existing department his role could be window-dressing. Zuma's move could take some of the sting out of that criticism while keeping Manuel central to the government's planning efforts.
The move follows Zuma telling the fishing community of Hawston in the Western Cape on Sunday that he would end speculation on economic policy, and clearly pronounce on who captains the ship in the economic cluster.
The cluster has been altered drastically, and now also includes the departments of higher education and training and labour. Manuel's absence from the economic cluster suggests that not all of his proposals presented in a recent green paper on national strategic planning will see the light of day. That document placed Manuel in the driving seat on economic planning.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) holds that the green paper gives Manuel too much power. It wants Patel to have more responsibilities.
Cosatu said recently Manuel had " a history of unaccountability to the collective and the imposition of undemocratic structures in the form of the Treasury".
The left in the tripartite alliance will also claim Zuma's reshuffle as a victory, given Patel's centrality in economic planning in the government. Patel, who was a Cosatu nomination, has not yet set up his office, and will get his budget only next week, but his prominence signals that supposed efforts to marginalise his ministry seem to have been quashed.
Zuma's announcement follows a political council meeting of the alliance this month, which attempted to play down the fight for control. The South African Communist Party mooted a change in the clusters last year, arguing that they had not been working because of a lack of co-ordination and clashes among ministers.
The Presidency said yesterday that the reconfiguration was part of the process of improving government planning, decision making and service delivery.
The rationale for the new arrangement was to ensure an alignment and provide "a consultative platform on cross-cutting priorities and matters being taken to Cabinet", the Presidency said.
Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele will chair the infrastructure development cluster while Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti will chair the economic cluster.
The other clusters are human development, social protection and community development, international co-operation, trade and security, governance and administration, and justice, crime prevention and security.