If memory serves, the removal of Lindiwe Sisulu from defence amounts to the first time President Jacob Zuma has dabbled with the security sector in three Cabinet reshuffles and three years in the hot seat.
It is interesting what people are making of the move – whether a move to Public Service and Administration (the Jim Hacker department) is a demotion (see also, further, and) or another step to the deputy presidency of the ruling party – or maybe both. To this outsider the party deputy president is a low profile post and the incumbent is also not in Cabinet, part of the government executive.
The Star newspaper correctly, in my view, wrote Sisulu was “widely considered to be an energetic, dynamic and effective political master. She likes to get things done – and to have them seen to be done.” While at defence, in three years, she appointed an interim service commission that improved salaries, rammed through Parliament legislation for a permanent commission, as well as a military ombud, amended the Defence Act to clarify who was included in the Military Command (appointed by the President) and made work of a Defence Review, the first in some 14 years. Good work by any standard.
However, as the paper said, her “acrimonious clashes with defence force unions” left many worried. Indeed it asks “how she will cope with the looming public sector wage negotiations”. It notes though that “others suggested her uncompromising stance might be the very reason Zuma had assigned her to this tough portfolio.”
Meanwhile, it appears no good deed goes unpunished. Portfolio Committee on Police chair Sindisiwe Chikunga has been promoted deputy transport minister. She has lately been asking senior police “leaders” very searching and uncomfortable questions. Cynics may suggest she was promoted to silence her, much as President Thabo Mbeki posted then-defence portfolio committee chairwoman Thandi Modise to the rural North West backwater province as Speaker.