My namesakes, angels, are said to be careful where they tread. There is an election in a few months and that means treacherous ground abound.
It also means a new Cabinet and many new appointments. It can be assumed with some safety that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will be returned to office – albeit with a smaller majority – and it seems quite certain the next president will be party leader Jacob Zuma, who has been much in the news in connection with the 1999 Strategic Defence Package.
Speaking of that, the promised Standing Committee on Public Accounts – SCOPA – hearings on SDP irregularities set for this week have not happened, apparently for reasons of scheduling. The hearings themselves promise to open a whole new shaky terrain (is there a pun in there?)
On the election, the big question I have is the impact of the Congress of the People (COPE) on opposition politics. Will it replace the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the “official opposition” in the National Assembly? COPE`s breakaway from the ANC will certainly cut the latter`s Parliamentary majority from its presently unassailable 70%. But by how much?
Next question: Should that support fall to below 50%, could COPE, the DA and the present galaxy of other opposition parties form a Parliamentary majority sufficiently strong to form a coalition government (similar to that in the City of Cape Town)?
Assuming the ANC wins, Zuma gets to appoint a new Cabinet. Who will be “our” ministers in the defence, police, intelligence and public enterprise space?
Then there is officialdom, where a great many posts are vacant and more are held by acting appointments – giving us, as some have out it, a “Hollywood” bureaucracy.
In the defence environment, the most important vacant post is that of Defence Secretary. Will acting secretary Tsepe Motumi be confirmed? He has a low profile but is very highly regarded.
The Saturday Star
has also looked at the issue and noted this past weekend that several broader security posts are vacant or about to become so. Colleagues Caiphus Kgosana and Angela Quintal warn that several of the country’s top judges are on the brink of retirement, “there is no national police commissioner, nor national prosecuting chief – even the Presidency does not have a director-general (DG), after the resignation of Frank Chikane”.
On top of this, they say the ANC and its alliance partners, the SA Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of SA Trade Unions, intend to radically overhaul South Africa’s security and the criminal justice system “in what is fast shaping up to be the second power shift since 1994”.
The ANC’s allies – especially the SACP is said to want to “clean up” the national security council (NSC) – “a body of security chiefs headed by the president”. However, head of the ANC’s peace and stability sub-committee and former defence chief, General Siphiwe Nyanda, said that the national executive committee’s sub-committees “discuss policies, not names”, the paper adds.
According to Prof Mike Hough, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria (ISSUP), the NSC has not been particularly active since it was formed about a decade ago. It is also a “virtual” structure rather than a real entity, so the real task may well be getting it to work.
Kgosana and Quintal say the talk among the ANC’s NEC is that former National Intelligence Agency DG Billy Masetlha could replace Jackie Selebi as national police commissioner.
Chikane was ex officio head of the NSC. The body`s secretary, the Presidency`s former chief director for security, Loyiso Jaftha, now heads the national communications centre. ANC “radicals” are reportedly keen to replace current NIA DG Manala Manzini who is seen as former president Thabo Mbeki`s man, while the contract of SA Secret Service DG Tim Dennis ends next year.
The Mail & Guardian
also weighed in this morning with its list of “ins” and “outs”. They note that the SACP and Cosatu are promoting communist party general secretary Blade Nzimande as foreign minister. “That position is strategic and the president will need someone he can trust. So pick the people closest to you,” an SACP source told the paper.
This is certainly true for the SANDF – in that the Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead agency for the country`s peace support endeavour.
The M&G says Nzimande will face competition from businessman Tokyo Sexwale, also said to be eyeing the job, and the incumbent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who wants to retain the position and might have earned credit by declining the deputy presidency after Mbeki fired her ex-husband.
It adds that Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is “set for a more senior job” as she is seen as having done well in her current position. “Intelligence is being mentioned because she held the portfolio until 2004 and Zuma will want someone he trusts to regain complete control of secret agencies hit by damaging battles between his and Mbeki`s supporters. But the incumbent, Siyabonga Cwele, is well placed to keep the job, and Sisulu could be given another security portfolio.”
“Another Zuma lieutenant, Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthetwa, is said to be bound for the troubled home affairs portfolio” currently held by defence minister Charles Nqakula`s wife, Nosiviwe. The article does not mention either Nqakula or possible contenders for the defence ministry. Neither does it suggest a new police minister…
Who will it be? We shall all, shortly, see!
An administrative point
Before signing off, a question…
Currently we try to publish by about 1pm. Does this work for you? Would you like us to publish earlier or later? There`s a good argument for both. The current timing was rather arbitrarily chosen and I, for one, want something that better reflect your wishes.