Cabinet security cluster Cabinet reshuffle generally seen as positive

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Opposition political parties, the defence industry and civic organisations generally responded favourably to the Cabinet reshuffle by President and Commander-in-Chief Cyril Ramaphosa, who shook up the security cluster.

The reshuffle was influenced by poor response from national security services, including police, to last month’s unrest, which claimed over 300 lives and saw billions in property and infrastructure damage.

The SA Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD) extended congratulations to new Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise.

“We look forward to building a prosperous future alongside new leadership of the portfolio and offer our support to the new Minister as she spearheads this valuable sector. Our commitment to responsible citizenship and sustainability is the foundation on which we aim to drive the sector forward as a key economic contributor,” AMD Executive Director, Sandile Ndlovu, said.

“AMD expresses thanks and appreciation to outgoing minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. We wish her the best for the future and the Association is confident she will find success in her endeavours.”

AMD also welcomed the President’s acknowledgement and gratitude for the security forces during the outbreak of violence and destruction in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The panel appointed by the President to review defence preparedness for such situations will inform meaningful change in strategy to strengthen the country’s capabilities AMD said.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald said Modise’s appointment was a plus for the Department of Defence (DoD) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) adding her leaving Parliament was a blow for the National Assembly (NA) where he good work will be missed. His sentiments were echoed by party chief whip Corné Mulder. He said the new defence minister should be good as she’s “a real military veteran” but it was “sad” to lose her as Speaker.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa is reported as saying of Modise “she’s good, she’s not corrupt and she takes no nonsense”.

According to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), “the country should celebrate seeing the back of Mapisa-Nqakula, with the ANC jaunt to Zimbabwe in an SA Air Force (SAAF) executive jet still fresh in our minds”.

“Mapisa-Nqakula’s removal was unavoidable given her abysmal response to the unrest and open contradiction of the President’s claims that it was fuelled by an attempted insurrection. Mapisa-Nqakula was resistant to Ramaphosa’s leadership since 2018 and failed to implement reforms in her sector or ensure the country’s armed forces were up to their task,” the Executive Research Institute (ERA) noted.

“Ramaphosa sent a clear message about the increased importance of the defence portfolio by appointing Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise as the new Minister of Defence. Modise is an ANC power player, she is a former provincial premier and as Speaker was the third most powerful person in the South African state. The move indicates Ramaphosa’s intent to reform the portfolio and highlights the new importance he places on the armed forces. This follows the deployment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to prevent a resurgence of unrest as well as the deployment to combat insurgency in northern Mozambique,” ERA said.

The other major development in Ramaphosa’s reshuffle was downgrading the State Security Department into a Presidency branch. This is in line with the recommendations of the 2018 Mufamadi High-Level Panel Report into the State Security Agency (SSA). Sydney Mufamadi is as the new National Security Advisor (NSA) and is clearly intended to oversee implementation of his report’s recommendations, ERA noted.

“The SSA shakeup is a significant step to bring it to heel. The agency has been rocked by multiple allegations of corruption, infighting and rogue operations. Its failure to anticipate and respond to the July unrest appeared to be the final straw forcing Ramaphosa to take drastic action. Downgrading will diminish the agency’s official power and independence,” ERA said.

Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa is now deputy minister in the presidency responsible for state security. While the SSA was disastrously managed in the past, there are concerns about centralising power, OUTA believes adding “More worrying is the promotion of the previously compromised Kodwa”.

OUTA said Kodwa recently told the State Capture Commission he took money to buy a Jeep from a “friend” at IT business EOH and claimed there was no suggestion of any kickback but still hasn’t repaid the “loan”. OUTA knows EOH was implicated in corrupt transactions with the State. “The President instils no confidence when he entrusts someone this naive – or dishonest – with one of the biggest secret funds and most powerful covert organisations in the country. The SSA budget, run directly from National Treasury, for 2021/22 is R5.3 billion.”

As noted by ERA, although the incorporation of the state security portfolio into the Presidency was recommended in the Mufamadi report and may be a prerequisite to reform, it also bolsters the power of the Presidency. The intelligence portfolio now reports exclusively to the President and cabinet will have limited oversight. “The dangers this presents could be somewhat offset if Mufamadi successfully implements his proposed reforms aimed at professionalising the intelligence services.”

“While Ramaphosa may feel safer keeping the SSA closer, in line with recommendations, this is not a good long-term move and we trust this is a temporary decision to allow him time to find the best person for the job,” OUTA said. “The SSA should never be in a position to become the President’s private intelligence agency, which signals a collapsing government at war with itself.”

OUTA praised the panel of experts appointed to review the lack of preparedness and inadequate response to the recent violence and Mufamadi’ appointment as National Security Advisor, it is “concerned” Bheki Cele retains his position as Minister of Police.

As noted by ERA “the President needs to retain some political enemies in his Cabinet and is also unable to fire poor performing allies. This explains why Cele was retained despite continued infighting with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the police’s abysmal response to the July unrest. Cele is a key ally of Ramaphosa and importantly one of few influential politicians in KwaZulu-Natal who back the President.”