All three SA’s security departments have new ministers after President Kgalema Motlanthe filled two vacancies and moved one incumbent when he appointed his Cabinet.
Motlanthe moved police minister Charles Nqakula sideways to defence just hours after being sworn in as the country’s third post-apartheid president. He filled the vacancy at the Safety & Security department with African National Congress (ANC) parliamentary chief whip Nathi Mthethwa.
Siyabonga Cwele, the chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence was promoted Intelligence minister in the place of Ronnie Kasrils who on Tuesday resigned the position and his seat as ANC Member of Parliament in sympathy with former president Thabo Mbeki.
Mbeki was recalled from office by the ANC last weekend.
Nqakula will be assisted by Fezile Bhengu, promoted to deputy defence minister. He was previously chair of the National Assembly`s Portfolio Committee on Defence. Bhengu has a reputation for hard work.
Motlanthe reappointed Susan Shabangu as deputy police minister. Shabangu has recently courted controversy for advising police to “shoot to kill” people they suspect of crime.
In his maiden address to Parliament as president, Motlanthe said he would continue the policies of the Mbeki administration, which in turn reflects those of the ruling party.
“These policies, which government will continue to implement unchanged, are the product of an extensive consultation and decision-making process,” he said.
“Therefore, we stand here to send out a message that government remains on course to deliver on its commitments to the poor, who rely on us daily for the fulfilment of their basic needs and for the provision of important services like health, education, and social security.”
“We remain on course to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014.”
“We remain determined to stamp out crime, violence and abuse, whomever it affects and wherever it manifests itself. We remain committed to building safer communities and protecting the vulnerable in our society from abuse. But in doing so, we need all our people to work with, and within, the criminal justice system so that together we stamp out crime,” Motlanthe continued.
“We are here to assure all those on our continent and in the world that we will continue to meet our international obligations. We will continue to play a positive role within international institutions and forums. We will continue to provide whatever assistance we can in the pursuit of peace, security, democracy and development in Africa.”
Explaining his choices for Cabinet, Motlanthe said that “in the interest of establishing immediate stability and certainty” he thought it “important not to delay in filling whatever vacancies may have occurred…”
Prof Mike Hough, director of the institute for Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria says the appointments reflected that theme of continuity.
Defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman adds that most of the appointments “make sense.”
Hough notes that Motlanthe`s government will be a caretaker administration that will run the country until next year`s general election, expected around April.
“I don`t expect too much from the interim administration,” he says. “They won`t rock the boat.”
Both Hough and Heitman questioned the appointment of Nqakula to Defence, with Hough saying he at face value lacked the requisite background and grasp.
“Some portfolios, such as finance and defence, require some specialist knowledge,” Hough says.
Nqakula`s track record in heading the police also did not inspire confidence. “Appointing a minister who could clearly not make Safety & Security work to Defence doesn`t make sense,” Heitman says. “It sends an unfortunate signal; fairly, or otherwise.”
The promotion of two Parliamentary chairmen to Cabinet, – Bhengu at Defence – and Cwele at Intelligence by contrast made sense as they are familiar with the departments and issues concerned.