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Rating Ramaphosa and his cabinet: The best and the worst in 2021

Were Ramaphosa, Deputy President David Mabuza, and the 28 ministers in Cabinet up to the task? I took a deep look at every Cabinet minister and assessed their performance. A quick glance at the Cabinet ratings tells you all you need to know: it was a mediocre showing all-around.

After years of mismanagement and corruption at Eskom, the power utility experienced its worst year of load shedding to date. The economy continued to struggle to recover from the lockdown amid continued efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, which, by all accounts, we won’t be seeing the end of soon.

Instability in his government and party; a premeditated, violent insurrection planned by his enemies; rolling load shedding, and the resignation of two of his most trusted Cabinet ministers – Tito Mboweni and Zweli Mkhize. There is no polite way to put this: President Cyril Ramaphosa has had a terrible year, probably his worst in office since becoming president in February 2018.

Ramaphosa's biggest success this year was undoubtedly his consolidation of power inside the ANC. The suspension of Magashule caused temporary tension in the party, but the corruption-accused secretary-general was soon out in the cold and alienated from the center of the party. The removal of Mkhize as Minister of Health after the Digital Vibes corruption scandal, and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (defense) and Ayanda Dlodlo (state security) from their portfolios were positives too.

David Mabuza

Deputy President David Mabuza has probably spent more time in Russia in 2021 than in his office in the west wing of the Union Buildings. Preferring to avoid South African hospitals in the thick of the country's third wave of Covid-19 infections, the absent deputy president spent much of June and July in Russia for medical treatment.

Mabuza heads the presidential task team on military veterans, which has made little to no progress in dealing with the grievances of military veterans. The government's failure to deal with the demands led to a situation in which Defence Minister Thandi Modise and other ministers were held hostage by a group of disgruntled ex-combatants.

Mondli Gungubele

Gungubele was appointed Minister in the Presidency early in August during a Cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa. He was chairing the portfolio committee on social development before his move to Pretoria. The minister has been quite since his appointment and understandably so since his son Karabo 32, was sick and then he died in September

Enoch Godongwana

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has been in office for less than four months, at the time of writing, and perhaps his biggest success is that he's stuck to the script. Godongwana has stressed the need to roll out structural reforms in order to unlock economic growth. 

Pravin Gordhan

Eskom has not commissioned new generation capacity, its energy availability factor is way too low, Transnet has not introduced new rolling stock onto the network and the establishment of a ports authority company has not been completed. Pravin Gordhan has been a colossally failure especially when it comes to turning around Eskom.

Gwede Mantashe

SA's mining companies caught an enormous boost this year, with the commodities boom and the much-welcomed ensuing revenue bump - which is expected to be R120.3 billion higher than projected during the February budget. However after SA eventually secured a R131-billion coal phase-out deal with the US, Germany, the UK and France at COP26, Mantashe, in tin-foil-hat fashion, said that Africa has to unite against "coercion" by the global anti-fossil fuel agenda. His love for coal will kill us all.

Thulas Nxesi

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi just cannot seem to catch a break. For the second year in a row, his portfolio has been expected to pilot and launch a new basic income support programme for South Africans unable to work. With unemployment at 34.9% its quite clear that this guy cant create real jobs for us , we will remain bloggers for the rest of our lives.

Minister Bheki Cele

Police Minister Bheki Cele may fancy himself as the tough-talking sheriff, but for all his bluster, he falls woefully short. The performance agreement he signed holds him to lofty standards; reducing organized crime syndicates across crime forms by 90%, reducing gang activity by 50%, bringing down levels of contact crime and making women feel safer when they walk in the streets at night, among many other measurables. It is his colossally failure to clamp down harder on July unrest that will forever taint his tenure as the police minister.

Ebrahim Patel

Back in May, before countries and manufacturers recently agreed to phase out sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040 in a pledge at COP26, Patel was punting a draft sector green paper on the road to electric vehicles. Also, in an apparently successful redemption arc following nonsensical decisions to ban e-commerce, t-shirts and open-toe shoes during the lockdown last year, Patel's department acted quickly in helping businesses affected by July's unrest. Patel is the president that South Africa needs right now.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

After a two-year stint heading the key portfolio of communications and digital technologies, where she covered herself in the opposite of glory, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was reshuffled to small business development in August. So far, there has not been much evidence of big interventions and new thinking, with Ndabeni-Abrahams – and her department – keeping a relatively low profile over the past few months perhaps she is just filling the gender quotas in the cabinet.

Thoko Didiza

For everything there is a season, and - fortunately for Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza - this is a time of fat harvests. South African agriculture is largely booming, with some crops and exports breaking records. The sector expanded by 13% last year, and is on track for more strong growth this year.

Lindiwe Zulu

The challenges brought by the pandemic were particularly onerous on the department. It not only had to rapidly expand its grant payment capacity, set up a food parcel distribution system, but had to do it while still overcoming the fallout of Sassa’s disastrous contract with former grant payment company Cash Paymaster Services. She tried her best.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

Assessing Mmamoloko ''Nkhensani'' Kubayi-Ngubane's performance as Minister of Human Settlements is not easy. She was only appointed to the job on 5 August 2021 and began on the backfoot, as according to its own Annual Performance Plan for 2020/21.

Angie Motshekga

With the 2021 academic year starting while South Africa was in the grips of its second wave of Covid-19 infections, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was facing one of her biggest challenges. Starting the year on the backfoot had a significant impact on teaching and learning. Little did she know that the worst was yet to come, in the form of the monstrous third wave which stretched from May to September. However, having learnt from the missteps of 2020, Motshekga seemed to take a firmer approach on making up the time and teaching lost due to more severe lockdowns (alert level three and up) and limited on-site teaching.

Blade Nzimande

Nzimande's ministry preaches time and again that it is well on its way to plugging funding gaps and that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is making strides in its funding processes, but the situation on the ground always tells a different story every year, and 2021 was no exception as students took to the streets to protest.

Nathi Mthethwa

In January 2021, a petition calling for his removal and replacement as the Minister of Arts and Culture amassed more than 2 000 signatures. It followed his tweet that "South African theatre is alive and well" after it was forcefully inactive for a year. From 3 March to 1 May 2021, mismanaged funds led South African artists to stage several sit-ins and a hunger strike. They demanded transparency from national and provincial arts and culture bodies. FAILED

Joe Phaahla

Joe Phaahla is another minister who is still only a few months into his position. But it is easier to judge his performance because he was the deputy to former health minister Zweli Mkhize. Mkhize resigned after he was implicated in the Digital Vibes communication tender. So far he has done better than his former boss.

Ronald Lamola

Cyber attacks and containing the spread of Covid-19 in prisons and the courts are some of the issues Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has had to tackle, but he seems to be doing well in the portfolio under difficult circumstances.

Barbara Creecy

It is difficult to rate a minister, who, on the surface, provides leadership on protecting the soft grass under our feet, the air we breathe, the bokkies we take pictures of, and the trees around us, when its department's language is an abstract one of acronyms and initialisms.

Positives have included a mass tree planting programme, the Working on Fire teams who control the increasing wildfires, inter-departmental cooperation to arrest rhino poachers, a programme to stop litter from going into the sea, and continuously trying to find a balance with fishing rights. So far she is doing well

Senzo Mchunu

President Cyril Ramaphosa shuffling his Cabinet just four short months ago has made it hard to judge ministers in their new portfolios.  

Ramaphosa appointed Mchunu as the Minister of Water and Sanitation on 5 August. He took over from Lindiwe Sisulu. 

Lindiwe Sisulu

The Department of Tourism has gone backwards. At a time when tourism needed all the help it could get, its management of the Tourism Relief Fund, which was meant to assist an industry in distress, fell short.

Fikile Mbalula

Fikile Mbalula took office in the transport ministry at the end of May in 2019, having served as the Minister of Sports and Recreation, Deputy Minister of Police and Minister of Police before. While he has been as vocal as ever on social media and boisterous in his media interactions, he is still struggling to curb vandalism at the embattled Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) after security personnel's contracts were cancelled and security was insourced.

Patricia de Lille

On the back of a first year in office marred by the controversial 1.8m tall fence - jokingly referred to as the “washing line” because of its poor quality and the ease with which it could be breached - Patricia de Lille’s second year as Public Works and Infrastructure Minister has not gone any better, having been blemished by internal skirmishes.

Aaron Motsoaledi

Under Motsoaledi, the Department of Home Affairs was also accused of standing idly by as countries, such as the United Kingdom, refused to remove South Africa from their red travel list, despite drastically reduced infection and transmission rates in the country.

Ayanda Dlodlo

When Ayanda Dlodlo was appointed to the Public Service and Administration (PSA) portfolio in August, she was not new to Cabinet. She moved from her role as state security minister. She was demoted after colossal failure on July riots

Naledi Pandor

Naledi Pandor represents South Africa on the world stage as a top diplomat. She's an intellectual and never appears afraid to admit the challenges her department.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

This department is failing dismally because women are continuously subjected to gruesome killings and horrendous gender-based violence (GBV), perpetrators often walk away unpunished, and youths and people with disabilities are largely not catered for in the job market.

Thandi Modise

The four months since Thandi Modise had to vacate the office of Speaker of Parliament – the head of one of the arms of state – to serve in President Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet, isn't really enough time to stamp her authority on a complicated portfolio.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s appointment as Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in August came at a time when the department desperately needed new energy to remove obstacles in the much-delayed rollout of spectrum and digital migration. Ntshavheni took over the critical portfolio from Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who was largely blamed for continued lethargy in resolving the country’s key digital matters.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had another bumper year, keeping a watchful eye over failing municipalities and being the face of South Africa's national state of disaster. Overshadowing her Covid-19 press conferences was the Auditor-General's bleak outlook for municipalities, which her department oversees.

Ratings key

1. Dismally failed. Should not be in Cabinet

2. Poor performance. Why are they not yet fired?

3. Does the bare minimum

4. Some targets achieved but far from satisfactory

5. Performance targets met

6. Satisfactory

7. Gets the job done. Room for improvement

8. Excels in performance

9. Outstanding work

10. Should be president

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Cabinet David Mabuza Eskom Ramaphosa


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