Can someone explain to me why South Africa needs 31 Cabinet ministers? According to The Times, Jacob Zuma is planning to enlarge the Cabinet from 28 to 31, plus 19 deputy ministers. That would make South Africa’s Cabinet, as far as I could ascertain, the largest in the world.
The UK has 22 cabinet ministers; France, a country synonymous with bureaucracy, needs only 16. India, with a population 25 times ours and developmental problems as huge, has 30; Nigeria makes do with 23. And we need 31, plus 19 deputy ministers to tie their bootlaces? You’ve got to be kidding me.
The idea, Zuma said at a media briefing on the eve of the election, is to make Cabinet “more effective and efficient”.
“The incoming administration will make changes to certain Cabinet portfolios based on the experience of 15 years in government and the priorities for the five years ahead,” The Times quoted him as saying. “We know that our people have greater expectations as the ANC campaign message has captured their imagination. They will expect faster action and visible change in their lives.”
The Times bills this “Zuma’s plan for South Africa”.
My suspicion is that it has less to do with the needs of the country than the need to reward loyal comrades. Among those to be given Cabinet positions are prominent Zuma supporters such as Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande, Women’s League president Angie Motshekga and ANC MP Enoch Godongwane, The Times said. It is payback time, and the hundreds of executive mayor, MEC and provincial premier positions available just aren’t enough (or high enough).
I mean, how else do you explain three deputy ministers for foreign affairs? How would this make the department of foreign affairs more efficient? One deputy, according to The Times, will be responsible for Africa; another for multilateral institutions; the third for a “military skills development programme”. What is left for the minister to do?
And a deputy minister for youth affairs? Julius Malema needs that job more than South Africa.
It is true that the government has a problem with delivery. And the ANC has promised a lot in this election campaign. But appointing more ministers will not solve the problem. Firing a few may.