A few weeks ago the number one citizen in the country stood outside a police station in Soshanguve looking just the right mix of sympathetic and also a little bit smug.
As part of a Presidential Siyahlola Programme into crime, he was in the area to respond to a local’s letter pleading with him to intervene in the high crime and drug abuse rate in the area.
As Nxamza stood at the police station, hundreds of adoring South Africans chanting his name stood just outside the entrance to the station waiting to hear from their president.
Journalists have never been known to let a good moment go to waste and so, shortly after the president spoke about the rampant use of nyaope, a question around an imminent Cabinet reshuffle was thrown his way.
Without skipping a beat, the man dropped his trademark chuckle and responded that, “certain conditions must be in place before a reshuffle happens.”
Never one to let a chance to be charming go to waste, he added that a Cabinet reshuffle is not like, “building a road, where we tell you what we are planning.” Standard laughter all around, followed by a “thank you very much.” And that was that.
In wake of the Cash Paymaster Services and South Africa Social Security Agency crisis, one can’t help but think that surely the time is right for a Cabinet reshuffle? While the minister of social development, also the president of the ANC women’s league, has been at pains to express that grant beneficiaries will be paid out on April 1, the real crisis is around the legality of any deal brokered between the absurdly unBEE-compliant CPS and the ministry.
Surely the only saving grace for Bathabile Dlamini at this stage is to be reshuffled to another department in order to save face?
Just last week number one threw his parliamentary caucus under the bus when– just days after they opted not to take an Economic Freedom Fighters offer to amend the Constitution to make provision for expropriation of land without compensation – he took a page from the book of his number one nemesis and former mentee (Julius Malema) and called for expropriation of land without compensation. The whole exercise was a nifty display to South African voters that all is not well in the governing party.
The president’s sudden appetite for land reform – seemingly by any means necessary – surely indicates that some level of panic has punctured his ordinarily cool, calm and collected demeanour.
In the same week that he reiterated his call for expropriation without compensation the EFF bagged yet another Constitutional Court victory. This time they took the bid of a student activist denied bail for almost six months to the highest court in the land where acting Deputy Chief Justice Bess Nkabinde referred to section 12 of the Constitution and pointed out that the young man had been detained without trial.
While opposition parties will continue to score easy political points against the glorious movement, it is the own goals that are the final nails in the coffin – such as gambling with social grants, which are the very livelihood of many poor voters.
The timing is right for a reshuffle. It was right months after the minister of mineral resources failed to retrieve the bodies of three miners who have now been trapped for more than a year. It was right when it became clear that the minister for communications repeatedly demonstrated a serious lack of capacity with regard to the public broadcaster.
But reshuffling is the president’s prerogative. He may choose to roll the dice and pass on the chance to save face. In fact he probably will, but the loss of the metros was just a dress rehearsal for 2019 and, unlike Orlando Pirates’ supporters, voters don’t forgive or forget.