President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday confirmed that a technical task team of officials from various departments of government has been set up to review and subsequently scale down the configuration, size and shape of both the national executive and government departments.
South Africa’s bloated Cabinet currently consists of 35 ministers who themselves have 36 sidekicks, meaning the economically strained country currently has more than double the number of Cabinet ministers as compared with more economically sound countries such as the United States with 15 ministries.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question submitted by the Democratic Alliance’s David Maynier, who sought clarity on whether the reconfiguration of the number and size of national government departments had been initiated, Ramaphosa confirmed that “the process of reviewing the size and shape of the national executive and government departments has begun”.
To assess the feasibility as well as spearhead this transformation, the president also revealed that he has set up a technical task team of officials from the departments of the presidency; the department of public service and administration; the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation; the national treasury; and the department of cooperative governance.
The changes, if approved, will be effected after next year’s elections as Ramaphosa suggested: “The review will be concluded after due political consultations, in time for implementation in the sixth administration.”
The review of the size and shape of the national executive and government departments was in line with Ramaphosa’s undertaking in the February state of the nation address in which he promised to that the “configuration, number and size of national government departments would be reassessed”.
In that same state of the nation address Ramaphosa said that “it was critical that the structure and size of the state was optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources”.
EFF leader Julius Malema on Wednesday was most critical of the size of the Cabinet under Ramaphosa’s administration: “Mr President (in your state of the nation address) you said you would reduce the size of parliament but the Cabinet is still big with 35 minster and 36 deputy ministers.
The majority of those deputy ministers are extremely useless,” said Malema.
The EFF leader then gave an example of deputy minister of small business development Cassel Mathale saying he was struggling to comprehend why there was a need for a deputy minister in this portfolio.
“That department (ministry of small business development) on its own is very useless and on top of it being very useless you still add a deputy minister, its unnecessary and unacceptable,” said a passionate Malema.
Malema then called on Ramaphosa to reduce the Cabinet and save the country money that can be redirected to needy government departments.
The EFF in 2014 calculated that South Africa’s 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers would cost taxpayers around R720 million a year – or in the exaggeration of political speak, “almost a billion rand” per annum.