South African president Jacob Zuma swore in new members of his Cabinet at the presidential guest house in Pretoria on Friday as the opposition’s efforts to stop him through a court interdict failed.
Ministers who had been deployed to new portfolios, including Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, were also in attendance to support their new counterparts.
Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi were all sworn in by Justice Sisi Khampepe.
Six deputy ministers were also sworn in, among them Sfiso Buthelezi, who replaced outgoing finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s former deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
The Western Cape High Court had earlier dismissed the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s application to halt the swearing in of the new Cabinet ministers.
The party wanted the Cabinet changes to be postponed until its motion of no confidence in Zuma is voted on in the National Assembly.
Judge OL Rogers said any decision the court reached must be based on fact and not private or public perception.
Rogers said the DA’s application consisted of conclusions rather than facts.
The judge agreed with the legal representative for the Presidency that the swearing in ceremony would not change nor have any effect on the Cabinet reshuffle.
The official opposition has also written to Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete to ask for the immediate resumption of Parliament to vote on the no-confidence motion against the president next week.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen says the motion cannot wait till Parliament reconvenes in May.
“Parliament is charged with the oversight of the exercise of the executive authority of the president.
“Appointing ministers and firing of other ministers is an executive authority and we believe that given the gravity of the situation it is absolutely imperative that Parliament reconvenes,” Steenhuisen said.
Some leaders in the ANC and its alliance partners joined opposition parties and civic organisations in speaking out against the cabinet reshuffle.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters on Friday morning that he had raised his “concern and objection” with Zuma about his removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan because the decision was based on a dubious intelligence report.
He said claims in the report that Gordhan was mobilising overseas investors to push for regime change were “totally unacceptable”.
Ramaphosa was conspicuously absent at the swearing-in ceremony.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe had also expressed his reservations at not being consulted by President Zuma before making changes in the national executive.
“We have nothing against the newly appointed ministers as individuals. But removing performing ministers while retaining non-performing ones is questionable,” Manatashe said.
Sacked finance minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy, Mcebisi Jonas addressed a press conference on Friday at which Gordhan described the intelligence report that formed the basis of their dismissal as“absolute nonsense”. He said they were not consulted in any form on the decision to relieve them of their appointments but learnt of their fate on television.
Newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told newsmen shortly after the swearing-in ceremony that he was ready for his new assignment.
“I’m not new to government. I’ve been in government for 13 years now and I have also served in the portfolio of public enterprises for four years and so I’m not new to the economic sector. I am an experienced politician with more than 21 years in the national executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC).”
On the question of not having a background in finance, Gigaba drew a parallel with former President Nelson Mandela and other finance ministers before him:
“I am sure that when President [Nelson] Mandela became president of the country, he had the particular challenge that he had never presided over a country before; the same applied to [Trevor Manuel] the finance minister in 1996; the same applied to the now outgoing minister Pravin Gordhan and others before me. They had never occupied these positions. I bring a wealth of political experience.”
Call for unity
Meanwhile, the ANC has called on its members to display unity.
“Diversity and plurality of views do not mean division, but robust and necessary engagement within our movement in our quest to deliver on our responsibility to our people,” ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa explained.
He said members and leaders of the ANC were expected to focus on what unified, rather than what divided them.
Opposition parties and other disenchanted organisations and individuals have however vowed to continue with their protests and call for President Jacob Zuma to resign.