Desperation to push through the R1-trillion nuclear deal and gatvolness with SACP leader Blade Nzimande’s criticism of his leadership ahead of the ANC’s elective conference are probably the main reasons behind President Jacob Zuma’s most recent Cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle, that saw Nzimande chopped from the Cabinet, four ministers changing portfolios and the introduction of loudmouth ANC MP Bongani Bongo as minister of intelligence, is part of Zuma’s fightback campaign to reclaim authority over a deeply fractured governing party.
The axing brings an end to a decade-long bromance between Zuma and the communists, who were at the forefront of lobbying for the corruption charges against Zuma to be dropped and for president Thabo Mbeki to be recalled.
The relationship soured when it became clear that Zuma was never really interested in changing the economic policies of the country to benefit the poor, but rather to enrich himself and his besties, the Guptas.
In recent months, Nzimande has been one of Zuma’s most vocal critics with the SACP, calling for his removal as ANC president.
The SACP-ANC relationship is at an all-time low, with threats by the reds to go it alone in the 2019 election.
Firing Nzimande opened up the opportunity for Zuma to play musical chairs.
His close ally David Mahlobo becomes energy minister; Bongo takes over state security; Ayanda Dlodlo moves to home affairs and Mmamaloko Kubayi takes over the communications portfolio.
Hlengiwe Mkhize moves from home affairs to higher education and the young rising star MP and former Young Communist League leader, Buti Manamela, replaces the controversial Mduduzi Manana as Mkhize’s deputy.
So why did Zuma move his powerful intelligence minister to the energy portfolio?
It does not require rocket science to connect the dots: Zuma needs to push through the nuclear deal with Russia’s Rosatom before his term ends. If a candidate other than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the ANC’s presidential election, Zuma could be out as state president as early as January.
Mahlobo has accompanied Zuma on at least one state visit to Russia, to meet President Vladimir Putin. It was always a mystery why Mahlobo, and not the energy minister, had travelled with Zuma, but that question has now been answered.
The Sunday Times reported last month that Mahlobo accompanied convicts Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene – supposedly Zuma’s New Best Friends – to Russia to present themselves as BEE partners to Russian oil and gas company Rosgeo for a R5bn deal. Connect the dots.
The Western Cape High Court’s ruling earlier this year that the tender process for nuclear should start from scratch was a massive setback for Zuma and Putin. Mahlobo has now been trusted with pushing the deal through – and fast.
Remember that Zuma’s favourite son, Duduzane, and the Guptas own Shiva Uranium, who will be one of the chief beneficiaries of a nuclear deal. That is the Zuma pension plan.
Kubayi was supposed to fast-track the deal after Tina Joemat-Petersson got the boot in March for failing to do so, but she probably moved too slowly in Zuma’s view.
The reshuffle is a sign that Zuma is panicking. South Africa should be on high alert.