Opinion | Lindiwe Sisulu becomes target of ANC factional battles

Lindiwe Sisulu becomes target of ANC factional battles
PRESIDENTIAL RACE: As President Cyril Ramaphosa shuffles veteran minister Lindiwe Sisulu out to the less significant ministry of Tourism and as the ANC Women's League calls for a woman president, the former is seen as a preemptive strike aimed at disadvantaging potential woman candidate in the race to the ANC's 55th national congress. PICTURE BY SowetanLIVE

Ramaphosa’s ambition for the second term puts him at loggerheads with Sisulu.


In our democracy, the President’s appointment of cabinet members is a constitutional function that requires utmost care. 

Our constitution states that the cabinet consists of the President, as head, and the President appoints the Deputy President, ministers and deputy ministers – assigns their powers and functions, and may dismiss them.  

That the President seemingly possesses untrammeled powers in the selection, appointment and dismissal of cabinet members is unsurprising. 

However, the exercise of all public power, including discretionary executive action taken by the President, is constrained by the limits of the constitution. 

Even when the President is exercising complete discretionary powers under the country’s constitution such as a cabinet reshuffle, his actions must be “rationally related to the purpose for which the power was given”  or,  put differently, “rationally related to the objective sought to be achieved” (the rationality test).   

This is an objective test. From this vantage point, a president’s reshuffle of the cabinet in total disregard of excellence and competence demonstrated by the successful experience of ministers like Lindiwe Sisulu fails this test.  

The reshuffle fails the rationality test in numerous ways and appears to be a political ploy influenced by the forthcoming ANC electoral contest.

Lindiwe Sisulu who comes under Ramaphosa’s scope amid undertones of a political purge aimed at positioning the incumbent towards a successful re-election at the 2022 national elective conference  PIC News24

The reshuffle comes at a time when the ANCWL has sounded a warning that it is high time to elect a woman President of the party and the country. 

This means that gender is a firmly established criterion for selecting presidential candidates for the ANC and country in the forthcoming elections.  

Faced with the reality that this representational criterion is firmly one of the grounds for the selection of a future President. Cyril Ramaphosa, the current President, appears to have launched a pre-emptive strike to put viable women candidates such as Sisulu at a disadvantage.  

Ramaphosa targeted certain potential rivals who are women for invidious marginalization, demotion and devaluing of their political and policy experience gained over many decades of struggle.  

Ramaphosa’s ambition for a second term as ANC and South African President puts him squarely at loggerheads with the women potential challengers whose political experience, policy experience and education he simply cannot match.  

The reshuffle has become a Trojan-horse for him to decapitate the careers of women candidates he fears and Sisulu was carefully selected as a target.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. PIC News24

Undeniably, the effective leadership or stewardship of the state can never be undertaken by a paranoid, weakened or lame-duck President.  

The magnitude of presidential responsibilities demands that the incumbent be scrupulously honest, be clothed with sufficient governance-enabling authority to be the critical difference-maker and transformation-agent and above all else, be surrounded by cabinet members appointed on the basis of demonstrated excellence and competence, preferably demonstrated by successful experience in fields at least related to those portfolios over which they assume responsibility. 

Lindiwe Sisulu has held responsible cabinet positions since the dawn of our democracy and has demonstrated excellence in critical fields such as national security, defence, human settlements, international relations, public service and administration, amongst others.  

But that is not acceptable to Ramaphosa as Sisulu’s only sin appears to be her willingness to listen to communities and citizens who have pleaded with her to be available for a presidential run when the time is right. 

Accordingly, she is viewed as a potential challenger to Ramaphosa and all her demonstrated excellence and competence was devalued and disregarded by Ramaphosa during the reshuffle.  

The ANC Women’s League has put firmly the issue of gender as its primary rallying call, that the time had come for the party’s upcoming national conference to elect its first woman president. PIC TimesLIVE

The demotion to a tourism portfolio at the time when tourism has practically halted and when we are under lockdown appears to be a gratuitous humiliation.

 One hallmark of a true leader is a willingness to pick, and effectively utilize outstandingly able subordinates. 

Ramaphosa fails this test – his obsessive fear of being overshadowed by capable ministers like Sisulu is a tell-tale indicator of inner weakness and insecurity.  

*Paul Ngobeni is a legal and political analyst who studied in the US.