Media reports have speculated that the newly sworn-in MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma could be on her way to the Cabinet.
This would be in a reshuffle that could also see Dr Blade Nzimande (who is also the Secretary General of Jacob Zuma’s foes the SA Communist Party) replaced as Minister of Higher Education and Training.
Nzimande was appointed to the position of Minister of Higher Education and Training by President Zuma when he took office in 2009. His new ministry combined the further and higher education departments with the skills development function which had previously been with the Department of Labour.
The combined department was supposed to bridge the gap between the formal education sector and the workplace training efforts underway in companies.
Reports in the Sunday Times noted that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) was to be sworn in as an MP, which seemed to fairly obviously mean that she would be taking up another Cabinet position soon. NDZ has held a number of Ministerial positions previously and then served as Chairperson of the African Union.
She is seen as closely aligned to her ex-husband, President Zuma, and the chosen presidential nominee for his ‘camp’. A movement to a full cabinet position would bolster her position in the country ahead of December’s elective conference for the ANC.
The speculation in the Sunday Times went further to suggest that the President would appoint her to the position of Minister of Higher Education and Training in a cabinet reshuffle. She would then release the report into university fees and announce free education as a tool to encourage the electorate to vote for the ANC. It was seen as a move to bolster the youth vote specifically.
Nzimande has been strongly in the anti-Jacob Zuma camp in his role as SACP leader, so it seems to make sense that the President would take any opportunity to remove him.
Nzimande laughed off the rumours on Monday, saying that he couldn’t comment on media speculation. Political commentator Stephen Friedman said it was unlikely that Zuma would remove Nzimande. Quoted in the Business Day, Friedman said that it was well known that the SACP and Zuma did not see eye-to-eye. However he doubted that Zuma would ‘declare war’ on the organisation so close to the elective conference.
If Nzimande were to be removed it would be a blow for the Higher Education and Training Department where he has provided stability over his eight year term. The doctor of sociology has shown a great affinity with the higher and further education sectors, and been particularly supportive of the TVET College sector.
As one would expect from a leader of the SACP, Nzimande has been no fan of private education and training but this is true of all ANC leaders.
When a new Minister is appointed it seems to always lead to a change of plans. Long developed projects are dropped and new initiatives are started. The change of leader often leads to a wasteful period when changes are made and delivery on the ground is delayed.
Those who are not supportive of the Minister’s plans however might welcome a change of direction at the DHET.
What do you think? Would a change of Minister be a good thing for the department or would the changes that usually come with a new leader cause too much disruption in the department?