President Cyril Ramaphosa announced changes in the national executive last night, precipitated he said by the tragic passing of Minister Jackson Mthembu and Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwane and the appointment of former Deputy Minister Parks Tau as an MEC in Gauteng, among other things. Further vacancies arose in Cabinet following the resignations of Ministers Zweli Mkhize and Tito Mboweni.

President Ramaphosa announced that the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Thandi Modise, would now become Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, while the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Mr Mondli Gungubele is now the Minister in the Presidency.

Both Ms Modise and Mr Gungubele are not new in government. Ms Modise was the Premier of the North West in the third administration, and Mr Gungubele was the Deputy Minister of Finance in the fifth administration.

Mr Ramaphosa made other announcements of Members of Parliament who are now Deputy Ministers. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, Mr Philly Mapulane, is now Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technology, while the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, is now the Deputy Minister of Health. The Whip of the Portfolio Committee on Labour and Employment, Dr Nobuhle Nkabane, is now Deputy Minister of Minerals and Energy, while Dr Chana Pilane-Majake is the new Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration. Parliament congratulates these Members and wishes them well in their new responsibilities.

Section 83 of the Constitution outlines how the President should select the Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. The Constitution stipulates that the President ­must select these office bearers from among the members of the NA. He may select no more than two Ministers and two Deputy Ministers from outside the NA. Minister Mboweni was not a Member of the NA when he was selected as the Minister of Finance in 2019 and nor was Mr Enock Godongwana when he was selected.

Only a Member of the NA can be selected as the country’s President, who must then resign his membership. Other office bearers can remain members of the NA, even if they have been selected as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Hence they are allowed to return as MPs when their term of executive office ends. Ministers and Deputy Ministers appointed outside the NA are accountable to Parliament for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions.

The Deputy Speaker of the NA, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, will act as NA Speaker until the House elects a new Speaker. Committee members will elect acting chairpersons to fill vacancies in committees, until new chairpersons are elected.

A date for election of the new NA Speaker will be determined through consultation within Parliament and with the Office of the Chief Justice. Section 52 (2) of the Constitution states: “the Chief Justice must preside over the election of a Speaker, or designate another judge to do so”.

Mava Lukani
6 August 2021