Is the national key point Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams above the law? Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng helps minister to take the oath. [email protected] of ENCA Profile photo:
The BBC host Emily Maitlis touched many when she took the iconic footie commentator Peter Drury’s lane and addressed the misconceptions about the Covid-19. She said the statement herein below which is pregnant with thought challenging social inequalities:
“The language around the Covid-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading. You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister’s colleagues will tell us. And disease is not a great leveler, the consequences of which everyone - rich or poor - suffers the same. This is a myth which needs debunking. Those of being on the frontline right now, bus drivers and shelf-stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed. Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher, those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home. This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health. Tonight as France goes into recession and the World Trade Organization warns the pandemic could provoke the deepest economic downturn of our lifetimes, we ask what kind of social settlement might need to be put in place to stop the inequality becoming even more stark? One of the hardest things about dealing with graphs and numbers, statistics, targets, flattening or rising of curves is the propensity to forget the names and lives behind the growing death toll. Tonight we want to remember some of those who died whilst doing their job. They were not soldiers, they didn’t sign up to a career in which they pledge to give their lives. They would not see themselves as heroes but as ordinary members of the public doing their work at a time when it demanded a man’s courage and kindness. Here are some of those key workers from all walks of life whom we remember tonight.”
The world on a total shut-down and South Africa is on day 17 of the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the social inequalities have manifested. Her message was extraordinary and powerful. Having being raised in a township by Richard and Elizabeth who were at the bottom of the food chain as an ordinary postman and a dressmaker respectively, I relatively have experience of having three siblings (one bed wetting and no names mentioned), two distant relatives and two parents renting two rooms with other three or four families in the same set up. It can be tricky to stay indoors without privileges like internet, food and clean running water. We can all wonder how it is for shack dwellers.
The introduced lockdown regulations stipulate that citizens must stay in their homes, extending it to shack dwellings. It is easy for the rich, but not for the poor. The Gini-Coefficient curve keeps rising and the elected are not moved as they sit in their air-conditioned plush homes in the leafy parts of the country. Little thought is spared for the crammed and less privileged in Khayelitsha, Alexandra and Soweto where the huge voter pool is situated.
The police and the military have been deployed mostly in the townships and resultantly an incessant barrage of civilian brutality has been reported. In quintuple instances they were never given an opportunity to explain whether or not their reasons to be outside fell within the limitations clause of the regulations. There however is less visibility of the forces armed to the teeth in the leafy suburbs. The policing has been applied mutatis-mutandis with the poor having no exceptions, yet the rich are treated with kiddie’s gloves.
The South African Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams who forms part of Cyril Ramaphosa’s “New Dawn” cabinet lacks the sagacity of occasion and grapple of the assignment on her shoulders as a leader in government to lead by example.
Contrary to the lockdown rules, the minister was seen in a photograph having lunch at a friend’s residence. The friend, Mduduzi Manana, a former deputy minister of Education with a red record of violence towards women defended her saying that she had passed by to collect protective gear for students she was working with. What a weak and feeble defense outline!
The president dismissed that and suspended her for two months, and one of which is unpaid. The president can be excused for not looking at the precedents set world wide when influential leaders breach lockdown regulations. Catherine Calderwood’s photos of her visiting her second home lead her to step down as Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer and David Clark a Health Minister was demoted by the New Zealand Prime Minister after he drove to the beach 20km away.
Over 20 000 South Africans have been arrested for breaching the lockdown rules, yet Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams got to have breakfast with the president. The absence of her in a police van just did not satisfy those brutally attacked and arrested, welcome to animal farm. With the minister suspended Jackson Mthembu, the minister in the Presidency took over in the interim. Questions have arisen as to why the deputy minister, Pinky Kekana was not appointed to take over instead.
To most it is very strange to the citizens that the deputy ministers are not able to take-over from the minister yet the deputy president can take over from the president. I will respond to this based on the South African context. It becomes critical to unpack the deputy ministers and their roles.
The role of deputy ministers:
The dictates of Section 85 of the South African Constitution utters that the decision-making power is only implemented by the head of state and the cabinet. The composition of the cabinet is based on the specifications of Section 91 and it consists of the president, deputy president and ministers.
Where are the deputy ministers, ghost cabinet? Strange!
The responsibilities of deputy ministers are governed by the Constitution and the world is delusional to the effect that deputy ministers are part of cabinet and the executive. The Deputy Ministers do not sit in cabinet meetings as it is against the law for them to do so. For this sole reason, in the absence of a minister, the deputy minister cannot act on behalf of the minister!
In addition to this, the president follows provisions of Section 98 of the Constitution which bestows powers upon him to hand-pick a surrogate or stand-in minister from the cabinet ministers in cases where one is not available or feeble to carry out their duties. The repercussions of this is that it becomes unconstitutional and unlawful to appoint a deputy minister were to be appointed acting minister. This is the reason why Jackson Mthembu was appointed and not Pinky Kekana.
The system of the deputy ministers is further complicated by the fact that the ministers’ accountability provisions, terms and responsibilities are laid down in Section 92, whereas the deputy ministers, in terms of Section 93 are simply to “assist members of cabinet”. This relegates them to a position where they act based on work delegated to them by the relevant ministers. In addition to this, every ministry further has director generals and deputy director generals who can equally be delegated powers by the minister. The ministers and deputy ministers account to the parliament which already has a colossal workload, but there are no systems in place to assess if deputy ministers are actually given work to do.
Deputy Ministers earn heft salaries, more than parliamentarians, even though no one knows if they indeed work. The deputy ministers’ office are usually ghost occupied and the existence of the occupants manifests only when scandals of lavish expenditure come to light. Collectively, deputy ministers’ salary bills cost the taxpayer over R80 million a year excluding perks and allowances. Let’s say the deputy ministers are slashed out of the system, R80 million minus perks might not be significant, but every saved cent add up towards a good community cause.
The Deputy Ministers vs. Director General’s conundrum
The government ministries are equipped with multiple director-generals who are experts in their turfs. The minister ordinarily engages the director-generals and banks on their ostensible expertise on a matter more than the deputy minister. Ministers and their deputies are politically appointed devoid of a relevant technical skill being a prerequisite, whereas the director-generals are appointed based on their technical expertise.
It is mind bogging why we really have a minister and a deputy minister who both might not even have any expertise in their ministries. The president has powers based on Section 93 (1) of the Constitution which says that “The President may appoint …” deputy ministers and the wording does not make it mandatory for the president to appoint them. So why do we appoint them in the first place?
Besides standing in for a minister designate, reading speeches in the absence of the said minister, constitutionally deputy ministers are not part of the cabinet as they only play a ceremonial role. If Kenya did it through a Constitutional reform in 2010, South Africa can take notes get rid of the deputy ministers as they served no purpose. Even though Section 73 (2) given them a responsibility to introduce a bill in parliament, such is not an exclusive role to them and their removal will do more good than bad.
South African solutions:
Before South Africa glance afar for directions to Kenya, USA and or UK, she can look no further than her provincial government set up where there are no deputy MECs! With specialists appointed in relevant positions, administrative duties can be achieved without using deputies.
As the South African lockdown continues in solidarity with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is encouraged to stay at home they can so as to flatten the curve. Those with abundance can share with those without. There can be no any other better time for the world to join hands than now.
#StaySafe #StayHome #Covid-19Lockdown2020