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Did Cyril choose the right team?

Leadership 101 teaches that leadership is a lonely place. If you are a leader, you know that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. As for the notion of selecting a dream team, this is clearly an oxymoron.

Everyone has eagerly awaited President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet re-shuffle. Appointing anyone to a key position is incredibly difficult. Many Boards have grappled with decisions around appointing a CEO that will appeal to a wide range of stakeholders, including shareholders, labour and social activists.

Imagine how much more difficult this process is if you are the President. Your appointment of Cabinet Ministers has to resonate with the widest possible range of stakeholders – local and foreign investors, business, ANC supporters, opposition political parties, the electorate at large, and alliance partners, to name but a few.

To compound complexities, the President cannot simply appoint a head hunter to select the best candidate globally. He has to appoint from within the ranks of Members of Parliament. This is not to say that we do not have talent among our MPs, but rather, that the President has to select from a predetermined pool. The President needs to reward supporters, assess past performance and future potential, appease, consult and come up with the best skills match based on these considerations. These complexities make private sector appointments of executive talent seem relatively easy.

As one would expect, the President’s Cabinet re-shuffle has elicited a mixed response. Pravin Gordhan, and Nhlahla Nene’s appointment as Minister of Public Enterprises and Minister of Finance, respectively has been warmly welcomed. Both men have a very strong track record for ethics, good governance and delivery. These appointments appear to be based on a very good track record, a strategy embraced by the private sector.

ANC national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe’s appointment as Mineral Resources Minister has also been well received. The fact that Mantashe is a former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, may help to explain why Mantashe is regarded by many as an obvious candidate for this position. His solid experience of the mining industry should prove a great asset.

Some of the other appointments have been more controversial, including David Mabuza’s appointment as Deputy President, Malusi Gigaba’s appointment as Minister of Home Affairs and Bathabile Dlamini’s appointment as Minister in the Presidency for women and children.

The appointment of Deputy President was undoubtedly the most difficult appointment to make. Many expected President Ramaphosa to appoint a female deputy. Nalendi Pandor and Lindiwe Sisulu were mooted as strong candidates. Critics have not been placated by the fact that the President has appointed nine female Ministers.

Critics also point to allegations of Deputy President David Mabuza’s alleged involvement in political killings in Mpumalanga and allegations around tender corruption. To date, none of these allegations have been substantiated. Critics also remind that the Deputy President supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and not Ramphosa in the race for the top position in the ANC. Following this line of reasoning, an obvious question is: ‘Is the necessary level of trust in place? A business associated provided an interesting perspective by citing a quote from the movie the godfather: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Another view would be to say that President Ramaphosa’s appointment of David Mabuza is a master-stroke. Great leaders know when to extend an olive branch, to conciliate, to do everything in their power to build an organisation, rather than make decisions that could prove divisive.

As for Malusi Gigaba’s appointment as Minister of Home Affairs, this was unexpected as Gigaba is accused of using his ministerial discretion to grant the Guptas citizenship in 2005.

Bathabile Dlamini’s appointment as Minister in the Presidency for women and children, is also controversial as her performance as Social Developments Minister elicited a great deal of criticism. She does however, have a great deal of influence; she is one of the top six within the ANC and the ANC Women’s League Chairperson. Undoubtedly, the leadership lesson to be learnt here, is to always be very cognisant of centres of power within your organisation and to factor these into your decision making.

It is easy to criticise and very difficult to do better. I realised this when I asked myself the question: ‘Did Cyril chose the right team?’ History will provide the answer. In the meantime, we can only wish all the newly appointed Cabinet Ministers every success.

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