BOKAMOSO SPECIAL EDITION | Our nation would be in a better state with the DA’s 15 ministries

This is an edited version of the speech that Mmusi delivered on Thursday, 4 February 2016, at the Cape Town Press Club, introducing the DA’s 15 ministries ahead of President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.

We are just over a month into 2016, and already we know that this year is going to test our democracy like never before.

The year has begun in the eye of a “perfect storm” of low economic growth, spiraling corruption, rising unemployment, drought, rising inflation, and failed service delivery. And we are dealing with the immediate prospect of a rapidly falling currency and a further downgrade to our credit rating.

Each of these crises has the potential to derail us, and each requires urgent and decisive intervention. It will require leadership with the courage of conviction to make bold policy decisions, and then stick with these decisions.

On Thursday, 11 February, President Zuma will deliver his annual State of the Nation Address. South Africans will be looking for a President in command of his office, in touch with the needs of the people. A President with a firm grasp of the challenges we face and a clear, bold plan to fix them.

So what would we, in an ideal world, like the President to say on Thursday?

Put simply, President Zuma needs to tell us how he plans to raise capital to keep us afloat in 2016. We certainly can’t borrow more money, we can’t print more money and we have little room left to raise taxes. So that leaves the option of selling off state assets and cutting waste. And this is where we call on the President to be particularly bold.

Over the last few months, the DA has been working on a plan to streamline government to make it less costly and more efficient. If elected to national government, we would save R4,7 billion per year by re-organising the executive into a streamlined, delivery-oriented Cabinet of 15 Ministries.

We call it Operation Hlasela Mafutha or “Cut the Fat”.

Let’s be honest: our Cabinet has become obscene. The staff, the bodyguards, the luxury cars, the first class flights, the food, the office refurbishments and the five star hotel stays. All status, no substance, and at the cost of billions of rands.

We need to Cut the Fat. And we can start by reconfiguring ministries and departments with the single-minded objective of boosting economic growth and creating jobs.

Ours is one of the largest cabinets in the world. Not only do we have a President, a Deputy President and 35 Ministers, we also have 37 Deputy Ministers. That’s an executive of 74 people.

The reason we have a super-sized cabinet is because our government has a super-sized patronage network. The only way to ease tensions between factions and reward loyalty is through the offer of a powerful, high-paying job. Like frequent flyer miles, ’The Cabinet’ has become nothing more than an expensive ‘loyalty rewards programme’.

Salaries, housing and car allowances, travel allowances and VIP protection services for all 74 members of the Executive make this an extravagance we can ill afford. In fact, our spend on VIP protection alone amounted to more than R2 billion last year.

This massive cabinet has a direct correlation with the size of our public sector wage bill, as each government department has a top-heavy structure of officials who all count on President Zuma’s ever-expanding loyalty rewards programme. Currently our Public Sector wage bill accounts for almost 40% of government expenditure.

We need to trim this bloated and unaffordable cabinet, and we have a plan for exactly how to do so.

The DA proposes cutting the number of ministries down from 35 to just 15, and structuring them in such a way that government spending would be carefully directed towards priorities that lead to economic growth and job creation.

Here are the 15 Ministries that would form the Cabinet in a DA government:

  1. Employment & Enterprise
  2. Economic Infrastructure
  3. Finance
  4. Basic Education
  5. Further Education, Skills & Innovation
  6. Health and Social Development
  7. Integrated Planning and Service Delivery
  8. Police
  9. Local and Provincial Government
  10. Home Affairs
  11. Agriculture and Land Reform
  12. Justice and Correctional Services
  13. Environment
  14. Foreign Affairs
  15. Defence

Some of our ministries, such as Finance, Police, Home Affairs, and Defence would remain unchanged, but others would be completely reassembled from existing ministries to ensure a streamlined and efficient focus.

For example, our brand new Employment and Enterprise Ministry would be made up of Trade and Industry, Small Business Development, Economic Development, Mineral Resources, Tourism and Labour. This Ministry would have one goal, and that is to grow jobs.

Similarly, our new Ministry of Economic Infrastructure would be tasked with managing the basic conditions of South Africa’s business environment. It would encompass, among others, the old Ministries of Communications, Telecommunications & Postal Services and Transport.

Then, by combining the Human Settlements and Water & Sanitation with the Expanded Public Works Programme as well as various programmes from the Department of Public Works, we will create a Ministry of Integrated Planning and Service Delivery that can address issues ranging from service delivery to redressing the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning.

Our 15 ministries will result in a government that is responsive and citizen-oriented. And, importantly, it will result in a huge saving of public money. With the R4,7bn that we can free up by trimming our bloated government, we can truly begin re-investing in asset building.

It is worth mentioning that there is nothing extraordinary about small government. In fact, there are many examples of countries just as complex as South Africa, with far leaner governments. Germany, for example, has 15 ministries, France has 16, China has 20, Russia 21, the United States just 10. The President of Brazil recently cut the size of the cabinet down by 8.

Imagine how refreshing it would be if President Zuma announced a bold government-wide waste cutting programme like this in next week’s State of the Nation Address. What a signal it would send out about the seriousness of our fiscal situation.

Whatever the President does on Thursday night, I urge him to think very carefully about what is at stake. I would like him to think about what we stand to lose if we don’t start pulling in the right direction.

I urge him to start mending bridges with the private sector – to stop seeing business as the enemy – and to build partnerships through which we can tackle our massive challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

I urge him to make a strong statement condemning racism and all forms of bigotry, no matter who perpetuates it. He must send a signal to other leaders that racially divisive rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.

And, finally, I urge him to announce plans to harness the talents and energy of every person who is prepared to work hard to make a better life. It is these millions of positive, hopeful South Africans who hold the key to our future.

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