Clip the president’s powers

President Jacob Zuma has a funny way of doing things. For instance, when asked a crucial and important question, he giggles instead of answering. The other thing is, announcing cabinet reshuffling at midnight when the nation is asleep.

Additionally, he believes the Constitution is just a piece of paper that has no bearing on his decisions. He behaves like a king, not a leader, and prefers praise singers to independent-minded people. To him, loyalty is more important than principle. And mostly, he disregards public sentiment.

Last Thursday, President Zuma reshuffled his obese Cabinet – but he didn’t make it mean. Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas were among the axed ministers. About 13 ministers were reshuffled. This was the largest cabinet reshuffle since the dawn of our democracy.

JZ initially intended to axe the Minister of Finance and his deputy only: Gordhan and Jonas. However, according to media reports, the ANC top six urged him to axe under-performing ministers as well. But, interestingly, the under-performing ministers have survived the chop.

The cabinet reshuffling has solicited mixed reactions. Some are happy, others unimpressed. Interestingly, the focus was more on the axed Minister of Finance than others. It is public knowledge that the President has wanted him gone for a long time. Gordhan’s axing has elevated him to hero status though.

In earnest, Nxamalala has done nothing wrong legally. Our celebrated Constitution allows him to fire and hire willy-nilly. He can reshuffle the Cabinet again next week. It is his prerogative and he doesn’t have to explain himself.

Giving one person too much power has negative consequences. Too much power can be abused. And it also corrupts. Instead of blaming the President for exercising his power as empowered by the Constitution, we need to deal with the root cause: the Constitution – which gives him too much power.

It is time we eclipsed the Presidents’ powers of appointing ministers at will. We should campaign for the Constitution to be changed so that his powers are limited. Otherwise, we will encounter the same problem again in future.

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