Saturday marked exactly one year since South Africa went into lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. The DA has therefore produced a scorecard rating each Minister together with their department between “A” and “F” based on their work during the pandemic.
Covid-19 presented a massive challenge to the South African government and while a few ministers stepped up to the occasion, the majority buckled under the pressure.
After a year of assessing the government’s response to the crisis, here is a scorecard of various ministers and their departments’ performances as well as that of the President and his Deputy:
The Class Captains
President Cyril Ramaphosa (E): In the last year, the President has tried desperately to provide leadership to a country in troubled waters. “Family Meetings” on occasion inspired, sometimes entertained, but mostly exasperated. He has often passed the buck: rising unemployment figures are the fault of the pandemic or of South Africans who buy cooked chicken – everyone except him and his cabinet. Covid exposed exactly how weak Ramaphosa’s position within the ANC is as he has failed time and again to act against wayward Ministers.
Deputy President David Mabuza (F): It is hard to grade an absent pupil but an “F” seems more than fair.
The Star Students
Naledi Pandor – International Relations Minister (B): While not without its glitches, the Minister must be commended for leading a global repatriation effort for South Africans who were stranded at various ports across the globe.
Angie Motshekga – Basic Education (C): The pandemic highlighted the chronic problems at schools such as a lack of water and poor infrastructure. This was also amplified by the 44.1% real matric pass rate. With regards to the delivery of PPE, tenderpreneurs delivered poor quality PPE to schools as tender processes were not streamlined. And while the temporary employment of 300 000 teacher assistants was a great initiative, the Department failed to pay many of them timeously.
Tito Mboweni – Finance (C): While the Minister must be commended for managing to rein in public debt to some degree and cutting unnecessary expenditure here and there during the lockdown, the mistakes of the Minister simply cannot be ignored. SAA and the Land Bank still received handouts at the expense of social services. Treasury also failed private businesses and failed dismally in ensuring timeous payments to secure vaccines.
Thoko Didiza – Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development (D): The disbursement of Covid relief funds to distressed farmers was erratic and the criteria potentially excluded a lot of small scale farmers. The pandemic also amplified the Department’s land reform failures as witnessed by the illegal evictions of farmers. However, the Department must be commended for generally ensuring that the sector remained open during the lockdown.
Zweli Mkhize – Health (E): While we appreciate the mammoth task faced by the Minister, his Department failed to prepare the health system during the lockdown. This was particularly evident in the heartbreaking stories from Eastern Cape hospitals. We also saw rampant PPE corruption take hold of the country. Even Mkhize himself was drawn into nepotism and corruptions claims. The most prominent failure of the Department however has been the failure to implement a real vaccination rollout. At the current rate of inoculations, South Africa will reach its herd immunity target in 10 years’ time.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs (F): Since the declaration of the National State of Disaster in March 2020, Minister Dlamini-Zuma, has arbitrarily extended the emergency measure on a monthly basis using a procedural flow in the Disaster Management Act. These extensions have given the national government wide-ranging powers over the lives of citizens, with almost no limits, and little to no oversight from Parliament. She has also refused to be held to account be Parliament.
Bheki Cele – Police (F): Instead of attempting to do their job within the bounds of the Constitution, SAPS’s behaviour during the lockdown was characterised by officers abusing their powers and violating the rights of South Africans. Minister Cele was actively encouraging heavy-handed policing. To make matters worse, the DNA backlog has hit the 200 000 mark recently. There is also a clear leadership crisis at SAPS with Cele and the Police Commissioner openly blaming one another for the mess.
Lindiwe Zulu – Social Development (F): The Minister thought it wise to block food distribution by NGOs. Due to court action brought by the DA, this decision was reversed. The R350 unemployment grant process was riddled with problems and vulnerable South Africans were forced to sleep and queue outside SASSA offices to reapply for their disability grants. We also recall the Minister addressing these applicants from a police Casspir, once again proving how out of touch she is.
Other Ministers who form part of “The Failures” group include Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (E) who lurched from one scandal to another in the enforcement of lockdown restrictions; Thulas Nxesi (F) who simply failed to oversee the implementation of a proper system for UIF; and Ebrahim Patel (F) for his frivolous bans on the sale of flip-flops and roast chicken.
To see the full government scorecard please see here.
The pandemic exposed the deficiencies within the government and how the years of mismanagement, corruption and cadre deployment have hollowed out the State and its ability to effectively react to a national crisis. Covid also highlighted the lack of political leadership and vision in the Executive.
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