President Jacob Zuma wielded his axe for the fourth time in four years, making nine changes to his executive council.
While he has managed to please the court of public opinion by axing people implicated in wrongdoing, like former communications minister Dina Pule, some very controversial ministers have miraculously managed to survive.
Carien du Plessis and Sabelo Ndlangisa look at five.
Minister of Agriculture Tina Joemat-Petterson
She has limped from one controversy to another since her appointment to the agriculture portfolio in 2009.
At the start of her term, she was the farmers’ darling. But she has a reputation for being intemperate as well as spending recklessly.
Last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela recommended that President Jaco Zuma should reprimand her for recklessly using public funds in her travels.
Madonsela also ordered Joemat-Petterson to pay back R151 000 of the money she spent travelling to Sweden with her children and an aide in 2009.
Her handling of the farm workers’ strike in De Doorns drew flak from critics who felt she did not show leadership as the minister in charge of the sector.
Recently, allegations have surfaced about her benefiting improperly from the sale of a farm when she was a Northern Cape MEC in 2006.
Zuma has kept her in the Cabinet, despite the clamour for her axing.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa
His portfolio has also been a bloodstained one as the police force has become increasingly violent.
His charges have not accounted for the killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane.
The worst outcome of this violence has been the Marikana massacre, which is currently the subject of a commission of inquiry. The minister has never accounted for all the mess that has happened under his watch.
Last year, his police commissioner Bheki Cele was axed following irregularities in the multibillion-rand police building leased that was signed while he was still in charge. Mthethwa survived, and even got re-elected to the top leadership of the ANC in Mangaung.
Some suggest that the survival of a politician like Mthethwa owes more to political loyalties to Zuma, rather than performance in government.
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele
Cwele’s spooks have apparently failed to detect the revolt in the mines that led to the Marikana massacre last year – or if they had detected it, they failed to convince those who could, to take any action.
This might have been grounds enough for Zuma to have Cwele fired long ago.
Some have said that Cwele’s failure to detect his wife’s drug-smuggling activities (she is serving a 12-year jail sentence for this) shows that his intelligence-gathering capacity is below par.
He has maintained that he knew nothing and without evidence, this wouldn’t be a good enough reason for Zuma to fire him.
More serious, though, is the lack of permanent managers in the agency. The top three positions in the department have remained unfilled for most of his tenure after those filling it had resigned.
Cwele has also been responsible for introducing the Protection of State Information Bill, which took years to get to a point where it could be passed by Parliament, but might yet be subject to a challenge in the Constitutional Court.
Zuma might have been cautious to axe Cwele because of all the secrets he knows and keeps.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Undelivered textbooks could yet be all that remains of Motshekga’s legacy, and she hasn’t been great at spinning herself out of the quandary.
Civil society organisations have been running to court on numerous occasions just to get her department to do its job, and even then they haven’t managed to convince her to do so.
In the run-up to a general election, and given how intense public emotion can get about education and how bad the publicity has been for Zuma, it might have been a wise move to axe her.
Motshekga is also hated by teachers’ union Sadtu, but given the way the members of this union sometimes disregard their work, Motshekga might not be too worried about this.
Her defenders, however, say the ultimate measure for Motshekga’s success should be the matric pass rate, which went up from 70.2% in 2011 to 73.9% last year.
Motshekga is also the president of the ANC Women’s League, and Zuma needs them to score brownie points with the feminists and also to campaign in next year’s elections.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe
One of the low points of his fairly un-illustrious five years as justice minister was probably the ruling by the Constitutional Court last year that Radebe, in advising the president on the appointment of a new prosecutions head, acted “inconsistently” with the Constitution.
The court ruled that Zuma’s 2010 decision to appoint Menzi Simelane as prosecutions chief was irrational.
Way down there with the Simelane case is the Glynnis Breytenbach case. The department lost after this senior National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) advocate took it to court after she was sacked, being accused of having an inappropriately close relationship with a lawyer involved in a case she was investigating.
Breytenbach claimed the real reason was determination to prosecute former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli for fraud and corruption after the NPA controversially withdrew charges last December.
Radebe’s department has also received a qualified audit despite his promises that governance would be cleaned up. It was found that his department met just 28% of the targets it set itself for 2011/12.
Above all, the NPA and the Special Investigating Unit have been without heads for more than a year now.
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