President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that government was poorly prepared to deal with the public violence, destruction, and sabotage that hit KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“We must admit that we did not have the capabilities and plans in place to respond swiftly and decisively,” Ramaphosa told the nation last week.
While this acknowledgement is commendable, it should have been accompanied by the immediate dismissal of police minister Bheki Cele and intelligence chief Ayanda Dlodlo.
That is the view of DA leader John Steenhuisen, who said in any other democracy heads would roll for this utter failure of intelligence and preparedness.
“The president called for the country to unite to clean up the mess. The first step to cleaning up the mess must be to fire these two cabinet ministers who failed in their duty to protect South African lives, property and livelihoods,” he said.
He said that South Africa cannot afford to have its national security undermined by ministers who failed in their roles to pre-empt this sort of attack and defend its people.
Many other people have also called on Ramaphosa to change his cabinet and replace political cadres with competent technocrats.
It has become the norm for South African Presidents to reward political loyalty with a cabinet position. In turn, many people are employed in areas where they have no expertise.
Cele and Dlodlo, for example, had little experience in policing and intelligence before they were appointed as ministers of these departments.
While businesses were burning and people were dying, Cele and Dlodlo commended their departments for the excellent work to prevent and manage the looting and violence.
This showed how out of touch the two ministers are with their responsibilities and what South Africans expect of the police and state security.
Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa told Radio 702 there is no way in which Ramaphosa can justify keeping the security cluster ministers.
“Even by [that] Sunday, when former President Jacob Zuma was about to be arrested, they would have been able to make preparations,” he said.
He said all of the security cluster ministers are now making up stories as they go along.
Many high-profile executives have called on Ramaphosa to address the state’s shortcomings by appointing more competent ministers.
Just One Lap founder Simon Brown said the government — and the security cluster in particular — was asleep at the wheel and was incapable of dealing with basic civil unrest and looting.
Sasfin Securities deputy chairman David Shapiro said the government must crush the lawlessness and get on top of the situation.
“What has been exposed is just how inept, ill-prepared, and inexperienced the ANC is in running the country — in all respects,” he said.
“If we don’t press the reset button, this is going to happen again. We can’t have the same characters in the cabinet again. It is time for a fresh move.”
“We just don’t have the right people in the cabinet to run South Africa.”