Media release

Media statement on the operationalisation of the government of national unity by Minister in The Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

04 July 2024

Yesterday, Wednesday 3rd of July 2024, South Africa witnessed another key milestone in the operationalise of the government of national unity (GNU) with the swearing-in of the Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers from across the political parties which are signatories to the Statement of Intent. Given the electoral outcome and the agreement to form a government of national unity, it was therefore no longer possible for the President to fulfil the undertaking he had previously made to reduce the number of the portfolios in the National Executive. In simple terms, the size of the National Executive is a result of our electoral outcome with the need to be inclusive. In addition, the constitution of the National Executive had to be cognisant of other national interest such as demographics, geographic spread, youth and gender representation.

How will the government of national unity operate including on policy issues

Allow me to borrow the words of President Ramaphosa of 30 June 2024 when he was announcing the appointments he had made to the National Executive: “The establishment of the GNU in its current form is unprecedented in the history of our democracy” and he had also clarified that “the GNU would be bound by certain fundamental principles and would undertake a basic minimum programme of priorities as articulated in the Statement of Intent”.

As the Head of the National Executive, the President exercises the Executive authority of the Republic “together with” the other members of the Cabinet, in term of section 85(2) of the Constitution. In this regard the President, with the Cabinet, is “responsible for”:

(a)    implementing national legislation unless the Constitution or an Act of Parliament provides otherwise;
(b)    developing and implementing national policy;
(c)    co-ordinating the functions of State Departments and administrations;
(d)    preparing and initiating legislation; and
(e)    performing any other Executive function provided for in the Constitution or in national legislation.

The phrase of “as the head of the Cabinet” captures the idea of collective responsibility, but it also allows the Cabinet and the President to determine the way and procedures by which they work together, including leaving certain matters or kinds of matters to be dealt with by a single member of the Cabinet.

Therefore, if a matter is not a routine, departmentally specific matter or function it must first be referred to the Cabinet, as must all matters that the Cabinet itself has decided should come to it. In general, if a matter is not routine, it must be referred to the Cabinet for its consideration by way of a cabinet memorandum.  

It should be stressed that both the President and individual Ministers are duty-bound to take to the Cabinet issues of policy, significant decisions, such as decisions with financial consequences exceeding a department’s approved budget and any matter the Cabinet has decided should be referred to it. Failure to do so could undermine the validity of such a decision.  This envisages that the President himself may determine that a President’s Minute referred to him for signature should in fact go to the Cabinet first and, accordingly, refer it back to the Minister to take to the Cabinet. This is an approach which is accepted by the Cabinet as its way of “acting together with the President” when he exercises Executive authority under the Constitution.  

On setting government’s priorities and programme of action

The government’s priorities and programme of action is articulated in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) which is guided by the election manifesto of the governing party, in the case of the GNU, governing parties. The choice of priorities is guided by their alignment to the attainment of the goals of the National Development Plan (Vision 2030) as adopted by Parliament in 2012.

To give effect to the signed Statement of Intent as signed by parties to the GNU, the Forum of South Africa Directors-General (FOSAD), which is chaired by the Director-General in The Presidency, have undertaken work of analysing the manifestos of parties to the GNU and will submit a proposal for consideration and adoption at the Cabinet Lekgotla scheduled for Thursday, 11 – Friday, 12 July 2024. The adopted programme of action (MTSF) will be announced by the President at the Opening of Parliament on Thursday, 18th July 2024. After the adoption of the MTSF, the individual Departments will then develop their Strategic Plans linked to the MTSF and Annual Performance Plans for implementation of the MTSF targets. Departments present both their strategic plans and Annual Performance Plans to Parliament and DPME for oversight.

The National Treasury will fund the implementation of the MTSF through the National Budget that is tabled and approved by Parliament. The DPME is responsible for overseeing and reporting on the implementation of the MTSF (the consolidated government view), and the Annual Performance Plans and submit the reports of alignment and performance to both the President and the Cabinet.

When did appointed ministers become ministers

There is a need to clarify that Ministers of the 6th Administration ceased to be Ministers on Wednesday, 19 June 2024 when the President of the 7th Administration assumed office or took the Oath of Office. Similarly, the Ministers of the 7th administration only assumed office yesterday, 3rd July 2024 when they took their Oath of Office. Consequently, the priorities of the 7th administration are only going to be adopted at the scheduled Lekgotla and Ministers will be using this period until the Lekgotla to receive briefings from the Departments and consult on how to shape the direction of the discussions at the Lekgotla.

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