By Naadiya Adams
Calls are growing for President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu. The minister is under fire for an article in which she questioned the Constitution, while also questioning the moral standing of the country’s judges.
Ramaphosa has not spoken out against Sisulu, but in what is viewed as a veiled attack, stated in his weekly newsletter that the Constitution and democratic state should be protected at all cost.
In an interview with Radio Islam, Oscar van Heerden, an active fellow of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflections and a trustee for the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation says Sisulu is out of line.
“I think that the President isn’t responding because he simply does not want to give them the oxygen to continue with this sort of silliness, which is an attack on the constitution,” explains Van Heerden.
He says Ramaphosa’s leadership style calls for Ministers to take the wheel in their respective capacities.
“If I look at Ramaphosa’s sort of leadership style, it seems to me that he tries to tell his cabinet ministers that you need to do your work, with regard to your portfolio… he is saying indirectly that this is a matter for the Minister of Justice to attend to, in very much the same way when we had the July protests, you know he expected that the Minister of Police, you know of intelligence and of defense needed to take center stage,” said Van Heerden.
While Van Heerden believes some sort of sanction is necessary for the longstanding minister who bares the Sisulu name, he says that firing her would be unconstitutional regardless of her lineage.
The comments have allegedly named her as a de facto leader of what has become known as the radical economic transformation faction very much linked to former president Jacob Zuma. Critics believe that those loyal to Zuma may seek to unseat Ramaphosa at the party conference in December.
“I don’t think it’s worthy to be fired, remember, the very same constitution that she is questioning gives her the right to express herself freely and anyone and everyone is allowed, as per our constitution and our democracy, to criticize and to vent,” says Van Heerden.
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has described the publication as an “insult” while Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has since responded lamenting Sisulu’s comments, while minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele distanced the government from Sisulu’s views.
Minerals & energy minister Gwede Mantashe said Sisulu’s statements did not bring the party into disrepute however he did not openly support Sisulu.
Van Heerden says Ramaphosa’s strategy is to stabilize the cabinet and do things very differently to his predecessor, former President Jacob Zuma, who consistently shuffled the cabinet.
The articles, in Van Heerden’s view, do not warrant the Tourism Minister’s axing as there is simply too much at stake.