It is May, 2019 (or December 2017, or maybe 2018), and Cyril Ramaphosa wiggles his black-suited butt to adjust to the depressions in the presidential seat left by his ample predecessor. In front of him at the head of the long gleaming table lies a thin buff folder.

Seated around the table are men and women clad in tailored clothes that blurt money. Their eyes are anxious and their fingers twitch. About 20 sit at the table, the rest in two stepped rows of chairs behind them. There are about 65 in all, some still with jobs, they think. Those in the back are dogsbody civil servants; one never knew exactly who was what in the recent pre-election months of chop-and-change as unpredictable as a marbles match while the big goenie cannonballed among them, and lost.

The atmosphere is as thick with nerves as smoke at a dogfight. At the table are ANC seniors, some of them from the just dissolved South African Cabinet, ex-ministers and ex-deputy ministers with the dubious distinction of having been in one of the largest political cabinets on earth.

A buff folder lies tidily before each, pen and pencil to the right, bottle of spring water water in front.

There are four words printed in bold on the single sheet of paper inside: On one line ”Agenda”; on the next “Fix South Africa”.

Three simple words but the biggest challenge this 119-year-old country has ever faced. And dangerous. Outside the Cabinet chamber in all the gracious airy corridors of the Union Buildings wary suited men with tiny earphones and unbuttoned jackets amble casually, eyes constantly sliding.

More stroll the sunlit main road in front of the splendid Union Buildings, plus policemen in blue combat kit with Vektor pistols and R5 rifles, and beyond them in the gardens and bushes soldiers in camouflage fatigues carrying R1s and R5s, a flashback to the Angola days.

Conveniently near the Cabinet chamber heavily armed five-man squads wait in several rooms, relaxed and alert. They wear the black fatigues of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics).

There is a humming silence in the chamber. Sipho Pityana sits at Ramaphosa’s right, looking much younger than his 58, his classically tailored pale grey suit murmuring wealth. Robert Johnson slouches at left, wearing a double-breasted blazer as creased as his face.

Ramaphosa finally settles his behind comfortably, opens the folder, stares down at the four words of his choice for long seconds, then raises his head to look slowly around the room. A light sheen of sweat gleams on his bald head. Eyes meet eyes and most turn aside. He has an intimidating stare.

Ramaphosa is tired and restless. He has already started to “fix South Africa”. In a few days he has summarily fired, retired, “redeployed” or drastically demoted many of Jacob Zuma’s bloated inner bureaucracy of bootlickers. A few from Zuma’s regime are present and still politically alive, waiting to find out for how long.

Zuma himself is at faraway Nkandla in KwaZulu Natal among his chickens, goats, wives and other livestock within the bounds of his mundane collection of thatched tribal mansions styled something between Sandton and uMgunghundhlovu, a model of unimagination. Sarcastic neighbours call it “Bokingham Palace”.

Ramaphosa unbuttons his jacket, leans on his forearms, hands clenched, and speaks into the miasma of tension.

“The three of us here,” he says, indicating Pityana and Johnson with a wave of his hand, “have convened this meeting to brief you select few about our intentions. It is not required or precedented for us to do this but the recent experiences under our so-called government are an urgent lesson on the need to be open and honest.

“On my right I have a capitalist,” he glances at Pityana who is leaning back impassively in his executive chair, chin resting on his peaked fingertips, “He is not white and he is not monopolist.”

Nervous chuckles from around the room.

“On my left is Professor Robert Wood Johnson, a professor of history, an Oxford don emeritus, an acute political observer and a leader of public opinion in South Africa. I doubt anyone in this country knows it better. He talks sense when he opens his mouth. If he has a monopoly on anything it is intellect.

“Between the three of us and our experience we represent all of South Africa.”

Ramaphosa pauses because he is coming to the point of this gathering and he is an overloaded man with much to do. He leans back, arms extended to the folder before him.

“Winning the election does not end the rot in South Africa,” he rumbles, hoarse from days of talking, “It is still everywhere like an economic ebola in commerce and industry as much as in governance.

“It will take us many, many months, maybe years, to unravel the tangle of corruption and maladministration we have inherited and simultaneously to set up and properly run the complicated machine of a new State administration, together with those of the provinces.

“Let me make one thing clear right away. We have no intention of sacking masses of civil servants, of sweeping the decks clean, of firing people just because they disagree with us. It  would be disaster, this is not the Congo.”

His voice rises. “We are all still members of the ANC, even our ex-president wherever he may be and whatever he is doing, and it is the ANC that still rules South Africa.”

Hope begins to flicker back among the listeners.

“Many in the civil service will stay in their jobs, I think most from high to low. They number tens of thousands. I believe the great majority are loyal to the principles of the ANC and have simply never been showed how to do their work, or they have been grossly misused by the Zuma regime. There will be some reshuffling but our aim is not to sack cadres just because they are DA or this or that or even EFF.” He glances at a red-uniformed man down the table.

“However, it is vital to get our civil service functioning efficiently. It is vital to quickly rid ourselves of those we know to be dishonest and incompetent and replace them with people we know are true and honourable, intelligent and above all willing to learn and to learn damn fast and work hard!” He smacks the table with the  palm of his right hand.

“That goes for politicians as much as for officials.

“We are now at a moment of great national risk, which is why I have ordered such strong security around us here today. All of you who will still be in support of our new government at the end of this day will have protection until we regain calm after the rioting, protest, looting and sheer opportunistic crime now causing upheaval all over South Africa.

“I will not order a state of emergency because that would make some reckless people think we are weak and they can seize back power with force and contempt for the law.

“They are wrong. We are ready for them. We do not want to become a sea of conflict. We do not want a civil war and we will demonstrate that we will not tolerate the kind the lunatic bloodshed we have seen elsewhere in our continent.”

At this point Ramapahosa stops speaking, draws a handkerchief from his breast pocket, wipes his face and keeps the handkerchief in a tight fist, frowning. If anyone in South African politics knows how to exploit drama, it is him. He has many hurdles ahead that need more credibility than drama.

“We will use as much strength as we need to maintain stability. We are better than those who want to seize power by violence and we will prove it.

“Our people are hungry. Like you and I, they are sick and tired of bloodshed. They want peace and security and food and jobs. It is to them we are accountable and responsible for creating a better lifestyle. We will start doing that today – right now.”

Ramaphosa sips from the bottle of water on the table and, switching off his microphone, listens to Pityana and Johnson as they lean towards him. A mutter of subdued conversation rises from the guests. They talk for two minutes then both Pityana and Johnson nod.

The hum of whispers evaporates. That radical changes will be made is not unexpected but the assertive tone of this upstart Venda from the north and his aggressive confidence catch most by surprise.

The guillotine is still up there on the horizon but there is no clatter yet of the iron wheels of coming tumbrils.

Ramaphosa rises to his feet, large and intimidating. He begins to talk in a tone as severe and loud as a muezzin’s.

“My priority today, and that of the my friends around me, is to ask for the loyalty of each of you sitting at this table, under oath. Those of you who give it will be the pool from whom we will invite cadres to join our new cabinet. Those selected will be entitled to entitled to choose their support staff from the rest here, subject to their giving their oath of loyalty at a later stage, or you can propose others to us.”

Ramaphosa scans the battalion of eyes fixed upon him and frowns.

“If there are any of you who do not agree with what I have said, who do not believe it is possible, who have no wish to follow our ideas and our beliefs and our policies, then please be so honest as to leave now.”

He waits, fists resting on the table.

Nobody moves.

“Good,” he says, with a small smile. Pityana relaxes visibly, leaking tension like Roger Federer’s coach at the end of a furious tennis struggle. Johnson remains inscrutable, alert.

“When Parliament resumes we will need a two thirds majority to make changes to our constitution, only a few changes but all extremely important.

“The first will be to put an end to the unilateral powers the President has now. No more will he be able to appoint and discharge cabinet ministers without the consultation and approval of the majority of a core cabinet of ten, with the president having a casting vote. Their choices will be subject to the approval of the full cabinet and later the approval of a simple majority of the members of parliament.

“No longer will he be able to appoint top officials who will bend to his wishes. These appointees, from director-generals down to certain department heads, will be subject to revision                           and scrutiny by portfolio committees like that on public accounts, who will have powers of interrogation and sanction extending further than finance, something like the American Congressional committee system.

”In this new arrangement, as in all decisions concerning major political appointments, the members of the house will be able to vote by secret ballot …”

Ramaphosa pauses with a grin as a thunder of clapping and some loud cheers interrupts him.

“… but the first cabinet of this government will be chosen by us,” he says, smiling broadly, “If you don’t like it you can take us to task afterwards by secret ballot.

“What’s more, provincial parliaments will have the same. Municipalities already do. But the size of provincial parliaments will have to be re-examined. They don’t all need flocks of ministers and blue light brigades and expensive buildings while their people are hungry.”

Ramaphosa stops, switches off his microphone and sits down to confer with Pityana and Johnson. They know, these three, that what he has to say next will cause an uproar of excitement.

He readjusts the mike and leans forward on his forearms. The room is deathly silent in expectation.

“Consider this though: a secret ballot is only half of democracy. The other half is the person who uses it. Therefore the other major upgrade we will make to our constitution is that in each constituency voters elect the candidate of their choice. No longer will your party appoint your member of parliament or MLC. YOU will put up candidates, one for each party, and there you go.”

They are right. A roar of applause rises from the crowd, magnified by the confines of the chamber.

That has won them over,” Pityana smiles at the beaming face of the new president, “That more than the secret ballot.”

Ramaphosa raises his palms to calm the gathering.

“The details will be worked out by a team selected from those who drafted the present constitution,” he says, “and with his family’s  permission, they will draw on the research and ideas of the late, much lamented Dr Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, who was working on this when he died.

“Okay. Let me explain what we have right now. You all know Sipho Pityana. He is …” grinning “… a highly educated arch-capitalist, on the boards of nearly twenty businesses and institutions, a billionaire, a huge philanthropist, a true African and a true man of the ANC. And most of you will know, or certainly know of, the man on my left, Professor Johnson, who has long been an active member of the ANC and probably the most sensible analyst of South African politics for the past decade.

“Mr Pityana started the Save South Africa movement which had a large part in rescuing the country from rape and for bringing us to where we are now. He is the best man to show us how to turn the economic tide back towards us, to bring in former investment, to lure new investors, to initiate development, and above all to make sure that our people get jobs and a fair share of all the work and money. And he is only one of many who think like him and who will help us.

“Ours will be a kind of social capitalism, or capitalist socialism if you prefer. We will use capitalism to fund our social objectives. The world has always worked that way and there’s nothing wrong with it. Entrepeneurs want to make big profits and there’s nothing wrong with that either, so long as it doesn’t all get taken away by the fat cats. Do that and the investors leave, as Zuma’s policies proved. Profit for them means more jobs plus a share in that profit for the people who helped them make it, the workers.

“Neither of these two eminent and capable men will be members of the cabinet. They will be my personal presidential advisors and will be paid standard consultancy fees, not the gross millions the old non-ANC fed their so-called consultants and legal advisors. Their presence at my side will show the world we mean business, we are returning to normality.

“Sipho will be our first guide and mentor in all things economic and the personal contact between me and commerce and industry. That is not to forbid anyone out there in the economy from contacting us direct, even the spaza shop Somali with a new idea or the lady selling mopani worms on the street corner. We will set up the means, and I do not mean those damned ‘Press this button or that button next’ telephones.

“Robert here will advise me and the Cabinet on a number of things. The first of them is the so-called ‘security cluster’. Zuma held the strings of all sorts of government security from defence to police to ‘State security’, whatever that’s supposed to be, to national intelligence and to prosecution and some others. Each of those, again, had its own sub-divisions. He personally picked their heads. The competition between all of these and the animosities between them was so fierce it virtually destroyed their purpose. As a group rotten with corruption they were close to useless in fighting corruption.

“It gave our almost-dictator huge personal power that he exploited in a manner completely contrary to what our constitution intended.

“It has been stopped, thank the Lord. and the proven, reliable professionals we have in all the security sectors will come up with recommendations for the Cabinet and parliament to look at and choose.

“There is one very important subject I must raise here and now because some of you might not like it at all. It is this BEE and BBBEE and all those other acronyms which were so parroted by the previous regime they have lost all meaning.

“Affirmative action as we knew, as it was supposed to be, is dead. It has long failed in its true purpose, which was opening the doors to all opportunities to the victims of apartheid, favouring the victim when there is a choice between equals. The Zuma-Gupta regime abused this horribly to put all the power and taxpayers’ money into the hands of a few and ignore the masses. They will answer for it in the courts.

“Politically the colour white means nothing in Africa today except economic strength and knowhow. Yes, I realise this goes against the grain for you, Lindiwe …” Ramaphosa looked at Lindiwe Sisulu seated at the far end of the table; she was known for her dislike of whites “…  and for many others.

“You have good reason. But this is not the time for vengeance. Let’s get our priorities right. Change will take time. School alone is for ten years, a university education at least another three, usually more. So be patient. It took China thirty years to drag millions of its citizens out of the mud Mao left them in. And look at how their patience has paid off. We have had twenty three years in power and look at what we have – a mess. We do not promise miracles but we will do the best to uplift the quality of life of our people as quickly as possible within our financial and other means.

“Before Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980 both Mozambique’s President Machel and Zambias’s President Kaunda, himself no angel, strongly advised President Mugabe to do his utmost to retain his small white population.

“Politically, they pointed out, whites were irrelevant. They numbered little more than a quarter million in Rhodesia. Mugabe was all sweetness and light at first then drove out whites as fast as he could. The result: a once fantastically productive country is economically down the tubes and his own black people are much worse off than they were.

“Our white population numbers about about five million. That’s against some 35 to 40 million blacks back in 1900, when apartheid died. And many more whites than you realise were on the side of the ANC.

“Mandela took that advice, which he had realised by himself anyway, and he succeeded. Then along came Mbeki and Zuma and opened their big mouths racially and the whites began to leave in droves, taking not just their money but their expertise. South African whites have hugely enriched the skills and brain power of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even America. People forget that many of the most significant academic, medical and technical advances in the world today came from South Africa.

“And our colour-mad leaders after Mandela threw it all away.

“Okay, I am boring you with history and a lot of what you know already. But it must be said, and it must be put on record as we are doing now, because we are starting afresh.

“We will welcome back into South Africa all of those who have departed and also anyone from anywhere else in the world who has the skills, imagination and willingness to join and improve our society. It goes without saying they must be non-racial. We will reward them and give them guarantees. We will ask them to train our black and brown citizens who were deprived of learning for 42 years.”

Looking increasingly tired, Ramaphosa switches off his mike and wipes his face again with his white handkerchief. A mutter of excited discussion arises from the gathering while he and his two advisors put their heads together. They sip spring water. It is getting warm in here.

They wait for ten minutes while those seated move about to stretch their legs.

Professor Johnson rises to his feet. Hands clasped in front of him, he looks around the room until the chatter subsides. He has a mellow demeanour and is known for a calm confidence which adds pungency to his comments.

“We will put before you now the names of the ten people provisionally selected for our inner cabinet, for your approval, we hope. Some of them will surprise you and I am sure there will be objections. We have to start somewhere and we have given many, many hours to this since long before the change. Our choice and the way in which we have gone about it is well within the framework of the constitution, according to our State legal advisors.

“Mr Ramaphosa here is our new president, of course, and I hope you will give him the honour he has earned by his success and the policies he has promised.”

A burst of clapping and some cheering stops Johnson, who waits patiently until the noise subsides and those who rose to their feet sit down again.

“Our deputy president will be Trevor Manuel …” Again he stops as an even louder burst of applause drowns his voice. “… I think you will all agree, whatever party you belong to, that he is a man of international stature renowned for his excellence as our first Minister of Finance and a benchmark for the competence Mandela brought to our then government.”

Manuel, looking more mature and plumper than in his earlier days of fame, smiles easily and nods to the crowd.

“His voice has been a powerful influence on the voters and will be even more so now, and also on the investors we so desperately need. We could not ask for better. He has a precious depth of understanding and experience of this party and country.

“I have one more Cabinet appointment – in fact, two in one – to tell you of and then I will hand over to President Ramaphosa, who I think wants to tell you himself about the rest of his surprises.

“Our Minister of Finance will be Mr Pravin Gordhan.”

Another burst of applause stops him in his tracks. In this crowd no politician is more popular than Pravin Gordhan.

“In the past three years this man has demonstrated more than adequately against huge odds that he is a true South African and totally loyal member of the ANC who puts country above party and ideology.

“When reorganising the office of the Receiver of Revenue Mr Gordhan came under a cloud of allegations, rumours and slander that he was diverting taxpayers’ money into his and his friends’ pockets. They were downright lies, a political ploy by people in the Gupta-Zuma cabal who feared he was getting too close to their underground activities in the Receiver and Treasury offices.

“I can assure you Mr Gordhan is absolutely committed to eradicating corruption and has already saved the nation billions while he held the strings of the purse. His competence in all things financial is beyond question. With his high intelligence he will bring great calm and rationality to any situation the government has to deal with. More than anybody else he knows the manipulations and the manipulators who have to be sorted out to drain the swamp Zuma and the Guptas have made of our country.”

Gordhan sits halfway down the long table. People beside and behind him crowd around to pat him on the back and shake his hand.

“He will have as his deputy minister the same man he had before, Mcebisi Jonas. It was Mcebisi who blew the lid off the Zuma-Gupta can of worms when they tried to bribe him. Since then he has been the target of enough mud to build another Nkhandla and much of it still sicks. Like blood, it is not easy to wash off even though it is fake.

“Between these  two – Gordhan and Mcebisi – we have a large and vital store of information about how the corrupters went about their business. These two will enjoy special protection.”

Johnson sits and pushes the microphone over to Ramaphosa, who remains seated.

“I will name the new ministers in order of the priority their portfolios will have,” he says, “Please don’t get the idea that this is a bucket list, that we will first tackle the Number One and then Number Two and so move on one by one. We will tackle them all at once but some have greater urgency than others.

“The first portfolio on my list is Police.” A surprised silence followed his words. “Police” meant many different things to many people in South Africa, from Zuma’s private army to shelter the plundering of the State, to collaborators with and suppliers of arms to the highly organised criminal gangs, even to – in rarer instances – a real police force.  But it was not expected to be a top priority.

“We have had seven police commissioners since 1995,” says Ramaphosa, “and all but two have been kicked out for crimes or maladministration or having charges hanging over them or for ignorance. Of the other two one was a competent cop, General van der Merwe. Unfortunately he was an ardent National Party man and that’s one position where we have to have our own man.

“The other is our recently appointed acting commissioner General Lesetja Mothiba who has a clear record with considerable experience and hopefully will be with us rather longer than his predecessors.

“This record of police command and administration since the force became ours is absolutely appalling. No country in the world can claim to be properly governed unless it has a well led, efficient, accountable and respectable police force and capable minister. Ours are not. There is no cohesive control over this body of armed men and women with almost 2000 policemen and 1400 police stations – a ridiculously small and futile number for a country of over fifty million people.

“Do you know that because of the incompetence of the SAPS the private sector hires nearly half a million private security officers – more than the SAPS and the defence force combined. The police have even had to hire private security to guard some of their stations.

“There is no strong leadership, no real command and no unity. It is full of divisions and sub-divisions, some competing or undermining, some with dubious records and objectives they appear to make up themselves. There are personal feuds between senior men who are supposed to lead, not fight – a terrible model for the thousands under their command.

“It is shocking that nearly half our policemen are illiterate or semi-literate and even more are innumerate beyond the basic arithmetic they need to check their wage slips and receipts at a Pick n Pay till.

“It is even more shocking – in fact it is a disgrace to the nation and to our former regime – that thousands of police weapons from pistols to R5 rifles have been, and I quote, ‘lost or stolen from or sold by’ SAPS officers. And that thousands more pistols and other guns surrendered to the police by trusting citizens under new licensing legislation have also disappeared into the criminal limbo.

“What in hell has happened to our society?” Ramaphosa demands, “We have become a happy hunting ground for every kind of criminal in Africa. After 42 years of apartheid and all the crazy fighting and racialism since, do we need this too?

“Look at the history of Africa these past fifty, sixty years. It is awash with blood. Most of the coups and wars were started or backed by the only part of government with weapons, the police or, where there wasn’t a police force, the army, which sometimes did both jobs.

“I am not suggesting for a moment that our policemen, or our military for that matter, are about to take up arms against us who now hold the reins of State – in fact I believe the reverse – that they believe in democracy and if anyone tried an armed coup they would stand up against it. The great majority are loyal South Africans, they simply lack leadership.

“However, there is a huge amount of reconstruction to be done in the SAPS to correct the decay of maladministration and political interference for over twenty years. It must be groomed back into an effective, utterly impartial and highly disciplined force which is properly financed, trained, directed and used to maintain democracy .

“We need to think carefully about such things as subsidiary police forces, metropolitan police, railway police and a whole host of other sides to the business of policing objectively and thoroughly. We must consider dividing the SAPS into two broad divisions, one for the cities and towns – the urban areas – and one for the rural areas because the country is so sharply divided between those two and they also represent our wide mix of cultures and traditions.

“It’s going to take a very tough person with a strong will, a natural aptitude for leadership and a vast store of energy. It goes without saying that person must be honest and trusted by the party.

“I have asked Lindiwe Sisulu …” Again there was a shocked gasp from the listeners and Ramaphosa waited until everyone had his attention once more.

“You are surprised? Well so was I when one of my colleagues raised her name but after a thorough scrutiny by myself and others we believe she has the brains, the ANC credentials and history, she is competent, she loves this country and she is tough, very tough. That is what a police force needs. And she has considerable experience in Cabinet including a spell as Minister of Defence, which equips her well for the  task.

“Yes, Lindiwe has also been named in some scandal but who in the ANC hasn’t got some mud sticking to them after so much has been slung around since 1994, especially by our recent leaders. I am satisified that she is clean and will do the job well and she has accepted it. Thank you, Lindiwe.

“We’ll take a short break now before I tell you more. Snacks and soft drinks are waiting outside. Please don’t talk to anyone else about what we are discussing. No media have been allowed inside the building, all cellphone communication has been blocked and we’ll have a Press conference later.”

The high, cool passages and balconies of Sir Abe Bailey’s classic Union Buildings built more than a century ago to mark the creation of South Africa gently echoes the buzz of talk. Most of the people are black with a handful of whites and Coloureds, coincidentally more or less reflecting the national demographics. A small bunch moves further down a broad corridor to light up cigarettes while they admire the view to the west over Pretoria’s tree-gentled suburbs. Gwede Mantashe, ANC secretary-general, and Blade Nzimande, former Minister of Higher Education, chat quietly in a corner as they sip tea.

So much history has passed across these stone-flagged floors in the past century, Today will see much more, possibly the most important for the present century.

“Right, everyone,” Ramaphosa stands up and says when the last of the audience has returned to the big room, “Back to business. I will be as brief as I can but for reasons you’ll understand, I’ll have to expand on some matters.

“Now, to the South African National Defence Force. It is certainly not the very well run, equipped and competent fighting machine we took over in 1994. Nor is it as good as our own Mkhonto se Sizwe was then. No …” Ramaphosa raises both hands, palms forward, when a mutter comes from several parts of the room where some MK veterans and a few men in army and navy uniform stand, “… I am not about to indulge in comparisons or make odious inferences, nor to criticise our fighting men, only the people who misused them up. I am looking ahead, not back and I am dealing with facts.

“As those of you here from the SANDF will know, what we have now is a defence force not tailored to our specific needs but a mishmash left over after it was used as an excuse to line the pockets of certain politicians and businessmen.

“I am not talking about our military personnel. With the exception of a few political appointees, they are as good as any. Their standards of performance, discipline and duty have improved markedly since the force was all but ruined by political tinkering and neglect in the 1990s.

“We have sent military peacemakers into a number of conflicts in other states. We have lost lives there although they performed well. They would have performed much better had they been better equipped, trained and looked after in terms of war material, accommodation, food, clothing and their pay,  and better disciplined.

“Look at our navy. We have over three thousand kilometres of coastline and to defend that what did they get? Four fancy frigates and three fancier submarines bought for billions with little respect for our requirements.

“The frigates with all their modern gadgetry might be useful if we are attacked by the navy of Kenya or Gabon or Swaziland. They are great ships but meant to be part of a balanced naval force with a full array of warships to meet all contingencies.

“And submarines? Why submarines for heaven’s sake? Nobody has ever explained why we need submarines, expensive toys we look after so poorly that only one is in service at any time.

“If we ever become involved in a full-scale war, which is extremely unlikely, God knows, our navy will vanish in weeks. The gigantic sums of money spent to satisfy the need and greed of politicians and profiteers could long ago have paid for most of our housing needs, or provided free education from top to bottom, and maybe even a decent national health service.

“Or, at much less expense, it could have bought us what we need, a large fleet of smaller craft that can constantly cover our territorial waters with enough weaponry and air force backup to deal with everything from abalone poachers to foreign factory ships using fleets of poachers.

“The strike craft used by the apartheid regime demonstrated how well that approach works. There is no harm in using a good idea even if if is the enemy’s.

“And again, our air force has a squadron of fancy Gripen fighters and other costly toys but cannot use them fully because of lack of maintenance, the high cost of flying them and not enough trained pilots. Half of them are in mothballs. And why do we need them? Who is going to attack us by air?

“The only thing that keeps the navy and air force going is the men serving in them. They are both heavily dependent on high-tech equipment and they do their best in spite of the red tape tangles by politicians.”

Ramaphosa stops again to mop his glistening face with his large handkerchief. He knows his listeners may become restless.

He stuffs the handkerchief into a trouser pocket and takes a deep breath.

“Okay,” he said, “So what will we do to clean up this Augean stable? We will appoint as our new Minister of Defence  General Bantu Holomisa.”

The reaction is loud and mixed. Cries of astonishment, lots of clapping, a great deal of chatter, a few angry shouts.

Holomisa is an astute politician and strong leader, down to earth and short on crowd-stirring rhetoric, and respected. But he is also leader of a political party in opposition to the ANC, the United Democratic Movement, which has long hovered hesitantly between left and right, a tricky balancing feat in the gales of South Africa’s change.

This breach of total ANC rule rocked the assembled gathering, all party loyalists although they might not support the Zuma regime. They expected change, yes, but within the party hegemony.

Ramaphosa senses the wave of shock and anxiety from the floor and a touch of anger. He was expecting it. But you don’t make fresh omelettes without fresh eggs.

By his sheer presence on-stage Ramaphosa dominates the crowd. He seems to gather strength and increase in size as he stands there, erect, his large face creased in a frown. This could be a make or break point.

“I can understand your surprise and it won’t be the only one you get,” he rumbles, “so I must make it absolutely clear right now why and how we are choosing the people who will guide us out of the mess we are in.

“South Africa comes first, not any political party. The ANC will stay in power because the voters chose us. We will pick the best people wherever they come from, except the lunatic extremists. Just because General Holomisa is in the cabinet does not mean he will pollute our policy or our power. The policy of his own party doesn’t differ much from ours anyway. And he has the brains, the training, the experience and the personality to command. He also has the political background.

“We don’t want ‘yes-men’ in government. If there is disagreement between us, so be it. We, the ANC, will always be in charge but we are open to ideas. We want people up top with the skills to fix our country and improve the lives of all. He can uplift the three arms of our defence force to defend us against any attack, highly improbable though that is, to keep them on their toes and keep them busy in time of peace.

“He has accepted our offer and I am damned sure he will make a good job of it.”

The assembly is quiet while they ponder the president-elect’s words. This is not a ruler’s option ANC members had considered seriously. They were nurtured by intelligentsia like Tambo and Mandela and Hani and Luthuli and Sisulu and many more. And their ranks contained skilled people educated in everything from philosophy to carpentry. Well, except running a country – the nuts and bolts of governing.

Not that this realisation slipped immediately into the minds of those present although it had been an underlying worry for many.

“So,” says Ramaphosa, “if there’s anybody else who still wants to quit, now is the time to say so. Anyone? No? Good, because there are, as I said, more surprises to come with similar deviations and caveats from our old, petrified ANC dogma.

“Now I will give you an another appointment. I think you will all cheer because it involves an exceptionally capable, high profile and powerful ANC executive whom probably not one of you trusts, which is probably his best testimonial.

“The job is Minister of National Security. I don’t have to tell you how important that is. Police, defence and almost every other government department depends on this ministry’s watchdog overview and direction. It looks after you, it will detect and help us to destroy every threat from spying to corruption. It’s not after incompetence – that’s the job of another minister.

”We have all those intelligence departments I mentioned, all competing to outdo each other at sheltering their friends milking the treasury and protecting their own interests. They will all be disbanded and their heads and members fired unless they are worth keeping … and I mean fired.

“There will be one and only one ministry of national security and intelligence, both internally and externally. It will report directly to the core cabinet and get its orders from us. We will report regularly to parliament on its activities, obviously without doing a Wikileaks – no sane government on earth can do that.

“And we have exactly the right man to find out everything and to guard the nation’s security and keep secrets. He  knows the ins and outs of labour and capitalism better than anyone, maybe better than I do. He knows you better than I do. He is Gwede Mantashe, at present our ANC secretary general.”

This time the applause is loud and unanimous. Everybody knows Mantashe or about him. He is feared and respected. He is renowned for being frankly outspoken, even in criticising the party and its leaders, and for changing his tune by a hundred and eighty degrees when it fits the national climate, or his audience, or the political situation, or his own survival. He is a totally loyal ANC man but unpredictable. He is, simply, devious.

In African politics devious is a huge plus.

Ramaphosa is relieved by the response to this appointment. He had expected some sharp opposition because in his long ANC career the round little secretary general with his distinctive spade beard and avuncular manner was known to be as ruthless as he was charming. There were people among this audience who had felt the sting of his lash; not even the president was beyond its reach, as Zuma knew well.

“I don’t have to tell you anything more about Pravin Gordhan. You have seen him in action. We have appointed him not only because he is an outstanding minister who upgraded our revenue service into one of the best in the world, and also the Treasury, but because he knows who is trying to rob us and how they are doing it.

“He will get them,” Ramaphosa says vehemently, “They will find our prisons a little less comfortable than their suites in Dubai.” It earns him a burst of laughter.

“He will command the treasury and appoint the receiver, with cabinet approval of course. He is our financial bodyguard protecting your money. The money we need to build homes, provide services, help generate industry and jobs, and support the poor, old and sick. Third time is lucky. Pravin has got this supremely important task not because it’s his third time but because he is good.

“Look after this man.”

“Next on our list is a ministry closely linked to finance – Economic Development, which will include trade and industry. They are almost twins and will work hand in hand, each heavily dependent on the other. Without a sensible finance policy we will not have development and without development we won’t have the money to run the country.

“There will be big changes in this department, however. It will be expanded to take under its wing all the state-owned enterprises, some of which have given us our biggest headaches and have been the source of our worst corruption and maladministration. There are many. Just two of them, Prasa and South African Airways, respectively ran up illegal debts of R3.5 billion and R14 billion … nearly eighteen billion rands!Ramaphosa emphasies the sum with a crash of his fist on the table. “Imagine what we could have done to boost development and create jobs!

“That is a big load for one ministry but all of these enterprises are basic to our economy, they are closely interlinked and now most must be under one hat. There are some other state operations which, though very much part of development, will come under other ministries because they have special circumstances, like fisheries.

“As I said, this ministry will also take responsibility for trade and industry, the meeting point between government and private enterprise. The previous regime turned it into a battleground. That must change. They must plough the field together.

“I must make it very clear now that our government is not Marxist-communist. Communism is as dead as Stalin. Even some of our own communists concede that, particularly those who have made themselves capitalists through the state tender process. It has collapsed throughout the world except in a couple of lunatic states like North Korea. Development cannot happen without capitalism and it is our business to encourage and use capitalism without killing it by trying to squeeze the last drop of wealth out of it.

“Let the capitalists make their money. They are the innovators, the clever blacks and whites who put their own money at risk. They deserve their profits. But they must share some with us to make it possible for them to work here – a large part but not most.

“We are a socialist government. We will plough that money first back into the welfare of our people by finding them jobs, giving them land and decent homes and services and transport. And toilets.” Laughter.

“But not for free. We expect all South Africans to make an effort to help us in this. Sure, we will continue support for the sick and old and poor but we cannot afford to go on increasing it without bankrupting the nation, as the Zuma regime almost did to buy votes.

“The Minister for Economic Affairs and Development is almost a clone of his expert colleague in finance, Pravin Gordhan. He is Nhlanha Nene, another former finance minister until the evil powers fired him for blocking their grab of the treasury. There cannot be a better team to run finance and development than Gordhan and Nene. We will depend on them heavily in the future.”

The applause is shorter this time, not because of disapproval – Nene is a highly popular figure in South Africa – but because it is becoming repetitive.

“Because the load on the department of economic development will be heavier than those of others, Nhlanha will have two deputy ministers, one devoted exclusively to major state-owned enterprises like energy and the South African Airways. One of these, I can tell you, will be a man I have lured from the Democratic Alliance because I know he will be good at the job and he too puts South Africa first. He is David Maynier, another expert in things financial. The other I will announce later.”

There are some gasps of surprise at this but the audience is impatient and the crowd waits for Ramaphosa to carry on.

“Everything these and the other ministries do will be held very strictly to the tenets of our constitution and there will be no more attempts to bulldoze or worm a way through it, as the Zuma faction and their Gupta gurus tried so many times to do.

“All proposed legislation will be scrutinised by our state legal experts before being put forward to save the time and expense of innumerable court challenges as occurred before, at enormous expense to taxpayers. The legal profession must be one of the most thriving in the country.

“We will prevent this over-burdening of the judiciary. To streamline its operations we will transfer correctional services, that is the prisons, out of the justice department and replace it with the national prosecuting authority, with a deputy minister to handle it. They are, after all, two legs of the same body.

“And I am sure you will be pleased to know that our Minister of Justice will be one of our most highly respected jurists, Judge Dikgang Moseneke.”

This time the barrage of applause is uninhibited and prolonged. Moseneke is universally admired. Disliked by the Zuma regime for his integrity and judicial brilliance, he had twice been passed over for the post of Chief Justice. Instead they appointed Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng – a move which backfired because Mogoeng was no less brilliant and honest than  Moseneke.

The retired judge stands up at the far end of the table while the clapping continues. Lindiwe Sisulu, sitting beside him, smiles hugely and reaches up with both hands to clasp his arm in a gesture of praise.

Ramaphosa uses the interruption to drink water and again mop sweat from his head. He is pleased with the way things are going. He had expected the meeting to become heated at certain points, such as his announcement of David Maynier. There are more like that to come, he knows.

“We cannot expected our Chief Justice with his already large workload and a plethora of hearings in all the courts, many politically motivated, to handle the prosecution service too so we will give him a deputy minister to do that.

“The deputy has a massive clean-up ahead. Prosecutions is in a parlous state thanks to the resignations of so many after the ANC took over, the poor legal knowhow and limited practical inexperience of most we have now, and the obstacles created by a police force which doesn’t know how to prepare cases properly. There are huge delays in all the courts from the magistrates’ up and we have people sitting in prison on remand for longer than the sentences they might have received for their alleged crimes. Dockets are missing, some stolen, some sold, some simply lost in a jungle of files.

“That’s not justice. It is ridiculous and terribly unjust. We haven’t chosen this deputy yet because we’re looking for someone with a talent for administration and the energy and ability to clear up the tangle urgently as well as find and train prosecutors.

“Another department in an equally bad state needing a leader who can wield an administrative axe is correctional services, a polite phrase for prisons. It, too, is closely linked with police, prosecutions and justice.

“You all know how bad conditions are inside prisons and how over-strained the staff are trying to cope. Some prisons have two or three times the number of occupants they were designed for and we are building more. We try to treat prisoners humanely, so much so that there are gangsters who regard a stretch inside as a holiday with better food than they get back home.

“You have seen that BBC feature on Pollsmoor, one of our supposedly better prisons? It shows us in an awful light with massively over-crowded cells, sexual abberation, and a gang leader doing time for murder who still runs his gang from his cell.

“Well we are giving this Herculean task to a former civil servant turned politician and now turned Minister of Prisons, the DA’s shadow minister of justice, Glynnis Breytenbach. This will be a real test of her patriotism and her skills.”

Ramaphosa reaches across to touch Sipho Pityana on the shoulder. “Over to you,” he says.

Pityana rises smoothly, every inch the chairman of the board in his tailored grey suit and perfectly knotted tie.

“Let us give our president a break,” he says, “and in any case I want to tell you myself about this next appointment because this man and I are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. He is a communist. I am a capitalist. We both have the same objective: to give our people the best possible standard of life they can attain.

“Put simplistically, his approach is for the State to confer that upon them. Mine is to do it by helping them to help themselves, by creating jobs, by using the country’s resources and their abilities to do so. Communism seeks to build commerce and industry under its control. It has never worked. Communism has never built a self-sustaining, profitable industry except perhaps the manufacture of the AK-47, which has generated more misery than any other weapon except the nuclear bomb.

“The name of this ministry is Cooperative Governance, Provinces, Land Reform and Human Settlements. Its task is also Herculean and one upon whose success South Africa will ultimately stand or fall. As the title tells you, it has many facets, all of them highly sensitive, requiring great intellect, experience and diplomatic tact of the highest order. The main thing they have in common is the need for close contact and liaison between their respective representatives, from provincial premiers to township leaders. In fact it is so large a challenge that I was very reluctant to bundle all these obligations into one ministry, until my colleagues here persuaded me otherwise, and until I came to know better the person who will get the job.

“He is Blade Nzimande, general secretary of our communist party and previously minister of higher education and training, a position well below his capabilities. His appointment will surprise the many of you who don’t know him, apart from the occasional speech he makes in parliament or at ANC gatherings.

“What you don’t know is that Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel ‘Blade’ Nzimande has a PhD in sociology, a master’s in industrial psychology, and a BA in public administration and psychology and he has been a tower of strength within the ANC for decades. His skills and intelligence have been badly under-used by the previous regime. We won’t make that mistake.

“With the aid of three deputy ministers still to be chosen, he will have four distinct although inter-related zones of activity.

“Cooperative government deals with all matters of common concern between the central government and the provincial governments. It is a hectic business because each province has its own character, problems and demands on central government.

“It also has to watchdog the traditional leadership of South Africa’s indigenous communities, that is our tribal leaders and members, and you know how many there are and how prickly they can be.

“This brings us to the ministry’s third big job: land reform. There is no touchier subject in South Africa today than land. Some aspects Dr Nzimande will have to tackle are: should land be taken from white farmers and given to blacks; should the State own all land and lease it to black and white farmers; should the vast amount of land controlled by chiefs and leased to their subjects be opened to private ownership; should people who do not use or who misuse their land have it taken from them?

“Herein lie the seeds of strife. If we do not handle the subject of land justly, fairly and quickly they will grow into big trouble. The ownership of a piece of land is a person’s most fundamental definition of belonging to the country, be it a plot in a city or a giant Karoo sheep farm. To arbitrarily turf people off their land would be devastating to our food production, our economy and our racial stability – as it has to some extent already.”

Pityana pauses, fiddles briefly with a pencil, then  looks up.

“The third cross the ministry has to bear is human settlements. We will rename it housing because that’s what it’s all about – giving everyone in South Africa a decent home to live in. When we came into power the ANC made housing a priority because of the massive migration to the urban areas, of the concomitant appearance of slums like a cancer on the landscape, and of the poor accommodation standards in the rural areas.

“With our exceptionally high level of unemployment – I think nine million was the last figure I heard – the urban slums especially have become a nursery for crime which preys on everyone, black and white and brown, and has earned us the dubious distinction of being one of the most crime-ridden countries on earth.

“Housing will be the special focus Dr Nzimande personally. While monitoring his deputies he will concentrate attention on building homes. But that does not mean merely bricks and mortar and ceilings and windows. He will make make sure that from the outset, from the day the new occupants move in, they will have water, electricity and toilets. This alone will provide thousands of jobs.

“He will ensure that private enterprise collaborates with us and also other government departments such as transport. He will oblige the owners of the new homes to form community bodies to assert authority and encourage improvements.

“Householders will have to pay some rent, of course, the government is not a charity. But it will be reasonable. And people will not be permitted to promptly sell their homes or to sub-let them as a lazy way to get money. Or to cram backyards and sidewalks with shacks. Such abuse of property has been one of the main flaws in the system so far and it will stop now. Irresponsible householders will be ejected.

“One thing we are determined to do is stop this rampant destruction in the guise of protest. Burning down homes schools because people say the government is not providing them with schools and homes is a lesson in lunacy. Protest is a right but it is definitely not a right to damage other people’s rights.

“Okay,” says Pityana, glancing at a note passed to him by Ramaphosa, “Onward and upward. This meeting will not take very much longer, I assure you, and I’m certain you will be excited and, I hope, pleased by what is to come.

“It might not seem very exciting though when you see the size and spread of the next ministry’s duties you will be more scared than thrilled. The problem they have to tackle has bedevilled the country for decades and in the past five years has become so critical it actually threatens the viability of the nation.

“It is water. Nothing can be done – not housing or transport or defence, not growing an economy – without water and we just do not have enough of it.

“To tackle this mammoth task we have the Ministry of Natural Resources and its remit will cover minerals and water, both of which have been almost ruined by political and ideological manipulation and blatant corruption. The mining industry is beginning to return to normality, so the minister’s priority will be to find ways and means to establish and maintain a good supply of water. He will have all the scientific and technical help he wants and call on expertise from around the globe. The mines, too, will be involved, they yield and casually throw away billions of litres of underground water and from now will have to save it.”

Pityana glancesup at the still spellbound crowd and grins wide. “One way we can make a small start to save water will be for those people in the informal settlements to turn off the public taps when they have filled their buckets and bottles and not let them run as if they were the Zambezi river.

“This minister will surprise you, I think. He is Joel Netshitenzhe.

“Joel is one of the most influential people in the ANC, in all parliament for that matter, and a man of unshakeable integrity and the guts to use it. He has played an invaluable role in sorting the wheat from the chaff in the ANC since our policy conference in July 2017. He has much experience in political strategy and remains right up there in the party’s top ranks.

“Joel is also a good organiser and exerts a strong authoritarian character, which is exactly what the job needs. It will involve mind-numbing expenditure and complicated tendering that will undoubtedly attract the Gupta types like crocodiles to a dead hippo. That’s why we want Joel’s power and will.”

“A man who has long been under-rated within the ANC, perhaps because he is a communist and white and the Zuma faction’s policy was racism, is Jeremy Cronin.

“He was Deputy Minister of Public Works and we will keep him there but now as minister. It is not a department which has shone with success, in fact its performance over many years has been so bloody awful that even the Nationalists called it the ‘Please Wait Department’.

“But when you consider the volume of state-owned property it has to take care of you might think twice about its shortcomings. Everything from the urinal in the dry dock in Simon’s Town to the Voortrekker monument to changing the light bulb in the office of the chief justice to patching the potholes in the runways at O R Tambo airport.”

When some in the crowd look shocked, he shakes his head. “Just joking.”.

“Its work overlaps with every other department in government and it is bogged in bureaucracy which, incidentally, will be a job for another department. Jeremy knows public works inside out, he will have top-level assistance, his budget will be adjusted and we believe he will rise to the challenge.

Ramaphosa stands, stretche and pats Pityana on the shoulder. “Thanks Sipho. We’re nearly over for today so let me finish off.” He toys with his pencil for a minute, thinking, then speaks.

“Sipho mentioned the bureaucracy we have to contend with. All our government offices are flooded with paper. It seems to be spreading like a plague although computers with all their supportive technolog are supposed to reduce the use of paper.

“But no, someone seems to invent a new form to fill in, or several new forms, for every action involving our bureaucracy – car licences, passports, building plans, birth certificates … yopu name it, there’s at least one piece of paper attached. It takes over a year to get an expanded birth certificate from Home Affairs, heaven knows why.

“So we have a new ministry whose sole job is to continuously examine, reform and modernise the functions, the records, the chain of decision and what the Brits call the ‘bumf’ across the entire government. This business of documents waiting in someone’s in-tray because that person is too ignorant, lazy or incompetent will cease. It will take a long time to fix but we will do it. Or rather, our new minister will do it, a man you all know well and respect and who has all the competence to do the job thoroughly. He is a former head of our Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, Minister of Public Service and Administration.

“Stopping the flood of paper will endear him to our tree lovers but that is not all he will rule over. As head he will keep a critical eye on every civil servant in the country and even beyond government, to local government. We will rely heavily on Tito’s opinions and decisions in selecting and training civil servants.

“Here I must make it clear that we are not abandoning the standing ANC principle of boosting black people because they have been ignored or disfavoured for centuries in spite of their abilities. The principle has been grossly distorted, however. Black people have been given jobs they are wholly unsuitable for only because they are black. The principle was that if two people apply for a job and are equal in ability, it should go to the black applicant.

“Fair enough. But our Zuma system of patronage placed people in posts they were completely unsuited for. Hence the blow-up of a multi-million rand generator at a power station.  Hence the disablement of one of our submarines. Hence the total stew the Metro railways in Cape Town finds itself in. Hence Dido Myeni. Hence a thousand unnecessary costly court cases. Hence the purchase, thank God since cancelled by court, of coaches which don’t fit our railroads. Hence the maniac effort to commit us to a trillion rand expenditure on nuclear power stations we neither need nor can afford – and which would have enormously expanded in cost. Hence Brian Molefe. Hence … I can go and on but what’s the point, you all know it already.

“You also know Home Affairs …” a concerted groan rose from the gathering, like a moan of pain. Black South Africans had been subjected to bearing passes and carrying other pieces of paper for generations while whites lived almost document-free. Since the ANC government took over, the exasperating load had become worse, not better, like chains around their lives.

“Yes, I see you do know,” Ramaphosa smiles, “Well it has  given us the opportunity to bring back into the cabinet a man almost everybody admires who should have been president instead of Zuma – Kgalema Motlanthe.”

“Yeah!” calls a voice from the back, “about time!” People begin clapping until Ramaphosa raises his hands again for quiet.

“Okay, now you have him and you have a man with the the mental energy and determination to stamp out the drastic incompetence and wildfire corruption that runs through that department from top to bottom. This is one area that will see more heads rolling than balls into a Bafana goal.

“Most of you who have met him now him as an always fair man who has gone out of his way to be kind, gentle and  helpful. He demonstrated this amply by working for the ANC since boyhood in Johannesburg, then during his brief terms as deputy president and president. He wasn’t a frontline fighter in the trenches but he risked his life many times ferrying our men in and out of Swaziland until he was caught and sent to Robben Island for ten years.

“Kind and gentle, sure, but behind that is a man as hard as nails which Home Affairs will soon come to realise. He was one of the first to see and decry the rot in the Zuma administration and its drastic deviation from ANC principles. Welcome back from your unnecessary retirement, Kgalema.”

Ramaphosa claps his hands as the well-dressed, bearded veteran of South African politics, now 68 years old and looking remarkably fit, stands up mid-way down the table and half bows to the audience.

“That gives us a core of ten for the Cabinet and not necessarily in order of priority,” says Ramaphosa, “All have one common factor, however, which is urgency.

“We will eventually have a total of 26 ministers against the 35 before and their 39 deputies – most of them there because of patronage at vast salaries, not because we needed them.

“You will see we have radically reduced the number of portfolios to reduce administration and so save time and expense, or because we think they are unnecessary. Do we need ministries for small business development, social development and science and technology when they can be sufficiently catered for under one of our existing ministries? We will help them, naturally, via other departments.

“And bear in mind with each one we can do without, we also dispense with fleets of expensive vehicles and bodyguards and heavy costs in hotels and air transport.

“You might not have noticed we have not retained the ‘Ministry of Women in the Presidency’ which will undoubtedly trigger a huge outcry from the ANC Women’s League. We don’t need a ministry for women. The previous president was surrounded by them all his life as history shows, so much so they ruled him, which is why it existed. Women virtually dominate our lives anyway and we have plenty in the cabinet, so why should they be more equal than the rest of us …” with a grin “… we’ve never had a Ministry of Men.” He pauses amid laughter and some jeers.

“One ministry which is at least as important as the presidency itself although we have not yet made a fuss about it is education. It is in a very serious condition complicated by issues like mother-tongue teaching, fees, a shortage of schools – with no thanks to those so-called ‘protestors’ who keep torching them – and the supply of good textbooks.

“Without education a country cannot uplift itself from the mud of the Middle Ages. There are still countries in Europe, the most advanced part of the world, which have progressed very little from their predecesssors of five centuries ago in spite of the modern trappings of cars and TV and MacDonald’s, as a result of educational neglect.

“It will take us generations to catch up even to the mid-level states of educational evolution in South America and the Far East. You cannot pump ten years of knowledge and the wits to use it into a child in one or two years. It’s a long and sometimes painful haul and we must dedicate all our effort and resources to make sure that our children – your children – will be stand proud and equal when they become adults. Most of you here were lucky enough to get decent educations from private or missionary schools or abroad, or you were simply very bright. Make sure your kids are as fortunate.

“We are keeping this Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor. She is very good but has been shunted around from ministry to ministry so often she has never been able to take hold long enough to make a real difference. She rebuilt the education system when she was minister for several years but unfortunately was shunted out of that job in one of Zuma’s incessant reshuffles.

“There is no question of her integrity or ability and this time we will provide her with the wherewithal and support to turn education into the engine of South Africa.

“Her department will cover both basic and higher education and training and for this she will need a deputy. Higher education – universities and technical and other colleges – can largely look after themselves under supervision, after all they are loaded with well-educated academics. Schools, from primary up, require special attention especially as so many are in the remoter parts of the country where it is difficult to provide them with teachers and services.We want education to be accessible to every child even if their parents cannot afford it. For the time being we will leave her with the present educational deputies, Enver Surty and Mduduzi Manana

“Many of you will think we have overlooked one of the State’s most important services: health. Well we haven’t. With a few exceptions the nation’s health service is itself critically ill for a variety of reasons. With the exception of a few outstanding instances, the State’s hospitals have gone into such serious decline that it is said of some that patients are sicker when they are discharged than when they are admitted.

“There are many reasons for this including the emigration of many of our doctors, the fall in the standards of nurse training, poor hospital management and inadequate technology and maintenance. And also a drop in ethical standards, like people going into nursing not from goodwill but for the money.

“We will devote a great deal of capital to this service, probably more than to defence and education because it serves every one of our fifty five million people.

“The surprise for you is that we have again chosen from the Opposition. Our man is Jack Bloom, who has spoken out so  ferociously in the Gauteng legislature for improvement in health services there and against the lethal serious incompetence and corruption.

“This took a lot of persuasion, believe me, but as I said earlier, this government’s priority is South Africa, not party, and on that principle he agreed. He has been one of the most active and outspoken members of any legislature in the country.

“Now, for some others. Our new man for labour is the one who knows more about it than anyone else because his influence was the strongest in setting up the trade unions as a force in our lives. The Minister of Labour will be Zwelinzima Vavi. You all know him or about him so I don’t have to go into his background in detail. Let me simply say he was railroaded out of Cosatu for something for which far more senior people have received not even a slap on the wrist, not even our ex-president. The knowledge and leadership skills he brings us are profound.

“Our Foreign Affairs Minister is another ANC old guard, a party veteran well schooled with our ways who left us years ago in a dispute over a matter which in today’s light is trivial. He is Mosiuoa Lekota, a true gentleman liked by all. He formed COPE but it has never had real hope of being more than a political mosquito and we are praying that his followers will join him in our ranks.

“We have brought the fishing industry, the source of much conflict and confusion because so many fishermen and bureaucrats kept changing their minds, under the control of our Ministry of the Environment and Fisheries. That’s where it belongs if it is to survive. As you well know we have one of the richest fishing grounds in the world surrounding our country west, south and east and it is being raped by our own poachers and unscrupulous industrial fishermen from abroad.

“With the help of a revised navy that will have a coastguard role we will put a stop to that with heavy penalties. Factory ships operating in our territorial waters could be seized and sold.

“In charge of this ministry will be a woman … yes, another woman … who has kept a low profile, Ayanda Dlodlo. She has been a minister and a deputy minister in various departments and has formidable qualifications in management. Her work previously involved transport, harbours, and security here and in the UK and USA so this will be a complete change of scene and pace, which I’m sure she will find refreshing.

“Tourism will remain under Derek Hanekom. Evidence of his success at this is the enormous increase in our tourism industry in recent years and its continuing growth despite the violence blighting our image abroad.

“My last shock for you today is the Minister of Agriculture. For the same reasons Jack Bloom agreed to work with us, we have taken on board Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus. They are a right-wing, white and mainly Afrikaner party, but they are very much South Africans and Mulder can always pull out if he and his party so wish. I hope not because if anybody knows anything about profitable farming in South African conditions it is our Afrikaners and a large population of black people depend on them.

”This department’s first duty will be to establish ways and means to help teach our black farmers how to achieve the best results. Both white and black farmers will have to overcome all kinds of prejudices but if they do not succeed, they will die. It is as simple as that. Farmers who resist, or waste land by ill use, will be penalised. Land will be taken away from them.

Rather to Ramaphosa’s surprise, the announcement of Mulder does not cause the uproar he expected. Several people around the table are nodding approval, otherwise the gathering produces only a few murmurs of surprise. Though very small, the calm and practical contributions in Parliamentary debate by the FFPlus party had had significant influence although it was vilified by the majority of black people.

“Our new Minister of Social Welfare is a brilliant woman with a doctorate in administration who is now studying in London for a masters in finance. In her years in Parliament she has chaired two of our standing committees and we couldn’t find a better candidate for the post and to clean up the costly morass of SASSA. She is Dr. Makhosi Busisiwe Khoza, who has stuck to her guns despite threats against her and her family from the corrupted members of the ANC.

“Her addition raises the level of education, intelligence and experience in our new Cabinet far higher than it was in the old one and far better equipped to deal with our daunting problems.

“We still have to appoint a ministry of art and culture and will include sport in the portfolio, it being very much a part of our wealth of cultures.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, concludes this meeting. The information we have given you is being made public through all the media as we speak so you are free to discuss it in public as much as you wish.

“Having realised the extent of the corruption and mismanagement eroding our nation and begun rooting it out, we hope with our new Cabinet to make a fresh start towards a new South Africa that will strive for the highest standards of efficiency and accountability. I know those are just words, but we mean it. Without an integrated, inclusive South Africa where each helps the other and respects their special characteristics, we will not survive.

“God bless you all, and good luck.”




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