HOME Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's election as head of the African Union (AU) has ignited speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma's departure from the Cabinet has been a long time coming as the government has been campaigning for her since last year. She has also served in the Cabinet as health and foreign affairs minister.

The new vacancy gives President Jacob Zuma another opportunity to assess his Cabinet. He has had three reshuffles in as many years, the last one last month. Their frequency may discourage him from making changes that are too sweeping.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said yesterday Mr Zuma should guard against more big changes. "If I were the president, I would go for a straight replacement (for Dr Dlamini-Zuma).

"There have been so many of reshuffles under Mr Zuma. He needs to be more circumspect and not touch too many portfolios, because that may create a sense of instability."

It was unclear yesterday when Mr Zuma would replace his home affairs minister. However, he appeared keen to have her sworn into her new role immediately.

The president said in a statement yesterday arrangements would swiftly be made by SA. " We will make the necessary adjustment to enable Dr Dlamini-Zuma to commence her new duties as soon as possible," Mr Zuma said.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma has been credited for her contribution to home affairs' turnaround. Her successor will inherit an efficient administration, which received a clean audit last year.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Fatima Chohan may be consider ed for promotion. The fact that she is not a political heavyweight may make her a safe choice, as Mr Zuma would not be seen to be pandering to any interest in the tripartite alliance.

With Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga battling fierce criticism over the Limpopo textbook crisis, this may offer Mr Zuma an opportunity to appoint somebody new to her portfolio.

But this is a more sensitive situation, as opposition parties have already called for Ms Motshekga's head and Mr Zuma will have to manage the effect on the African National Congress's (ANC's) succession politics as well if he were to remove her.

Ms Motshekga is president of the ANC Women's League, which will be vital to Mr Zuma's support in the build-up to the party's elective conference in December.

Once again, eyes will be on National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel. There has been speculation that he is considering resignation. He is instrumental in Mr Zuma's efforts to co-ordinate infrastructure development on the continent, but this is a role he plays while heading the planning portfolio in SA.

Some in the ANC in North West are trying to remove Premier Thandi Modise. There has been speculation that she is a candidate for the home affairs post.

Mr Zuma said he was humbled by Dr Dlamini-Zuma's election.

"Our people should take pride that the heads of state and government of the AU have elected Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to the position of the AU Commission chairperson," he said.

She received 37 of the 51 votes on Sunday evening, in the fourth round of voting.

mkokelis@bdfm.co.za