Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

WHEN in doubt, a Cabinet reshuffle is not a bad idea. And the rumour mill has it that President Jacob Zuma is doing exactly that — planning his sixth reshuffle in as many years.

Cabinet reshuffle rumours tend to be inaccurate in terms of the names of the people to be axed, as well as those making their way in. And the timing, too, is often wrong. That is partly because a lot of last-minute horse trading takes place.

Also, Mr Zuma is a hugely unpredictable animal.

But after five reshuffles — excluding the mandatory new Cabinet when his second term started — his actions can be deconstructed with a degree of confidence.

The shake-ups are usually a work of political expediency — the managing of party dynamics often coinciding with political pressure. The looming rating downgrades, for example, are an albatross.

But some of the reshuffles are forced on him by corruption scandals. Think Sicelo Shiceka, Gwen Mahlangu and Bheki Cele.

News now is that Mr Zuma has his sights trained on the Treasury and the Department of Energy.

A source says that Nhlanhla Nene is to make way for a backbencher in the form of one Des van Rooyen, a malleable member of Parliament’s finance committee.

It’s worth noting, though, that the Treasury and the Reserve Bank have in the past been treated as sacrosanct institutions, to which only the cream of the crop have been deployed.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi is, according to the rumour mill, to be moved to Energy, replacing Tina Joemat-Pettersson. This would be an eye-popping move, but definitely not desirable. But it’s much of the same in the bigger scheme of things, since both women have not covered themselves in glory.

Maybe Ms Muthambi has the edge over Ms Joemat-Pettersson because of the overzealous way in which she pushes for what she deems is in Mr Zuma’s interest.

Energy is one of the departments responsible for policy matters when it comes to the controversial nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, the Treasury has dragged its feet in providing funds for the nuclear deal, the apex procurement programme of the Zuma era.

The little that it has provided in the medium-term strategic framework is for preliminary scoping and such work, rather than for the actual deal.

The Treasury has also clashed recently with Dudu Myeni, the board chairwoman at South African Airways. Ms Myeni has already claimed two scalps in previous reshuffles, when ministers who stood in her way were shafted.

To manage this reshuffle, Mr Nene could be encouraged to "apply" for a job at one of the multilateral institutions, such as the Brics Bank.

Such a move would give a veneer of credibility to the "official" reasons behind a reshuffle, if it actually happens.

But Mr Zuma keeps his cards close to his chest, unless in the company of good friends such as the Gupta family, believed to have let the Cabinet reshuffle cat out of the bag in the past.