President Cyril Ramaphosa had some surprises in his reconfigured executive on Wednesday evening, including that of Good party leader Patricia de Lille and former president Jacob Zuma’s lieutenant, David Mahlobo.

Mahlobo’s new role as Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation appeared to be a demotion from his prestigious positions as Minister of State Security and Minister of Energy.

Mahlobo was a subject of many media reports during Zuma’s term.

Chief among these was his attitude toward a nuclear deal for which Zuma desperately campaigned.

Nuclear deal

Shortly after he was appointed energy minister in October 2015, Mahlobo made no secret of his intention to finalise the nuclear power plan which would have meant South Africa would have had to cough up more than R1 trillion, which it did not have.

In November 2015, Mahlobo worked his officials’ weekends to finalise the reviewed integrated energy resource plan four months ahead of schedule, City Press reported.

Mahlobo who admitted to have close ties with Russia was also rumoured to have taken convicts-turned-businessmen Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie to the Kremlin.

He denied these claims.

In July 2015, during violent protests in Limpopo’s Vuwani region where at least 20 schools were torched, Mahlobo, who was then state security minister, admitted receiving intelligence on the protests a year in advance but that he did nothing to prevent the unrest.

While in the same ministry, Mahlobo, who was rumoured to have ties to the Gupta family, announced he would institute an inquiry into claims that former public protector Thuli Mandonsela was a spy.

At the time, Madonsela was investigating state capture.

Spa scandal

Mahlobo was also caught in a lie when he claimed to have known Fees Must Fall activist Mcebo Dlamini who was arrested during the student movement. He recanted his statement shortly after.

Al Jazeera also reported that he visited a brothel, disguised as a spa, in Mpumalanga, which was owned by suspected rhino horn trader Guan Jiang Guang.

Jiang Guang considered him a useful contact, The Citizen reported. Mahlobo was state security minister at the time of the media reports.  

During the announcement on Wednesday evening at the Union Buildings, Ramaphosa said his new executives’ performance would be monitored against specific outcomes. He assured South Africa that if their implementation of duties was unsatisfactory, he would act.

“The people who I am appointing today must realise that the expectation of the South African people have never been higher and never been greater and they should shoulder a great responsibility,” Ramaphosa said, adding that there would be quarterly performance appraisals.

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