Last week I plucked a few omens out of the ether to highlight the good vibes around Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration.
In the past few days, he gave me one more - 28.
That’s the number of ministers he reduced the cabinet to; the same number that Nelson Mandela settled on in 1994.
By doing so, Ramaphosa immediately reduced our salaries expense by R21 million a year.
Of course there’s been criticism that it’s not enough, but whichever way you look at it, reducing expenses by addressing a bloated cabinet something most citizens agree with.
And then warning those 28 ministers that they will be signing performance agreements is a stroke of PR genius.
Top executives the world over have to meet a set list of expectations from their shareholders, or face the chop.
That’s how they justify earning top salaries.
So a performance yardstick is the least we (SA’s shareholders) can expect from a minister earning around R200 000 a month.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could enforce performance agreements against ordinary MPs as well?
Just imagine if a performance agreement was the price MPs had to pay for our votes!
But that’s a fantasy for me to dream about another day.
At least one of the new ministers appears determined to make sure she performs well and proves her critics wrong.
Surprise appointment, Patricia de Lille says she plans to use her Public Works and Infrastructure portfolio to address spatial transformation more effectively.
And that means Aunty Pat will be directly responsible for releasing government-owned land in the CBDs of the country and building affordable housing so poorer people can be closer to job opportunities.
De Lille is being vilified as a sell-out who is being rewarded for working with the ruling party.
This is, of course, nonsense, as she could very well prove to be a thorn in their side, as she has been before.
I do believe this is a swansong opportunity for her to address a very important issue in the country.
The fact that people who earn the least, still have to spend most of their income on transport to get to work; wake up earlier to travel further; leave their families for longer so they can provide comforts for privileged families are all legacy spatial challenges that De Lille is passionate about.
It’s going to make her very unpopular with some people, because it will mean affordable housing possibly coming up in the heart of Camps Bay or Constantia for poorer families.
But it will mean a sudden burst of access and disposable income for masses of South Africans, which will be a legacy she will be proud of, in what is in all likelihood her last tenure as a public servant.
De Lille is not just the only non-ANC cabinet minister, she also represents an overhaul that brings our cabinet to a 50/50 gender balance.
And those of you who read this page regularly will know my public support for women leading us into the future, since we men have pretty much messed up the past in every conceivable way imaginable.
Except for the ministers of Health, Higher Education and Police, I believe Ramaphosa put women in charge of some of our most critical challenges, where a strong maternal instinct could benefit the entire nation.
I imagine these women out-performing their male counterparts (based on those performance contracts), so that one of them will end up being our first female president in 2024.
How is it that Africa’s strongest economy trails behind countries like Malawi, Mauritius, Liberia and now even Ethiopia, when it comes to female leaders?
This is another field we should’ve been leading in.
A final bit of good news from our new political era comes from the wish list of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, who also appears determined to keep his ministers on the straight and narrow.
He wants to implement something that I have been advocating for years lifestyle audits.
This is a very simple way to tell whether politicians are involved in corrupt activities.
Winde wants to make sure that his ministers aren’t living larger than their salaries allow, so he wants to scrutinise their assets, companies, trusts and whether they have left anything out of their declarations of conflict of interest.
Beyond that, he also wants to restrict business class flights to Joburg and the government cars they can buy and rent with taxpayers’ money.
It’s a very simple tool, that’s also long overdue.
And in time, I reckon it will also determine the type of individual that ends up in government.
When there’s very little to no room for dishonesty, the job loses some of its attractiveness.