Ramaphosa moves to reduce the number of provinces in South Africa

In a bid to be prudent, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa is set to drastically cut down the size of government to save cost.

The president  wants to merge ministries, get rid of deputy ministers, and reduce the number of provinces in South Africa as measures to cut costs.

This is according to reports in the City Press and the Sunday Times, which said these are measures to cut the public wage bill and make the government run more efficiently.

The City Press reported that Ramaphosa is planning to collapse a number of departments and form a “powerful economic department”.

This economic department is set to be formed by a “merger of the departments of small business, trade and industry, tourism, and economic development”.

The president will “dramatically cut the 34-member cabinet after the elections”, which, according to the Sunday Times, should be made up of only 25 ministers and 15 deputy ministers.

“This will reduce the size of the executive he inherited from Jacob Zuma from 72 to 40,” the Sunday Times said.

The ANC’s plan to reduce the number of provinces – a decision which was taken at the party’s conference in Mangaung – is also back on the table.

The latest news follows reports in July 2017 that the ANC was pushing ahead with the reconfiguration of provinces, despite an outcry from opposition parties.

The ANC policy conference called for a presidential commission to be set up and for its work to be completed before the party’s elective conference in December.

The ANC took a decision in 2007 that the number of provinces be reduced to six, instead of nine.

National executive committee (NEC) member Obed Bapela said at the time that the commission would look into the powers, functions, and number of provinces.

“We have to harmonise powers and functions of provinces and local government because, in some areas, there is contestation of space,” Bapela said.


At its 2015 national general council, it again called for a presidential commission, but this has not materialised as yet.

At the time, the ANC faced criticism from opposition parties that this was an attempt to stay in power. However, Bapela denied that the renewed urgency was linked to the upcoming 2019 elections.

“This is a Polokwane resolution, it is as old as that, it has nothing to do with 2019,” he said.

He said the move was motivated by the “concentration of resources” at a provincial level, whilst most of the delivery of services happened at a local government level.

“A lot of money goes to provinces and, when you go to municipalities, the equitable share currently is 9%. It used to be 7% (2007), and yet a lot of service delivery ought to happen at the municipalities,” Bapela said.

Streamlining national government

In February 2016, DA leader Mmusi Maimane detailed the party’s vision to streamline the national government to 15 cabinet ministries, thereby saving R4.6 billion annually.

South Africa’s cabinet has moved from 16 ministries in 1996 to one of 35 – plus an additional 37 deputy ministers.



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