Has the Elephant really left the room?

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new lean cabinet is a hot topic in the media at the moment. It is good to notice that Public Enterprises are still in the hands of Pravin Gordhan, and a fresh addition has been added to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) with the appointment of “Aunty Pat”, Patricia de Lille as the new minister, replacing Thulas Nxesi.

However, and it is mere speculation at this early stage, the Department of Employment and Labour, remains a huge question. While the insertion of the word “employment” in the department’s new name is an indication of the country’s commitment to job creation, the over-regulation of small businesses, H&S Officers, and the various benefits for staying unemployed, remains obstacles to job creation and work opportunities.

We have also decided to add responsibility for infrastructure to the Public Works portfolio and to add responsibility for employment to the Labour portfolio.

If we are to make effective progress in building the South Africa that we all want, it is important that we deploy into positions of responsibility people who are committed, capable and hard-working, and who have integrity.” The President said during his Cabinet announcement on Wednesday, 29 May.

Time to tackle poor performance

The Labour department has over the years been criticised for its poor performance in terms of lack of law enforcement, being under-resourced, and the former minister, Mildred Oliphant’s inability to push through some long awaited amendments to the OHS Act and a number of new regulations.

The OHS Bill was approved for tabling on 7 May 2018. Since then, it was never introduced for first reading. The Bill as well as the COIDA amendments, which were to introduce compensation for domestic workers, and a number of draft regulations which was released for public comment, were never introduced or promulgated.

Instead, the focus were on “employment” with the Minimum Wage Act, and amendments to the Labour relations Act.

The DOL is now under the leadership of Thulas Nxesi, formerly from Public works.

The DPW was self not a well-performing department, and various reports on the ineffective Council for the Built Environment, and its 6 sub-ordinate Councils, which includes the ill-fated SACPCMP, have been made over the past 5 years.

Has the problem of the DOL’s poor track record, really been resolved? Only time will tell.

Alongside the DOL, the new broom entering the DPWI, “Aunty Pat” has a great challenge in turning the department around with the additional responsibility for Infrastructure Development. But, knowing her as a person who speaks directly, and not afraid to tackle a bull by both horns, the future of the department may not be as dark as it used to be.

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