Tue. Jul 23rd, 2019

David Mabuza sworn-in: What does a deputy president actually do?

David Mabuza deputy presidentWith David Mabuza’s return as an MP now made official, he’s set to resume his duties as deputy president. But what does that actually include?

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In a comeback that would make Lazarus blush, David Mabuza has returned to the sixth Parliament after being sworn-in as an MP on Tuesday. His ceremony took place in Pretoria, six days after his colleagues gathered to begin their terms of office. President Ramaphosa told Mabuza “we are now complete” once he’d taken the oath.

David Mabuza sworn-in

Mabuza had to postpone his appearance at the grand swearing-in ceremony in the National Assembly, snubbing the grandiose event in favour of rolling his sleeves up and getting his hands dirty. Well, sort of: He vowed to clear his name after the ANC’s Integrity Commission flagged some issues with the 58-year-old’s previous conduct.

After meeting with the panel, he seemingly convinced them he’s clean enough to resume a role in Cyril Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”. David Mabuza is a man with a reputation, following a turbulent time as Mpumalanga’s premier.

But now he’s returned as an MP – and brushed the competition to one side for the time being – the deputy presidency also beckons for Ramaphosa’s most-recent right-hand man. But then, we got to thinking: What is it that the second-in-command actually does in South Africa?

Roles and responsibilities of a deputy president in South Africa

We can just picture it now: Every time Cyril wants a cup of tea, he asks David to pop the kettle on. Every time he wants some ciggies and a Diet Coke, he asks David to do a store run. But the role is far from being a president’s lackey, and it comes with many individual responsibilities.

Although part of the official job remit is to “assist the President in the execution of the functions of government“, the deputy president has to show some initiative. One of the most challenging parts of this job is that the president can delegate any government portfolio to their deputy.

That means that the person occupying the number-two slot has to be a jack of all trades, without being a master of none. Issues from departments such as Sanitation, Sports or International Relations could end up on their desk.

Part of “The Presidency”

In terms of their wider contribution to South African governance, the deputy president makes up the five people who are officially deemed as “The Presidency”, a term which describes: The president and their deputy, the minister of planning, monitoring and evaluation and their deputy, and the minister of women.

As it stands, Bathabile Dlamini is the current minister of women, and she technically occupies a place in the presidency (pending a cabinet reshuffle). As part of this team, the deputy president takes responsibility for:

  • Providing administrative support to Cabinet, including input on the decision-making of certain ministries.
  • Helping develop policy frameworks, as part of the Policy Coordination Advisory Services.
  • Handling litigation concerning the president and supplying legal advice pertaining to their role.

Stepping up when required

Ahead of his return to the deputy presidency, David Mabuza would also be responsible as a spokesperson for any new policies implemented. It’s a good gig for Cyril: He can push through laws of his choice and make DD deal with the public reaction to them. As well as being an official advisor to the president, acting as deputy comes with another perk.

If the president leaves Mzansi, the deputy president gets to run the country on their behalf. Being second-in-command means literally that, and the ship is left rudderless, it will be up to “the cat” to start steering. The deputy president is also required to fill in for the boss during Parliament, addressing the house on their behalf.

Wait… why is David Mabuza known as “the cat”?

As well as “DD”, Mabuza has been able to coin his own nickname over the years. He has announced himself as “the cat”, after previously boasting about his ability to come back from potentially career-ending situations. Much like a beloved feline, he seems to think he has nine lives. And he’s always landing on his feet after a fall.

Shame. Here we were, hoping it was because he always enters Parliament through a catflap.

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