Political musical chairs

Dancing to a political tune is more dangerous than you think; but, at the end of the day, it’s just like that game we all used to play before we had pimples.

Remember Musical Chairs? That lame game parents whipped out at pre-teen birthday parties when they couldn’t be bothered to organise paintball? If you can’t quite remember the rules (because you’ve mentally blocked out that embarrassing chapter of your life, together with your ‘bowl’ haircut), then here they are:

The only things needed were a line of chairs placed back-to-back and a cd player. Kids walked in a circle around the chairs while mum or dad played DJ with some dreadful ‘this was cool when I was young’ song. Then, randomly (it was never quite random, was it?), mum or dad stopped the music and everyone scrambled for a chair.

Here’s the catch: there was always one chair fewer than there were kids, so elbows and fists were needed to find a seat. It’s quite sadistic when you think about it, and probably a health hazard – as lil’ Bob’s bruised buttocks so well remember.

Well, guess what, adults still play this game.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the new president of the Republic of South Africa, recently announced his new cabinet – the ministers entrusted with leading the different departments that run the country (such as the departments of finance, energy, and home affairs). Ministers are big cheeses (some more Stilton than others).

Ideally ministers should be good administrators, but in the game of politics, a ministerial position is the goal of many politicians with high ambition. So it’s a way for a president to reward ‘team players’ and stamp their mark. The activity of brushing away old ministers, and sweeping in new ones, is referred to as a cabinet reshuffle.

A cabinet reshuffle is a game of musical chairs, but with some chairs more comfy than others. The ‘finance chair’ comes with great power, ‘state security’ holds lots of secrets, and ‘sport and recreation’ gets you box seats at test matches. So, while a new president plays the piper, political figures jostle around, angling for a specific seat, elbowing each other and keeping an eye on the pause button.

In cabinet musical chairs, who sits where matters. So, keep your eye on the news, and do some research on who found a seat, and where. As South Africa hopes for renewal, ask yourself this, who’s in, who’s out, and what does this mean for the country going forward?

[This article originally appeared on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 26 February 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more].

Image: Chris Sharron