Her leadership of the ANC’s women’s league – which will be a crucial ally in Zuma re-election battle – appears to have been enough to save Motshekga’s cabinet career.
That left Zuma open to charges that he has not done enough to remove the taint of corruption and maladministration from his government.
“Is the president just moving chairs? His inability to do anything about an under performer is going to raise questions,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga, of Clear Content consulting.
Labour unrest had also put agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson under fire.
And the deaths of 15 South African troops in the Central African Republic had raised speculation about defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ncgakula’s position.
Mzukisi Qobo, a political risk analyst, said there was also surprise that Zuma did not announce a new head for the National Prosecuting Authority.
Zuma faces a case at the constitutional court over his failure to appoint a permanent head of the authority, which controversially dropped corruption charges against him shortly before he became president.
Zuma had been accused of graft linked to a multi-million dollar arms deal.
The National Prosecuting Authority has since been riddled with allegations of political interference and prosecutorial incompetence.
“Zuma is caught between a rock and a hard place, if he appoints someone who is strong with integrity, that person may act independently to expose corruption in government,” said Qobo.
“I think people think Zuma is not prepared to do much in regards to this portfolio,” he said, adding, “they are disappointed.”
South Africa’s Agang opposition party leader Mamphela Ramphele said the reshuffle “fell far short of what the citizens of this nation should expect”.