What do ministers do in spare time?

What does President Thabo Mbeki like to do in his spare time? Ballroom dancing? Play the piano? No, the man likes to work during leisure hours, says his spokesman.

What does President Thabo Mbeki like to do in his spare time? Ballroom dancing? Play the piano? No, the man likes to work during leisure hours, says his spokesman.

As the ruling party's national conference in Polo- kwane approaches, members of the cabinet certainly need ways to de-stress.

Starting at the top, what does Mbeki do when he has time to relax? "Work, work, work," says spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga.

After a bit of probing, he concedes that Mbeki does have some hobbies.

Mbeki also likes listening to jazz and classical music at his home.

And does the president still enjoy surfing the Internet?

"He reads everything," says Ratshitanga.

But he does not know if Mbeki still enjoys smoking a pipe.

Climbing mountains is what Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka does to unwind, her spokesman Thabang Chiloane says.

She also likes listening to Yvonne Chaka-Chaka and Miriam Makeba; and reading biographies. The last one she read was that of Oliver Tambo.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "enjoys reading, interacting with people and debate", says her spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa.

"She must watch news at all times," he says, listing SABC, SABC Africa, CNN and BBC as her news channels of choice.

When not putting all her "passion into her work around the world to create a better life for all", reading something by her favourite author Ben Okri is always a pleasure.

Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana uses relaxation time to catch up on work.

"She's always at political meetings, even at weekends, she deals with land issues and restitution programmes."

Xingwana is also an unassuming art collector, her spokesman Godfrey Mdhluli says.

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad loves watching soccer and is a Kaizer Chiefs fan, his spokesman says.

The minister is also a dedi- cated historical bookworm, having completed a doctorate on the history of South Africa's Indian political movements.

If anyone embodies the Renaissance Man, it must surely be Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula.

Nqakula has played the piano and composed music since he was a child.

"He is a bit rusty with the guitar" but when it comes to singing and dancing, "I think he is pretty good," says spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi.

Sports and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile reads and writes Greek, Hebrew and German, has been a lawn tennis player since primary school, rugby and cricket coach and national ballroom dance champ from 1972 to 1975.

"He is strong in tango, quick step and foxtrot - in that order," said his spokesman Lerato Mkhize.

Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils spends his spare time involved in the "struggle of other countries", his spokesman Lorna Daniels said.

Passionate about the Palestinian cause, his reading choice matches this pursuit, being "heavy stuff on the Middle East," said Daniels.

Though gardening is the first hobby he lists on the government website, his spokesman says it is unlikely he has had time to do this for a while.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota is a "very good storyteller"; as well as a "fitness fanatic", who swims, runs and used to ride the Cape Argus cycle tour.

When it comes to Bloemfontein rugby team, the Cheetahs, it seems the defence minister can get a little defensive himself.

"He's a crazy Cheetah's fan," said his spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi.

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana loves cooking traditional African food, including samp and beans, umleqwa (free-range chicken), ulusu and dombolo (tripe and dumplings) and amagwinya (fat cakes).

"He particularly loves preparing the dough for his fat cakes which he believes needs to be well done for the best outcome," says his spokesman Zolisa Sigabi.

Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks is artistically inclined.

A self-taught painter and musician, she is a fan of jazz, African hip-hop and some R&B.

The minister also loves inspirational books, said her spokesman Linda Page.

Though Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa lists a wide variety of hobbies on the government website, this might not be an accurate reflection of reality.

"I have not seen any evidence of a life outside work. If he has hobbies he expresses them rhetorically," said spokesman Vukani Mde.

"In the five months I've been here I can't recall one weekend in which the minister didn't work. Since his appointment in 2004 he has never been on a holiday.

"In that way he is probably the most boring minister in cabinet."

Mde added that "as the minister is trained as an economist, he thinks economics is a hobby". - Sapa