Ramaphosa appoints South Africa’s new cabinet

By Crystal Orderson
Posted on Friday, 31 May 2019 17:17

South Africa's President Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza during a swearing-in ceremony of cabinet ministers. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africans are digesting the new and leaner cabinet announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on late Wednesday evening and there are high expectations from society, business and political parties for the team to deliver.

While business groups have welcomed the appointments, there’s been some harsh reactions to the cabinet with the harshest coming from the Julius Malema who says the cabinet remains bloated.

According to political analyst and associate research fellow at Sussex University, Asanda Saule Ngoasheng, Ramaphosa was caught between a rock and a hard place.

  • His appointments show that he had no choice but to “appease the factions and it was a careful balancing act bringing in the old and the new. He is setting with a deeply divided ANC, so it was a tightrope and I think he didn’t have much of way of choice”.
  • She added that she “was really disappointed with the cabinet announcement not so much with individuals per se but it seems it’s like the class of 1996, a class reunion bringing in old ministers. Ramaphosa really had an opportunity to bring a lot of new young people. We will have to wait and see how people will perform”.

Ramaphosa warned that the new team will be closely monitored: “Their performance – individually and collectively – will be closely monitored against specific outcomes. Where implementation is unsatisfactory, action will be taken”.

Several portfolios were combined:

· Trade and Industry with Economic Development
· Higher Education and Training with Science and Technology
· Environmental Affairs with Forestry and Fisheries
· Agriculture with Land Reform and Rural Development
· Mineral Resource with Energy
· Human Settlement with Water and Sanitation
· Sports and Recreation with Arts and Culture

  • Ramaphosa also opted to retain some key ministers, including at finance (Tito Mboweni), public enterprises (Pravin Gordhan), basic education (Angie Motshekga) and economic development (Ebrahim Patel). Some new and younger faces include ANC Youth League members such as Ronald Lamola in justice and deputy home affairs minister Njubula Nzuza.

In a surprise move, Ramaphosa appointed former Cape Town mayor and current GOOD leader, Patricia De Lille to his cabinet. De Lille was appointed as public works minister.

  • Ngoasheng says it is a “classic Ramaphosa, move bringing in someone from the opposition. Ramaphosa believes in cooperation and he was willing to bring in outsiders to help develop a more South African focus. Public works is a very important portfolio and […] it is a brave move to bring in an outsider.”

Political parties had mixed reaction to the appointments:

  • The main opposition Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa has “failed” in the “clean-up promise”. In a strongly-worded statement issued on Wednesday, Maimane said Ramaphosa has placed the internal factional interests of the ANC ahead of the interests of the people, choosing instead the survival of the ANC over the future of the country.
  • In a statement published on Twitter, The Economic Freedom Fronts (EFF) leader Julius Malema said the EFF “reject the cabinet and take it as a declaration of war” and that “South Africans should not be misled by this bloated cabinet which still accommodates crooks”.

  • In a statement, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s National Spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party welcomes the new and vibrant ministers, particularly with regards to the reconfigured economics cluster and the justice cluster. But “the President has chosen to put the ANC before the country, and he has neglected to choose South Africa above the ANC, when it comes to recycling members of the executive as it appears musical chairs became the norm”.

Ramaphosa is counting on the support of one of his main allies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

  • Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said: “While we are not happy with every single appointment, overall this is a very well-balanced government which reflects the spirit and themes of a ‘New Dawn’. Cosatu hopes that the newly appointed ministers and their deputies appreciate the urgency of the situation and that they will focus on the key priorities promised to the people”.

Bottom line:

Ramaphosa was never going to make everyone happy. The appointments were a fine balancing act between the young and the old, bringing in some fresh blood and showing continuity with the economic cluster.

The governing ANC is not wasting time and will hold its national executive meeting and Lekgotla outlining the government priorities and Ramaphosa’s grand plans for reawakening SA Inc.

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