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Ramaphosa targets growth, corruption with new Cabinet

May 30 2019 08:09
Rene Vollgraaff, Mike Cohen and Paul Vecchiatto, Bloomberg
President Cyril Ramaphosa launches the Youth Emplo

President Cyril Ramaphosa launches the Youth Employment Service Initiative at the Riverside Incubation Hub in Midrand. (GCIS) (Siyabulela Duda)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa took a step toward putting SA on a growth path and fighting corruption by naming a slimmed-down Cabinet that retained Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in their posts.

The reappointment of David Mabuza, who’s been implicated in a string of scandals, as his deputy reflects the political trade-offs he’s had to make due to his tenuous hold on the deeply divided African National Congress. Since securing a five-year term when the ANC won a parliamentary majority on May 8, Ramaphosa, has vowed to clean up a government discredited under  Jacob Zuma.

The rand extended gains made overnight, strengthening 0.2% to R14.63/$ per dollar by 07:40.

“He really tried cleaning up,” said Sethulego Matebesi, a political analyst at the University of the Free State. “He has done extremely well under the circumstances. This is a team that will give us a new sense of hope.”

The new executive comprises 28 ministers, from 36 previously. The mineral resources and energy ministries were combined and will fall under Gwede Mantashe, who previously held the mining portfolio and had helped heal a rift with the industry. There was no place for Jeff Radebe, the longest-serving Cabinet minister, who had headed the energy portfolio.

New faces included Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s former chief whip in Parliament, as a minister in the presidency, lawyer Ronald Lamola as minister of justice and correctional services, and Patricia de Lille, the former mayor of Cape Town and leader of the opposition Good party, as public works minister.

Balancing Act

Mabuza faced accusations that he helped rig state tenders and had his opponents silenced and even assassinated while he was premier of Mpumalanga - allegations that were described in a New York Times expose last year.

Mabuza denies wrongdoing and has never been charged and was cleared of wrongdoing by the ANC’s integrity committee.

Ramaphosa initially favored Naledi Pandor or Lindiwe Sisulu to be his deputy, but gave the post to Mabuza, who won the deputy leadership of the ruling party in December 2017 and helped him secure the top post. Sisulu was named minister of human settlements, water and sanitation, while Pandor, formerly the minister of higher education, took over from Sisulu as minister of international relations.

Mabuza may be less of a threat to Ramaphosa as deputy president than he would have been had he ended up angry or frustrated in a full-time ANC position, said Susan Booysen, director of research at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

“Ramaphosa can only perform his cleanup if he’s not sabotaged by own party,” she said. “This is an intricate balancing act.”

Ramaphosa did replace Bathabile Dlamini, the head of the ANC’s women’s league and former women’s minister, after the nation’s highest court accused her of perjury. Nomvula Mokonyane, previously the environment minister who was accused in a judicial probe of taking bribes, also didn’t make the cut. Both women deny wrongdoing.

Finance Minister Mboweni kept his position, despite opposition from Cosatu that object to his support for selling off some loss-making state companies and spending reductions. His deputy is David Masondo.

In a nod to the unions, Ramaphosa named Ebrahim Patel, an ex-union leader as minister of trade, industry and economic development even though he never secured election as an MP. 

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