Ramaphosa`s Hard Choice: a Cabinet to Lift South African Economy
Source: Bloomberg News, 13/05/2019
His window of opportunity to install an administration free of
ministers tainted by graft and to impose tough economic reforms may
not remain open for long. The ruling party’s 5 percentage-point drop
in support in the May 8 election from 2014 -- its worst showing in a
national vote since the end of apartheid -- testifies to the public
anger over “state capture,” as the looting of public funds under his
predecessor, Jacob Zuma, is known.
While Ramaphosa fired several ministers with tainted reputations when
he replaced Zuma as president last year, others kept their posts. They
include Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was
implicated in taking bribes during an official probe, and Bathabile
Dlamini, the minister for women’s affairs accused by the
Constitutional Court of lying under oath about her tenure at the
$11-billion-a-year welfare department, which almost collapsed. Both
“If ever he has had a platform to act against and cut these figures
from his cabinet, it’s now,” Susan Booysen, director of research at
the Johannesburg-based Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection,
said in an interview. “If he does not use this opening, he’s going to
Investors will focus on whether Tito Mboweni, appointed as finance
minister in October, retains his post. While the former central bank
governor has said publicly he would prefer to step down, his
acceptance of a nomination to parliament indicates he may be prepared
to stay on.
The president has the sole prerogative to select ministers from the
National Assembly’s 400 lawmakers, although he can choose two from
people outside its ranks.
Ramaphosa hasn’t revealed his preferences, but the ANC’s list of
candidate lawmakers gives an indication of who’s in the running. They
include most members of the current cabinet, including Mboweni, Deputy
President David Mabuza, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, Public
Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral Resources Minister
Mokonyane and Dlamini also made the cut, as did Malusi Gigaba, who
resigned as home affairs minister after a court found he’d lied under
oath and a compromising video of him was circulated on social media.
The new administration needs to move speedily to revive an economy
that has expanded at an annual pace of less than 1.5% for the past
four years and tackled a 27 percent unemployment rate by reducing
policy uncertainty and bolstering private investment, according to
Raymond Parsons, a professor at the North West University’s School of
Business and Governance.
The economy hasn`t grown by more than 2% annually since 2013
Source: Statistics South Africa
“A key test will include the selection of a credible and streamlined
cabinet that also enjoys the confidence of business and the markets,”
Before the election, Ramaphosa’s reticence to carry out a clean sweep
may stem from his tenuous hold on the ANC in the aftermath of a
hard-fought internal election that’s left the party deeply divided has
resulted in some Zuma allies remaining in top party posts.
Ramaphosa, who’s due to be elected at the new parliament’s first
sitting on May 22 and sworn in three days later, called his outgoing
cabinet of 34 ministers and 35 deputies a holding administration.
While Fikile Mbalula, the ANC’s head of elections, said Ramaphosa had
the party’s full backing to trim the cabinet and it may be reduced to
fewer than 30 ministers, party Secretary-General Ace Magashule said
the matter has yet to be discussed.