Concern over economic impact of S.Africa’s new cabinet
South African business and opposition leaders expressed concern Monday over President Jacob Zuma's new cabinet, while the media accused him of bowing to pressure from labour and communist allies.
Zuma announced a 35-member cabinet late Sunday to see through his second term, which notably included the country’s first black finance minister since the advent of democracy 20 years ago.
Nhlanhla Nene, 55, the former deputy head of the treasury, replaced Pravin Gordhan, of Indian origin, who was moved to the local government portfolio.
The cabinet “does not inspire confidence that South Africa’s major challenges — weak economic growth, unemployment and corruption — will be tackled effectively,” said opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille.
“The move of Pravin Gordhan from the Treasury to Co-operative Government will almost certainly have negative consequences for international investor sentiment towards South Africa,” she said.
Business Unity South Africa, a leading industry lobby group, said it was “disappointed” that Gordhan had lost the finance portfolio although his successor, Nene, had “proven himself a very competent, pragmatic and consistent person”.
BUSA also expressed concern over two key industry appointments: Tina Joemat-Petterson to the energy portfolio and Ngoako Ramathlodi to mineral resources.
Both sectors are under pressure and BUSA questioned the suitability of the two ministers.
But the group welcomed the appointment of trade-unionist-turned-billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president, urging him to press for the implementation of the ANC’s National Development Plan (NDP).
The plan, first floated in 2011, envisages a swathe of major infrastructure projects, labour reforms to curb unemployment and rejects the nationalisation of key sectors such as mining.
– ‘Zuma’s pals’ –
Business Day newspaper, however, said it was unclear whether new finance minister Nene had the clout to push through with the NDP, which the ANC’s left-leaning allies have criticised as neo-liberal.
“The test will be whether Mr Nene can hold the line with a similar tenacity to that of Mr Gordhan and their predecessor Trevor Manuel,” Business Day said.
Other new cabinet appointments pointed to the payment of political debts with the ANC’s alliance partners the SA Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu, said the newspaper.
The Times daily led its front page with the headline: “Zuma’s pals pack new-look cabinet”.
Fresh faces included “people who have demonstrated their loyalty and support for his political ambitions”, said the newspaper.
Former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana became agriculture and fisheries minister, while Young Communist League leader Buti Manamela was made junior minister based in the president’s office.
Gordhan’s move from the finance ministry also followed “relentless pressure from the ANC’s left-wing allies”, The Times said.
The Star newspaper, recently acquired by a Zuma-allied businessman, called the new cabinet “the most important decision of his political career”.
“The business of government was redesigned to ensure he will be remembered as the president who finally brought about South Africa’s democratic transition,” said the newspaper, referring to pressures to increase the wealth of black South Africans.
The economy remains predominantly in white hands, despite a raft of empowerment programmes since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.