Editorial: Deliver the jobs SA needs

President Jacob Zuma announcing his new Cabinet. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma announcing his new Cabinet. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

An economist who got to watch both presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma at close quarters says that Mbeki never wanted to talk about unemployment, finding the problem too intractable, whereas Zuma always makes a point of asking about job creation.

In one sense, based on the new Cabinet he announced on May?25 , Zuma is a competent job creator: in a single press conference, he conjured up six new jobs, a 10% increase on the previous 68 ministers and deputy ministers. South Africa now has as many ministers as China; the Zuma Cabinet serves 50-million people, however, whereas China’s serves 1.2-billion.

But the economy does not need more government jobs. It needs more private-sector jobs, which would contribute to growth, profits and tax revenues. We know Zuma is concerned about jobs, but can his new Cabinet get us out of the recessionary-like conditions in which South Africa finds itself? Will its leadership work?

As far as the economic ministries are concerned, there has been much change but mostly change for change’s sake. Pravin Gordhan, a prime builder of the democratic South Africa, firstly as head of the South African Revenue Service, and then as a finance minister of international repute, is now deployed to the ministry of co-operative governmenance, which has a ready-made crisis on its hand in the form of local government.

Anybody who has had any dealings with Gordhan’s replacement, Nhlanhla Nene, has only good things to say about him. It has been said a black African was wanted in the job, but this may be a smokescreen for putting in someone relatively junior, who may be more pliable than the experienced Gordhan. Nene will have to earn his spurs by proving this view wrong.

When Zuma came to power, he was seen as a unifier to hold a divided ANC together. He would keep everybody in the tent. The departure of the faction that later formed the EFF shows he has been less than successful in doing this. His bloated Cabinet, with no fewer than 35 ministers reporting directly to him, shows he is trying to keep people in the tent – yet unhappiness outside continues to grow. South Africa has to hope that he will be as good at creating new jobs outside government as he is at creating them within it.

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