Ramaphosa’s economic priorities find expression in new Cabinet

Key economic priorities found expression in the Cabinet announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa late on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa walked a tightrope in appointing his Cabinet, after a lengthy consultation process described as “unlike any other” held by an ANC president.

The ministry of finance remains unchanged with Tito Mboweni at the helm. The closely watched post of deputy was awarded to David Masondo. The national executive committee member — who is described as an intellectual and astute thinker — is now primed to take over the chairmanship of the embattled Public Investment Corporation.

Trade and Industry and Economic Development were combined into one portfolio which will be led by former unionists Ebrahim Patel, with former Nehawu general secretary Fikile Majola as his deputy. Majola played a key role as chairman of Parliament’s energy committee during the former administration’s attempt to push through the nuclear deal.

Cosatu, which is seen as Ramaphosa’s closest ally in the alliance, made a big comeback in his Cabinet after being sidelined in the latter years of former president Jacob Zuma’s term in office.

Its new president Zingiswa Losi said the federation and all other components of the alliance were consulted in a way it has never been included before.

The labour ministry has been combined with employment and will be headed up by a former unionist, Thulas Nxesi, whose mammoth task will be to address the unemployment crisis in the country, particularly among the youth.

Gwede Mantashe, another former unionist, retains his post in mining, which has been combined with energy — a key post likely to please the mining industry who lobbied hard for Mantashe to remain.

After a long wait, Ramaphosa, appearing drawn and tired, also announced that Pravin Gordhan would return to public enterprises, despite fierce lobbying against this led by the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Thoko Didiza, prominent in former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration, takes over the tough agriculture, land reform and rural development department, with Cosatu’s former president Sdumo Dlamini as one of two deputies.

In a surprising move, Ramaphosa appointed former Cape Town mayor and GOOD leader Patricia de Lille as public works minister.

Naledi Pandor takes over the international relations department, while a masterstroke was demonstrated in placing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the helm of local government. The sector is in dire need of an overhaul and Dlamini-Zuma is seen as being able to turn municipalities around, with just two years before the next local election.

Zweli Mkhize takes over health as Blade Nzimande returns to higher education which was combined with science and technology. Angie Motshekga remains in Basic Education.

Notable exceptions from the Cabinet are Jeff Radebe, who has been a minister since 1994, Bathabile Dlamini, the ANC Women’s League president and Rob Davies, the former minister of trade and industry.

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Natasha Marrian
Natasha Marrian
Marrian has built a reputation as an astute political journalist, investigative reporter and commentator. Until recently she led the political team at Business Day where she also produced a widely read column that provided insight into the political spectacle of the week.
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