PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma pulled off a tough balancing act last night, maintaining the core of his administration while adding fresh faces – people who have demonstrated their loyalty and support for his political ambitions.
Zuma seems to have bowed to relentless pressure from the ANC’s left-wing allies by making Nhlanhla Nene South Africa’s first African finance minister. The Eastern Cape’s Mcebisi Jonas will take over as his deputy.
Nene, 55, replaces Pravin Gordhan who has been dispatched to the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio.
“Nene is an old hand at the Treasury,” Razia Khan, Africa’s regional head of research for Standard Chartered Bank, said. “He will be seen to represent policy continuity.”
But left-wing lobbyists for Nene’s appointment might be in for a disappointment because he will be constrained by the provisions of the National Development Plan, a document that has been dismissed by the left as a continuation of the “neo-liberal” policies that unions blame for sky-high unemployment.
Nene spent 15 years at insurance firm MetLife, where he was a regional administrative manager and where, during apartheid, he organised the South Africa’s first strike in the financial sector. He does not have a high public profile and before yesterday’s announcement was perhaps best known for tumbling off a broken chair during a television interview in 2008.
Peter Attard Montalto, of Japanese bank Nomura, said investors would be watching carefully to see if Nene had enough clout within the cabinet to stand up to his more anti- free market colleagues.
“He is a party loyalist … how much can he stand up for the national Treasury and its beliefs and pro-investor stance?” he asked.
The composition of the new cabinet bodes well for the continuing influence of the unions and of the SA Communist Party in Zuma’s administration.
Former National Union of Mineworkers president Zenzeni Zokwana is now Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Zokwana, whose former union is a dominant factor in the faction fighting in Cosatu, replaces Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who goes to the Energy Department.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande retains his place at the helm of Higher Education and Training, and Rob Davies and Ebrahim Patel stay on at Trade and Industry and Economic Development respectively.
Though the number of ministries will be the same as for the past five years, there are several new ministries and some mergers, “to promote greater efficiency”, as Zuma said last night.
He announced the establishment of a Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services to tap into an industry believed to be worth R180-billion to the South African economy in 2012.
“We also see great developmental value in the Post Office, given its role of delivering financial services to remote areas of our country.
“This new department will ensure the country derives more value from the booming information, communications and technology industry, and the postal services sector,” he said.
The new ministry will be headed by former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele, who presided over the collapse of the country’s intelligence services.
The Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities will become known as the Ministry of Women and will be headed by former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu.
She will lead the new department from within the Presidency, which will be headed by former justice minister Jeff Radebe.
Zuma loyalists appointed to the cabinet include Lindiwe Zulu – until last night the president’s special adviser on international relations – as Minister of the newly created Department of Small Business Development.
Former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane makes a return to active politics as Minister of Water and Sanitation, instantly making her one of the most important political heads.
The most noticeable casualties in last night’s cabinet announcement include Nathi Mthethwa, the former police minister on whose watch the August 2012 Marikana massacre occurred, and Paul Mashatile.
Mthethwa replaces Mashatile as Arts and Culture minister, leaving Mashatile in the political wilderness, with a berth at the upcoming ANC Gauteng elective conference perhaps his one chance at further active political participation.
Former national police commissioner Bheki Cele, fired by Zuma a few years ago for mishandling a property lease, has been appointed deputy minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. – Olebogeng Molatlhwa and Denise Williams. Additional reporting by AFP