Will they turn out to be new brooms that will sweep clean or old wine in new bottles?
That’s the question boggling minds of South Africans, after the appointment of a new cabinet signified the resumption of the usual business of government. But the conclusive answer will come in the next five years, which will show how far the government will go in implementing ‘the radical second phase’ in South Africa’s transition.
However, one cannot but marvel at the efforts of President Jacob Zuma to move towards gender parity in the composition of cabinet and bring about efficiency in the government’s operations, after his first tenure was blighted by concerns with poor service delivery.
Women comprise 47% of ministers while 44% of deputy ministers. There are 20 men and 16 women deputy ministers as well as 20 men and 16 deputy ministers.
Zuma said: “We are happy to be moving closer to our target of having more women in Cabinet and the national executive as a whole.”
Ostensibly, several changes indicate efforts to create an efficient governing apparatus.
Zuma has roped in ANC deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as Deputy President, who brings in wealth of experience from the volatile days of the transition to democracy and in business. While his predecessor was too laidback, Ramaphosa is seen as more hands on and pragmatic.
Moreover, the President has showed confidence in Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was Pravin Gordan’s understudy, by assigning him the finance portfolio. As expected, business executives are waiting with bated breath whether Nene will bring radical policy changes which are pro-workers, blatantly pro-investors or middle ground.
But some have given Nene thumbs up. One of them is Razia Khan, Africa’s regional head of research for Standard, who calls him ‘an old hand at the treasury’. “He will be seen to represent policy continuity.”
Laudably, the President has established Departments of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Small Business Development, underscoring the significance of the sectors in economic development. Those who questioned the government’s commitment should be impressed, at least for now.