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South Africa’s new Cabinet is gender balanced

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has trimmed down his Cabinet from 36 Ministers to 28 and made it gender balanced for the first time in the country’s history. He has also included younger leaders in his Cabinet, notably former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola and ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet comprises 50% women and has been scaled down to 28 from 36 through the conflation of posts in a bid to cut spending, promote greater coherence and improve efficiency.

“For the first time in the history of our country, half of all Ministers are women,” he said in a televised address. “All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing and the constraints this has placed on public finances.”

He added that he has “placed priority on revitalising the economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds”.

At his recent swearing in, President Ramaphosa pledged to revive the stagnating economy, create jobs and rid the country of corruption.

Towards this he has created a dynamic Cabinet that is not only 50% women but also youth inclusive. According to the Associated Press, he included a significant number of young people, notably former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola as the new Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Njabulo Nzuza appointed as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.

Notable women appointees include former opposition party leader Patricia De Lille as Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure. She was chosen to reflect diversity in a rare instance of an opposition figure being appointed a Minister in South Africa. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has held ministerial posts in different governments since 1994, returns as Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Thoko Didiza, who returns as Minister of Agriculture, held the same post for eight years under former President Thabo Mbeki.

In an interview with CNN, Xolani Dube, a political analyst from the Xubera Institute of Research and Development in Durban, said while it is commendable for governments to strive for gender balance, political appointments should be based on merit and performance.

“Many of the women the president announced have been there for many decades. We need to ask ourselves what kind of paradigm shift we are looking for in this country,” Dube said.

“We need to introduce young women who have a different outlook on how South Africa is supposed to be governed in this particular age,” he added.

Read: At 21, Itumeleng Ntsube is South Africa’s youngest ever MP

Ramaphosa also retained Deputy President David Mabuza and appointed Naledi Pandor as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

“The people who I am appointing today must realise that the expectations of the South African people have never been greater and that they will shoulder a great responsibility,” Ramaphosa said in the national address.

“In appointing a new national executive, I have taken a number of considerations into account, including experience, continuity, competence, generational mix and demographic and regional diversity.”

The Democratic Alliance, which is South Africa’s main opposition party, has criticised the president for keeping on Deputy President David Mabuza, who has faced graft allegations in the past, in what it called the first real test of Ramaphosa’s tough stance on corruption. “Unfortunately, Ramaphosa placed the internal factional interests of the ANC ahead of the interests of the people of South Africa,” the DA said in a statement.

On the other hand, Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni and Minister of Public Enterprises – and a former Minister of Finance – Minister Pravin Gordhan, who are both well regarded, will be staying on.

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