South Africa aims for gender-balanced cabinet with 50 per cent women

Johannesburg: South Africa's President has announced a trimmed-down cabinet that is 50 per cent women, making it one of the few countries in the world to be "gender-balanced".

President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on Wednesday, South Africa time, followed similar moves by Ethiopia and Rwanda last year.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, announced his new cabinet on Wednesday.Credit:Bloomberg

Ramaphosa cut the Cabinet from 36 ministers to 28 as he sought to reduce the bloating under predecessor Jacob Zuma, who stepped down last year under pressure amid corruption allegations.

Fighting the corruption and mismanagement that has consumed billions of rand is the major issue facing the ruling African National Congress party, whose election win this month was the weakest in its 25 years in power amid public frustration.

The ANC leadership still contains some Zuma allies, complicating Ramaphosa's efforts at reforms aimed at restoring investor confidence in the economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ramaphosa reappointed a power-broker long accused of corruption as his deputy, David Mabuza. The fate of Mabuza had been regarded as a test of Ramaphosa's ability to clean up his party and the government.

Former foreign affairs minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will now head the women, youth and disability portfolio, Credit:AP

"It's more of the same," said Ralph Mathekga, a prominent political analyst. "It's a compromised Cabinet.

"The strength of this presidency depends on Mabuza. He's too powerful not to be deputy."

Mabuza has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Creating jobs is another immense challenge in a country where unemployment is over 25 per cent, and where a growing youth population, who never understood the harsh racial system of apartheid that ended in 1994, is restless for a better future.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma sits in the High Court, charged with corruption, money laundering and racketeering.Credit:AP

"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.

South Africa's new cabinet also retains two well regarded ministers, Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance criticised the President for keeping Mabuza.

"Unfortunately, Ramaphosa placed the internal factional interests of the ANC ahead of the interests of the people of South Africa," the DA said.

The 14 women hold portfolios ranging from women and youth affairs to communications, state security and defence.

Former foreign affairs minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will now head the women's portfolio, and her replacement will be Naledi Pandor, the former science and technology minister.

Ramaphosa also included younger leaders in his Cabinet, notably former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola as the minister of justice and correctional services. Another youth leader, Njabulo Nzuza, was appointed as deputy minister of home affairs.

AP, with The New York Times 

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