Ramaphosa announces leaner cabinet in new austerity agenda

Cabinet size trimmed from 36 ministers to 28, with familiar faces remaining
Ramaphosa announces leaner cabinet | News Central TV

South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday retained Tito Mboweni as finance minister in a new, leaner cabinet, following on from a pre-election pledge to reform and revive an ailing economy and attract foreign investors.

Ramaphosa, who was sworn in as South Africa’s president on Saturday for his first full five-year term, trimmed the cabinet from 36 ministers to 28.

That will serve as an early barometer of his ability to push through change more efficiently, having struggled to implement tough reforms since he succeeded scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma last year.

The leaner cabinet was meant to reduce government spending, Ramaphosa said.

“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 said in a televised national address.

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“It is, therefore, imperative that in all areas and spheres of government, we place priority on revitalising our economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds.”

Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) saw its majority cut in national elections two weeks ago.

His long to-do list includes generating jobs, acting against entrenched corruption in and outside the ANC, resolving policy uncertainty in the mining sector and speeding up reforms of power utility Eskom and other state-owned entities.

Familiar faces –

Markets are likely to welcome the reappointment of Mboweni, a former central bank governor who is well respected by investors. He was first appointed to the position in October and has spoken out about trimming government spending and selling some state companies that are acting as a drain on public finances.

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Investors will also scrutinise Ramaphosa’s decision to retain David Mabuza as deputy president.

Last week, Mabuza had requested a delay in his swearing-in to parliament to clear his name before an ANC integrity commission, following allegations of impropriety during his decade-long premiership of the mineral-rich eastern Mpumalanga province. He has denied all wrongdoing.

Mabuza was finally sworn in on Tuesday after he was cleared by the ANC of bringing the party into disrepute, weakening the rand.

The currency extended its losses on Wednesday, in part reflecting worries that Mabuza could taint Ramaphosa’s reform agenda.

Ramaphosa kept on Pravin Gordhan as public enterprises minister. The ministry oversees state-owned companies including Eskom. The management of Eskom’s restructuring is key to reviving the economy after power cuts in the past year undermined broader efforts to kick-start growth.

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The president also appointed Gwedwe Mantashe as mining and energy minister after combining the two ministries.

Mantashe previously headed the mining ministry. Naledi Pandor, previously higher education minister, was appointed as foreign affairs minister.

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