New South African Leader Emphasizes Continuity in Cabinet Lineup

Posted in Africa | 22-May-09 | Author: Barry Bearak| Source: New York Times

Trevor Manuel, center, with Jacob Zuma last week in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's new president, Jacob Zuma, named his cabinet on Sunday, introducing a lineup that largely signaled a desire for continuity rather than any lunge to the left, as some here had hoped and others feared.

Perhaps the most anticipated of Mr. Zuma's decisions was the future of Trevor Manuel, the finance minister whose free-market policies won him the respect of the world's bankers and the scorn of those who wanted a redistribution of wealth. Though Mr. Manuel gave up that post, he was elevated to a position as the head of a powerful new planning commission.

Mr. Manuel was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1996. Last year, when it briefly seemed he might leave government, the markets went into a panic until he said he was willing to stay on the job.

This time, experts say, there is unlikely to be that kind of alarm, not only because Mr. Manuel is remaining in so prominent a role but also because he is being replaced by Pravin Gordhan, who has reaped praise from economists for increasing revenues as head of the tax authority.

"Pravin Gordhan has a very good reputation in his own right, not on anyone else's coattails," said Chris Hart, chief economist for the investment firm Investment Solutions. "He's an advocate for responsible fiscal policy."

Rudolf Gouws, chief economist for Rand Merchant Bank, said, "I'm sad to see Trevor go, but I know Pravin personally and he is an excellent choice."

Mr. Zuma, sworn in on Saturday as South Africa's fourth democratically elected president, said Mr. Manuel was being given an important post for strategic planning and he did not expect the move to frighten investors. "Markets are aware that at some point changes come," Mr. Zuma said.

The left was not ignored, however. Mr. Zuma's political party, the African National Congress, won the April 22 parliamentary elections with strong support from the South African Communist Party and a trade union federation. He was expected to reward these allies with cabinet appointments.

Blade Nzimande, leader of the Communist Party, was made minister for higher education and training. He holds a doctorate in philosophy and was a vital confederate during Mr. Zuma's power struggle with the ousted president, Thabo Mbeki.

Ebrahim Patel, general secretary of a clothing and textiles union, was named minister of economic development. He and Mr. Nzimande could still pull the government leftward.

But the ability to make any significant changes in economic policy is handicapped by the worldwide recession. The past decade of South African prosperity has not been accompanied by a surge in employment. About one third of the country's potential workers are without jobs, according to the government.

"I'm sure Blade Nzimande can make a capable education minister, but I hope his influence is confined to education," said Mr. Hart, the economist, adding that he was concerned Mr. Nzimande might have a say in economic policy.

Mr. Zuma persuaded Kgalema Motlanthe to be his deputy president. Mr. Motlanthe, who served as interim president after Mr. Mbeki was pushed out last September, had said he preferred devoting his energies to work within the A.N.C. rather than the government.

The number of cabinet posts was increased to 34 from 28. Among those joining the team is Tokyo Sexwale, who, like Mr. Zuma, was a well-known fighter in the battle against apartheid.

A charismatic leader who was once one of the A.N.C.'s brightest stars, Mr. Sexwale left politics in 1998 and quickly became a mining tycoon and one of the nation's wealthiest men. Mr. Zuma has said he wants to serve only one term in office, and Mr. Sexwale's return to government as minister of human settlements, the top position in housing, may be a way of positioning himself for the presidency in 2014.

Barbara Hogan, who as health minister put an end to South Africa's widely condemned advocacy of beetroot and garlic as a cure for AIDS, switched jobs to the ministry of public enterprises, another powerful position. She was replaced by Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the minister of education in Limpopo Province.

"It's sad to lose Barbara Hogan because she had already started straightening things out," said Zackie Achmat, the nation's leading AIDS activist. "The new minister is something of an unknown quantity, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

Mr. Zuma's former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, exchanged portfolios from foreign affairs to home affairs, taking over one of government's most troubled ministries.

It was widely expected that Nelson Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, would be given a senior position. She is back in Parliament after being convicted for fraud in 2003. But her popularity with the A.N.C. rank-and-file did not translate into the leadership of a ministry.