Zuma’s new cabinet: Can the new executive lift South Africa’s economic growth?

Strategic Communications

May 27, 2014

President Jacob Zuma announced at the weekend members of his new administration, who will have the task of transforming the economy and restoring the confidence of foreign investors in the economy. He has made some significant changes to his cabinet, including the new appointments to the important portfolios of finance, minerals and energy, signaling an intention to put the economy at the centre of his second term.

In his inauguration speech, President Zuma pledged to spend his new term pursuing “radical socio-economic transformation” through “inclusive” economic growth. It remains to be seen whether the shake-up in the executive will be able to deliver this much-needed growth for the ailing economy.

Although several ministries were reconfigured, the new executive team is still similar in size to its predecessor, which was considered bloated with 34 ministries. Some of the cabinet’s more left-leaning members, seen as being unfriendly to business, including Ebrahim Patel, a former unionist and minister of economic development, retained their posts. Some critics have said that President Zuma has missed an opportunity to bring about greater coordination in economic policy and direction, especially amid concerns that four key departments – finance, trade and industry, planning and economic development – often competed over policy resulting in increased investor uncertainty.

However, many observers will be encouraged by the appointment of business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president, who is expected to bring his success as a businessman to bear on South Africa’s troubled economy. He is seen as key to fostering a better relationship of trust between the government and the business sector. But there is no indication yet of whether he will have a broader economic mandate as widely expected. What his job will entail remains to be seen.

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Max Gebhardt

Managing Director, Head of Strategic Communications, South Africa