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South African President Zuma’s New Cabinet to be Sworn in Monday


In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma's newly named cabinet members are expected to be sworn in today (Monday). Some political observers welcome Zuma's choice of former finance minister Trevor Manuel to the newly created portfolio of National Planning Commission. They say the choice is a move to reassure the international investor community which has often expressed fear that Zuma's policies would be left leaning. Described by Zuma as a powerful ministry, Manuel's new position would be responsible for strategic planning and coordination among all of South Africa's government departments.

Professor Shadrack Gutto is a constitutional law expert. He told VOA that Manuel's appointment would elicit a positive reaction from the international financial market.

"I think that the reaction has been mixed and that was predictable. There is a bit of shakeup about four ministers that served under President (Thabo) Mbeki were not included in the new cabinet. I guess that means that we have in terms of warm blood, more continuity than change because if only four have been removed, that means that those who were there were still valued," Gutto said.

He said under the new president, different ministries have been created and some renamed.

"There has been a lot of reorganization of various ministries or departments as it were. We have seen a creation of new National Planning Commission dealing with planning. We have also seen a departmental ministry within the presidency dealing with monitoring and performance evaluation of how various departments are actually operating," he said.

Gutto said individual appointments into the new cabinet could generate a positive reaction from the financial market.

"I think it is going to be positive. There may be a few worries about portfolios such as justice and constitution development which is also important given the battering that the judiciary has had and problems we have had," Gutto said.

He said the work of the new minister for justice would carefully be scrutinized.

"Because the minister who has been put in that position, Mr. Jeff Radebe, has been one of those who have been rather vocal in terms of expressing views about the judiciary which are not very positive. Now that he has the mantle, you know we can't prejudge any of these ministers and say that they are going to continue with their reputation," he said.

Gutto said the new president's path to the presidency might have contributed to the expansion of the cabinet from the traditional 28 to 34.

"I believe that this was really in line probably with the way in which Jacob Zuma came to power. That he was able to galvanize desperate interest groups and constituencies and all of these were looking forward at least of being rewarded in one way or another," Gutto said.

He said the expansion of the cabinet under the new president could be expensive for South African taxpayers.

"For the country and the public resources, it is in the negative because the more cabinet is bloated, the more resources are wasted in simply fattening politicians who add no value probably to the overall effectiveness of government," he said.

Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had been in the job for 13 years, making him the world's longest-serving finance minister. Investors approved of the tight monetary and fiscal policies he kept in place.

Some political analysts say Zuma's toughest challenge may be balancing the interests of unions and communists who helped him rise to the top against those who fear he will steer the economy to the left. Some of the more vocal left-wingers found places in the cabinet, but not holding key economic portfolios.

Meanwhile, President Zuma Sunday appointed his predecessor, outgoing President Kgalema Motlanthe, as deputy president in the new administration.

Despite the current global financial downturn, President Zuma promised to tackle the tough economic crisis, widespread poverty, rising crime as well as insisting that he would not hand out political favors to his ardent supporters.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) won an election landslide on April 22, keeping the dominance it has enjoyed since the end of apartheid in 1994. Zuma made his way to the presidency despite facing trials for rape and corruption. All the charges were eventually dropped, a move that attracted wide condemnation from the opposition who claimed the National Prosecuting Authority caved under the ruling party's enormous political pressure.

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