Accessibility links

S. African President Names New Cabinet - 2004-04-28

South African President Thabo Mbeki named his new cabinet on Wednesday, the day after he was sworn in for a second term on the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

There are few surprises in President Mbeki's new government, with about half the old cabinet ministers retaining their jobs. Eight more ministers from the last government have been moved to new portfolios, and there are six new faces in the cabinet.

President Mbeki called his choices for the top posts excellent and said he has faith in their ability to get the job done.

"It's a very strong team ... there is a critical challenge that we face with regard to the implementation of policies, that in the last 10 years we have indeed paid a lot of attention to policy matters, and it is important, therefore, that we should really focus in a very, very specific way and a very determined way on the issue of ensuring that we do actually implement all these variety of policies that we have adopted," he said. "And I am quite certain that this team will discharge that responsibility very well."

Two of Mr. Mbeki's most talked-about decisions involve the deputy president and the health minister, both of whom kept their jobs despite a fair amount of controversy surrounding them.

Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been linked to a major corruption scandal, but he remains very popular within the ruling African National Congress. Analysts say it would have been hard for the president to re-assign him.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, on the other hand, is considered by some to be one of the least popular politicians in the country, and has drawn fire for dragging her feet on the AIDS treatment program.

Political scientist Tom Lodge of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg says Mr. Mbeki is fundamentally conservative when it comes to shaking up his cabinet, and he says the health minister has earned points for loyalty to the president.

"Mbeki doesn't like changes, he likes keeping things the same," he said. "But it seems to me that the most controversial decision is the non-decision, that is to keep Manto Tshabalala-Msimang where she is ... she's a bad health minister. I think it's a shame that she's still there."

In other main developments, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosutho Buthelezi is out of a job at Home Affairs, as was widely predicted. New National Party leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk has snared the Ministry of Environment and Tourism despite his party's poor showing at the polls.

President Mbeki has boosted the number of women in his cabinet to 12 out of 28 full ministers, and he named several new female deputy ministers as well. This appears to be a deliberate effort on his part to include more women in senior positions.

The president said women have not quite reached 50 percent of the cabinet posts yet, but in his words, we are getting there.