South Africa’s new president Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday, two years after Nene’s sacking from the same role began the ruling party revolt that eventually ousted former leader Jacob Zuma.
Monday’s cabinet reshuffle also saw Ramaphosa add new faces and remove some ministers allied to Zuma, who was ordered by his own African National Congress party to step down two weeks ago.
His nine years as president were marked by multiple corruption allegations, economic mismanagement and disputed appointments. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, 65, hailed a “new dawn” after his inauguration and has promised to fight the corruption corroding Africa’s most industrialized economy.
The newly appointed Minister for Finance Nhlanhla Nene
Nene sought to keep a tight rein on spending during his previous stint as finance minister, before being fired by Zuma in December 2015 and replaced with unknown parliamentary backbencher Des van Rooyen. Four days later, Zuma was forced to sack van Rooyen and reappoint a previous finance minister, technocrat Pravin Gordhan, after the rand collapsed in value.
Gordhan, who was fired by Zuma last March, was also reappointed to the cabinet. He was handed the key public enterprises department, which oversees around 300 state-owned firms, including loss-making South African Airways and cash-strapped power utility Eskom.
A popular figure with investors, Gordhan served as Minister of Finance from 2009 until 2014 and again from 2015 until 2017.
Seeking to keep the different factions of the ruling African National Congress represented within the cabinet, Ramaphosa retained several ministers appointed by Zuma but demoted them from key government departments. Ten ministers were dropped altogether from cabinet, a majority of them key Zuma allies.
“In making these changes, I have been conscious of the need to balance continuity and stability with the need for renewal, economic recovery and accelerated transformation,” Ramaphosa said in a brief speech.
But official opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said the cabinet was still filled with compromised ministers.
“Ramaphosa’s new cabinet will serve the ANC, not South Africa,” said Maimane, who heads the Democratic Alliance party, citing the appointment of ANC deputy president David Mabuza as Deputy President of South Africa.
Mabuza, who has not served as a cabinet minister before, was an ally of Zuma and was accused of involvement in corruption in awarding tenders. He has denied any wrongdoing.
“Ramaphosa’s decision to side with scandal-ridden Mabuza undermines the integrity of his stated commitment to fight corruption and rebuild from the tatters of the Zuma decade,” Maimane said.
Both Nene and Mabuza will take their positions after completing the formality of being sworn-in as ANC lawmakers.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who narrowly lost to Ramaphosa in an ANC leadership election in December, was named as minister in the presidency responsible for planning and monitoring. A former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Dlamini-Zuma was married to ex-president Zuma for over a decade and has four children with him.
The rand firmed against the dollar in volatile trade, ahead of the announcement, and was steady after Ramaphosa spelt out the changes.
Outgoing finance minister Malusi Gigaba was moved to the home affairs ministry, while Lindiwe Sisulu, who withdrew from last year’s ANC leadership race, was named foreign affairs minister.
Trade unionist Gwede Mantashe, who is currently the national chairperson of the ANC, was named to head the mining ministry. Policy uncertainty has angered investors in the mining sector, which contributes around 7 percent of the country’s GDP.
Jeff Radebe, one of the longest-serving ministers in post apartheid South Africa, was named energy minister. South Africa has the continent’s only nuclear power station and is seeking to expand its nuclear power capacity in the coming decades.
Analysts said the changes — including shifting some Zuma allies to less important ministries — showed that Ramaphosa was walking a tightrope in balancing the ANC’s factions.
Melanie Verwoerd, a political analyst and former ANC lawmaker, said: “It’s positive that Ramaphosa kicked out many of the bad apples from Zuma’s presidency, but handing the deputy president’s position to Mabuza showed that he had to compromise.”
Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa at Standard Chartered, said Ramaphosa’s cabinet was a mixed bag.
“Markets will react positively to the appointment of Nene as finance minister and Gordhan as public enterprise minister. They are seen as key figures in key portfolios where much needs to be fixed. In all, this was a mix of key policy imperatives, party unity, and an appeal to the ANC’s traditional voter base,” she said.