South Africa’s New President Names Allies and Rivals to Cabinet

South Africa’s New President Names Allies and Rivals to Cabinet

CAPE TOWN — President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa announced the makeup of his first cabinet on Monday night, appointing well-respected officials to key positions but naming as his deputy a provincial power broker with a history of poor management.

In forming his cabinet 11 days after being sworn in as president, Mr. Ramaphosa also retained some allies of his scandal-plagued predecessor, Jacob Zuma, apparently trying to balance the competing factions inside the African National Congress, the governing party. Mr. Ramaphosa has pledged to make clean government a priority.

Although Mr. Ramaphosa succeeded in forcing Mr. Zuma to step down as president, the composition of his first cabinet underscored the enduring influence of Mr. Zuma and his supporters, experts said.

“In recent weeks, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that there are many in the leadership that are not enthusiastic about the new direction taken by Ramaphosa,” said Steven Friedman, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg. “There is a substantial number of people in the cabinet who supported Zuma, though, in the key ministries, Ramaphosa got the people he wanted to get in.”

In a highly symbolic appointment, Nhlanhla Nene, a well-respected former finance minister fired by Mr. Zuma in 2015, assumed the same position in Mr. Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

Another highly regarded official, Pravin Gordhan, who often clashed with Mr. Zuma, was named to lead the Ministry of Public Enterprises, a source of widespread corruption during Mr. Zuma’s nine-year presidency.

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“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,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a televised address.

But Mr. Ramaphosa also reappointed a handful of familiar figures from Mr. Zuma’s past cabinets, including some linked to cases of corruption and poor administration.

In addition, Mr. Ramaphosa chose as the nation’s deputy president — the post that he himself occupied under Mr. Zuma — the premier of Mpumalanga Province, David Mabuza. A longtime ally of Mr. Zuma, Mr. Mabuza switched sides in the A.N.C.’s election in December, handing Mr. Ramaphosa a narrow victory.

“Ramaphosa wouldn’t have been elected without Mabuza,” Mr. Friedman said.

But Mr. Mabuza, he said, was known for ruling with “an iron fist” and for “consistent allegations of corruption.” His province was also for many years the “epicenter of political killings,” Mr. Friedman said.

The appointment of Mr. Mabuza to the second-highest position in the government — one that has served as a springboard to the presidency in South Africa’s post-apartheid history — could undermine Mr. Ramaphosa’s pledge to root out corruption, experts said.

“How can Ramaphosa claim to be anti-corruption when he is standing next to such a morally compromised figure as David Mabuza?” said Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and author. “When he talks about being anti-corruption, he’ll just have to sing to the birds, because no one else will listen.”

In his state of the nation address a day after being sworn in as president this month, Mr. Ramaphosa said that “a new dawn is upon us.” He promised to rejuvenate the economy, create jobs and fight corruption.

Earlier this month, Mr. Ramaphosa pushed Mr. Zuma to resign as the nation’s leader, though his term did not expire until mid-2019. Mr. Ramaphosa persuaded the party’s top leaders that getting rid of the unpopular, scandal-plagued Mr. Zuma as soon as possible would help the party rebuild itself before national elections next year.

In December, Mr. Ramaphosa, who had served as Mr. Zuma’s deputy for nearly four years, was elected leader of the A.N.C., defeating Mr. Zuma’s preferred candidate. In a country where the president is chosen by Parliament, the A.N.C.’s top leaders effectively select the nation’s leader.



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