African business, politics and lifestyle
How will the Zuma team do?
Thousands of South Africans danced, cheered and sang hymns to celebrate President Jacob Zuma’s swearing in. Zuma, they said, as a man of the people, would give them houses and electricity, fight AIDS and crime, and ensure prosperity even as South Africa is on the brink of its first recession in 17 years.
But appointments to key ministries have raised questions over how well the new government will function.
Economic policy is seen intact after largely expected changes at finance-related ministries, but appointments to some other key sectors, including mining, energy and telecommunications left more doubts.
Siphiwe Nyanda, the newly appointed minister of communications, has been a military man, yet outside the African National Congress (ANC) and defence he is something of a mystery. He now takes over communications, a crucial ministry with oversight of Telkom, Africa’s biggest telecoms firm.
Dipuo Peters qualified in social work, but has been chosen to lead the energy ministry and help tackle the country’s power shortages that have led to a five-day shutdown of South Africa’s mining industry and crippled the country’s investor-friendly image.
“It appears this is South Africa’s tradition to appoint a minister who has no technical qualifications whatsoever,” said independent analyst Andrew Kenny.
Barbara Hogan, who has led the health ministry for the past six months, has been moved to oversee the public enterprise department, also in charge of sorting out structural problems at state-owned utility Eskom, which now supplies some 95 percent of the country’s power.
Analysts welcomed the split of the energy and mining ministry into two entities, saying it would allow for better focus on the challenges at hand, especially in view of the economic slowdown. They say that while political motives could have motivated individual appointments, the eventual success of each entity will depend on the ministers’ leadership skills and ability to appoint the right people around them.
Zuma appointed Susan Shabangu, who has only held deputy ministerial positions before, as mining minister in the world’s top source of platinum and No. 3 gold producer. She came to prominence as deputy security minister last year when she advised police dealing with criminals: “You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or the community. You must not worry about the regulations.”
Some say it is too soon to speculate on how the ministers will do. The ministers need to be given the benefit of the doubt for now, they say. The first 100 days in office may indicate whether or not they will push for change and deliver on the promises made. What do you expect?