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Vol 50 No 10

Published 15th May 2009

South Africa

Pragmatism trumps ideology

President Zuma's first cabinet keeps the economic power in the hands of the market-friendly centrists

A night of haggling preceded President Jacob Zuma's 10 May announcement of a new cabinet, which includes people from the left, the centre, black business, populists and even a right-wing Afrikaner. Zuma looked tired when he arrived, 30 minutes late, for his first presidential press conference after last-minute horse-trading with the African National Congress's National Executive Committee over jobs. He promised to base his presidency on a pro-poor platform with better service delivery, improved efficiency and less waste. His cabinet has 34 ministers (six of them in new posts) and 28 deputy ministers, eight of them new. The political motivations are clear: Zuma had to satisfy his eclectic support base. Administratively, the justification is that with greater overlap between ministries, they will be forced to coordinate implementation by working closely together. However, a larger government in a country facing a skills shortage in its civil service might just slow everyone down and create turf wars.

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