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South Africa gets gender-balanced cabinet

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a new cabinet in which, for the first time in the country’s history, half of all ministers are women.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is the new Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is the new Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Leon Sadiki/Gallo Images)

In another unexpected move, one of the women is from the opposition.

He appointed veteran opposition politician Patricia de Lille, who had stood for the Good Party, as minister of infrastructure development.

The African National Congress party won a general election on 8 May.

South African journalist Verashni Pillay told BBC Newsday that the move to have half of all cabinet posts occupied by women was a “surprise”. But it shows that the head of state is “astute”, she said.

What’s been the reaction to a 50% female cabinet?

By Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

South Africans have welcomed the move to have equal gender representation. Tanya Cohen from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) said it sent “good signals to have qualified ministers like Dr Naledi Pandor as International Relations minister”.

On Thursday President Ramaphosa made a point of hosting the “take a girl child to work” day, where he told students he wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age. Many hope that the presence of women will help in poverty alleviation especially among rural women.

The most unexpected move was the appointment of the former Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. She set up the Good party after she was forced to resign from the opposition Democratic Alliance following an acrimonious power struggle.

Presentational grey line

Mr Ramaphosa reduced the amount of ministers in what he called a “bloated” cabinet from 36 to 28 ministers.

However, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party said in a statement that the idea that he had reduced the size of the cabinet was “the first sign of absolute dishonesty” because, at the same time, he had increased the number of deputy ministers.

Mr Ramaphosa has pledged to root out corruption, but correspondents say eyebrows have been raised that he retained Deputy President David Mabuza.

Mr Mabuza, a close ally of former President Jacob Zuma, denies allegations of involvement in political killings and illegal tenders.

Pravin Gordhan was also retained as public enterprises minister. The respected political figure in the anti-apartheid struggle was found to have violated the constitution by a corruption watchdog, the Public Protector. He was accused of unlawfully granting a senior executive in the revenue service early retirement without following due process. He is challenging the veracity of the report in court.

Former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who narrowly lost the 2017 ANC leadership election to Mr Ramaphosa, and was seen as the candidate of former President Jacob Zuma, her former husband, also kept her place in cabinet. BBC News