Monday, April 27, 2009

Cabinet clowns gather

Attention in South Africa turned to the make up of president-to-be Jacob Zuma's cabinet and media tipped respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to head a powerful new government oversight body.

The fate of Manuel is key for markets, keen he stays on with a strong role after the sweeping election victory of the African National Congress because of his record on keeping spending in check and maintaining financial stability.

The Sunday Times newspaper said Manuel was likely to head a new national planning commission which would monitor government performance in Africa's biggest economy. It said Manuel's staff recently held a farewell function for him.

The Sunday Independent said Zuma was likely to keep Manuel in the cabinet to reassure markets, at a time South Africa faces its first recession in 17 years, but also said he could be given the powerful Central Planning Commission portfolio.

'Some in the ANC would like his superpowers to be retained in the cabinet,' the paper said. The rand fell more than 2.5 percent last year when markets thought Manuel was leaving the cabinet. Expectations he will stay on under Zuma, close to unions and ANC leftists, have also helped strengthen the rand recently.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said any discussions on posts would still only be at the informal level and the cabinet would be made clear after Zuma's inauguration on May 9. An ANC transition team is in place to ensure a smooth handover.

'We don't want to entertain speculation about what individual will take what post,' he said.

Official election results released on Saturday gave the ANC 65.9 percent, giving Zuma a strong mandate three weeks after he was able to get corruption charges dropped on a technicality.

The ANC faced its toughest opposition challenge since the end of apartheid in 1994 at last Wednesday's vote and lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority by a whisker.

Zuma pledged there would be no surprises in the new administration's policies.

The Sunday Times said possible new finance ministers could be businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and current deputy Nhlanhla Nene. But it added Ramaphosa had declined an invitation for a cabinet position.

Because of the questions about how long Manuel will stay in his current role, close attention is also being paid to whoever might take the deputy finance job.

Names mentioned include Pravin Gordhan, who heads the tax authority and is credited with significantly improving revenue collection. ANC Treasurer-General Mathews Phosa, a former lawyer and Zuma ally, is also seen as a possibility.

At the foreign ministry, Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is widely thought to be on the way out. She has been accused by critics of embarrassing South Africa by backing governments with dubious human rights records.

Under Zuma, South Africa is expected to take a tougher line on neighbouring Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe and old rival Morgan Tsvangirai have put in place a power-sharing administration to try to rescue Zimbabwe from economic collapse.

1 Opinion(s):

Dachshund said...

What would happen to South Africa if Trevor Manuel were to keel over and die? It's very precarious that so much hinges on one man.