November 3, 2010

Zuma changes government

In a surprising move, President Jacob Zuma has considerably changed composition of his government only installed in May 2009 after the parliamentary elections. Alltogether, nine ministries were affected, among them and particularly important Communications, Labour, Water and Environment and Public enterprises. All four had been troubled in recent months by internal conflicts.

New communications minister Roy Padayachie who replaces general Siphiwe Nyanda is seen as a technocrat who would probably better come to terms with the challenges facing the department, including the handling of government media policy and digital terrestrial television.

Mildred Oliphant, replacing Membathisi Mdladlana as Labout Minister, will have to deal with, inter alia, the issue of labour brokers seen by trade unions als "slavers". Also the non-compliance of Chinese textile companies with South African minimum wage regulations is on her agenda.

The biggest test of the new Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa will be dealing with acid mine drainage resulting from more than a century gold mining. Environmental activists say that contaminated water seriously theratens parts of the Witwatersrand.

Also Public Enterprises has a new Minister - Malusi Gigaba, a former leader of the ANC Youth League and so far deputy home affairs minister. He replaces Barbara Hogan who was widely respected as former Minister of Health in Motlanthe's government, changing former President Mbekis controversial aids policy, and as an outspoken - maybe too outspoken - fighter against corruption.

Not to be overlooked is the promotion of deputy police minister, and former ANC Youth League leader, Fikile Mbalula to Sports Minister - an appointment which takes up the Youth League's call for "generational change".

According to political observers, the change of cabinet on the one hand tries to address some obvious political and personal problems which negatively affected governmental activities in many sectors. On the other hand, Zuma seems to have consolidated his power base by integrating critics from the Youth League and by putting loyalists in some other strategically important departments. This is seen as a reaction to the debate during the recent ANC ANC conference, and as a move to prepare for the decisive ANC election conference in Bloemfontein in early 2012. (various South African Newspapers)

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