South African President Jacob Zuma has sworn in seven new ministers as part of a major Cabinet reorganization. The president said the purpose was to accelerate the delivery of social services, especially to the poor, but observers noted that political considerations were also behind many of the changes.
South African President Jacob Zuma fired seven ministers, moved two ministers to new portfolios and appointed 17 deputy-ministers in one of the most extensive Cabinet reorganizations since the end of apartheid 16 years ago.
Mr. Zuma told reporters Sunday the purpose was to strengthen some ministries.
“We need a national executive and public service that knows where our people live, who fully understand the needs of our people and what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
Speaking in Pretoria he said South Africans needed to see visible improvements in basic services such as water supply, electrical power, health care, and education.
Mr. Zuma was elected president 18 months ago promising to improve the lives of millions of South Africans who live in shacks in informal settlements without basic services.
Last week, the government said it aimed to create five-million jobs in the next 10 years.
One of the most noted Cabinet dismissals was that of Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, a former head of the armed forces whose tenure had been plagued by charges of mismanagement and abuse of office.
Also dismissed was Minister for Women, Children and the Disabled, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, who had been accused of ineffectiveness.
Ministers were also replaced at the ministries of Public Works, Water, Social Development, Labor and Public Enterprises.
Two former heads of the African National Congress Youth Wing were given the portfolios of Sports and Culture in what was seen as an effort to ease criticism by some young party cadres.
But there were no changes at the key ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Home Affairs.
Mr. Zuma also created four new deputy-minister posts and made changes at 13 existing deputy slots.
The Cabinet reorganization was praised by many opposition parties and newspaper editorials. They called it a welcome sign of the president’s intent to improve efficiency in government and the condition of the poor.
Analysts also noted that some changes were made to appease ANC allies, in particular labor unions and the Communist Party, which have accused his government of favoring business over the workers and the underprivileged.
Others said it also appeared aimed at countering charges of a lack leadership by some critics.
Political maneuvering has already begun as politicians prepare for local elections next year and the ANC party meeting in two years. Mr. Zuma is expected to seek re-election as ANC president. VOA