S.Africa slashes cabinet size, appoints 50% women

Johannesburg (AFP) –


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday cut the number of cabinet ministers from 36 to 28, in a move he said would tackle the country's "bloated" government and improve efficiency.

Half the new ministers are women, making South Africa one of the world's few gender-balanced governments.

Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet after he led the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party to victory in elections earlier this month.

He took office last year after the ousting of graft-tainted Jacob Zuma, who had expanded the number of ministerial posts in an alleged attempt to strengthen his patronage network.

"To promote greater coherence, better coordination and improved efficiency, we (are) reducing the number of ministers from 36 to 28," Ramaphosa said in televised address to the nation.

"This is a significant move of downscaling our state. Many people believed our government... was bloated and this was agreed right across the board."

In another dig at his predecessor, Ramaphosa said that the ANC had been re-elected with a mandate to end "state capture" -- the term used to describe government corruption under Zuma.

"All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing," Ramaphosa said.

"It is therefore imperative... we place priority on revitalising our economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds."

"For the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women," he added.

Naming his new cabinet, Ramaphosa kept internationally-respected Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in place, as well as his controversial Deputy President David Mabuza.

Mabuza is seen as a pro-Zuma figure whose name has come up in media reports on alleged corruption and political killings when he was premier of the eastern province of Mpumalanga.

Ramaphosa, 66, an anti-apartheid activist who became a wealthy businessman, faces a tough battle to drive through reforms in a country suffering from chronic unemployment, inequality, racial tension and crime.