President Cyril Ramaphosa appoints 50 percent women in new cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed 50 percent women in his new cabinet, a first for Africa’s second-biggest economy.

“For the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women,” the 66-year-old leader said in a televised address on Wednesday in capital Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa said he reduced the number of ministers to 28 from 36 by combining a number of posts in a bid to cut spending, promote greater coherence and improve efficiency.

“All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing and the constraints this has placed on public finances,”.

He said he “placed priority on revitalizing the economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds”. ‘Experience, continuity, competence’

Ramaphosa was sworn in on Saturday as the sixth democratically-elected president of South Africa.

He pledged to revive the stagnating economy, create jobs and rid the country of corruption.

In his new cabinet, Ramaphosa included a significant number of young people and opposition party leader Patricia De Lille as Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure to the surprise of many.

“In appointing a new national executive, I have taken a number of considerations into account, including experience, continuity, competence, generational mix and demographic and regional diversity,” he said.

The former anti-apartheid activist and trade union leader also retained influential Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordan as Minister of Public Enterprises. The duo is known for fighting corruption and cutting government spending.

Ramaphosa also retained David Mabuza as deputy president and appointed Naledi Pandor as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

Analysts described Ramaphosa’s cabinet picks as a market-friendly outcome that maintains important allies in key ministries while sidelining some top officials in the ruling African National Congress accused of corruption and mismanagement.

Chief Africa economist at Standard Chartered Bank told Reuters news agency, “In all, the cabinet appointments announced tonight speak of new confidence in the Ramaphosa administration,”

Some analysts, however, expressed concern over the number of deputy ministers, which remained at above 30.

Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, said. “Trimming the size of cabinet by the size he did is a strong message, but creating so many deputy ministries is a problem. So no, it’s not enough yet,”