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South Africa’s President Ramaphosa appoints gender-balanced cabinet

LONDON – Newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a historic new cabinet in which, for the first time in the country’s existence, half of all ministers are women, and one of the women is from the opposition.

The South African leader appointed the veteran opposition politician Patricia de Lille, who had stood for the Good Party, as minister of infrastructure development.

A South African journalist Verashni Pillay told BBC Newsday that the move to have half of all cabinet posts occupied by women was a “surprise”. But it shows that the head of state is “astute”, she added.

President Ramaphosa belongs to South Africa’s icon and father of the country’s democracy and racial tolerance Nelson Mandela African National Congress party which won a general election on May 8 this year.

Generally, political commentators say most South Africans have welcomed the move to have equal gender representation. Tanya Cohen from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) said it sent “good signals to have qualified ministers like Dr Naledi Pandor as International Relations minister”.

Also on Thursday President Ramaphosa hosted the “take a girl child to work” day, where he told students he wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age. Many hope that the presence of women will help in poverty alleviation especially among rural women.

President Ramaphosa in another unexpected move has reduced the amount of ministers in what he called a “bloated” cabinet from 36 to 28 ministers but the leading vocal opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party said in a statement that the idea that the president had reduced the size of the cabinet was “the first sign of absolute dishonesty” because, at the same time, he had increased the number of deputy ministers.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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