South African President Jacob Zuma shunted out seven of his ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle aimed at pinning accountability,as he insisted that visible improvement was needed in quality of life of people.
The dramatic reshuffle,the first since the country’s maiden democratic elections in 1994,was lauded by the opposition and many described it as a brave step.
“Access to basic services is still as important as it was when we attained our freedom in 1994,” Zuma said as he
announced the changes 17 months after assuming office as the third democratically elected President of South Africa.
His predecessors,Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki,did not undertake any major cabinet changes of this nature.
“Given the fact that we still face serious challenges of unemployment,poverty and inequality,government has to work at a faster pace to change the lives of the poor.
“Our people need to see a visible improvement in the delivery of water,electricity,health care,education,social security,civic services,safety and security and a host of other basic needs,” he said.
“We reiterate that 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,” Zuma said.
He also announced the appointment of four new deputy ministers to different departments to bring about the change required in areas of education,training,mineral resources and energy and performance management of government departments.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and African National Congress (ANC) alliance partner Congress of South African Trades Unions (COSATU),welcomed the reshuffle aimed at improving service delivery. The country would see a local government election next year.
DA spokesman Athol Trollip said his party welcomed the changes because they placed a renewed focus on accountability.
DA particularly welcomed the removal of Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda,who has been replaced by his deputy,Radhakrishna ‘Roy’ Padayachie and that of Minister for Women,Children and Persons with Disabilities Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya,who stands replaced by former Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana,besides Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana,whose place has been taken by Mildred Oliphant.
Other departments that saw changes were Public Works Ministry,Public Enterprises Ministry,Sports and Recreation Ministry and Water and Environmental Affairs Ministry.
COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said Zuma had consulted the labour federation on the proposed changes and the organisation was committed to work with the new cabinet.
Some of the outgoing cabinet members are to be redeployed elsewhere in the government.