25 September 2008

South Africa: New President Removes Health Minister

Cape Town — New South African President Kgalema Motlanthe has unexpectedly removed controversial Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang from her portfolio.

Tshabalala-Msimang, who was criticized by South African civil society and many members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for not implementing HIV/Aids policies aggressively enough, was shifted into the post of "Minister in the Presidency."

Motlanthe also removed Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla, who was held responsible for political interference with prosecution decisions by the judge whose recent findings in the case against ANC leader Jacob Zuma precipitated the events which brought Motlanthe to power. Mabandla was given the portfolio responsible for state enterprises.

The changes were the main surprises of Motlanthe's acceptance speech, delivered to Parliament in Cape Town after he was elected and sworn in as the country's third democratically-elected president on Thursday.

Motlanthe reinstated Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, whose formal resignation triggered declines in stock market indices on Tuesday, and said he would continue to implement ANC policies "unchanged."

"Mine is not the desire to deviate from what is working," Motlanthe said. "It is not for me to reinvent policy. Nor do I intend to reshape either Cabinet or the public service."

One other cabinet minister was transferred to another post: Charles Nqakula, responsible for the police, was moved into the defence portfolio to fill a vacancy. Nqakula has been criticised by the opposition, but not by the ANC, for the country's high crime rate.

Motlanthe was forced to reshuffle the cabinet when ministers loyal to outgoing President Thabo Mbeki ignored ANC calls for them to stay in place and insisted that they were not available for re-appointment. Motlanthe's administration is expected to serve until April or May next year, when elections are due.

Motlanthe appointed eight ministers new to the cabinet, three to fill the health, justice and police portfolios and five to fill other vacancies left by Mbeki loyalists.

The new appointments are: Baleka Mbete, deputy president; Sicelo Shiceka, provincial and local government; Richard Baloyi, public service; Geoff Doidge, public works; Siyabonga Cwele, intelligence; Barbara Hogan, health; Nathi Mthethwa, safety and security (police); and Enver Surty, justice.

Mbete was earlier tipped as a candidate for president. She has been the parliamentary speaker since 2004 and was elected as national chair of the ANC during the conference last December which elected Zuma as leader and Mothlanthe as deputy leader of the party.

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