Ramaphosa reaches across the aisle in nod to Nelson Mandela

In a nod to his mentor, Nelson Mandela, President Cyril Ramaphosa reached across the aisle and appointed a minister from a party other than the ruling African National Congress.

Ramaphosa, who announced a leaner cabinet with a record proportion of women, appointed Patricia de Lille of the Good party as his minister of public works. De Lille is a former mayor of Cape Town who split last year from the biggest opposition party - the Democratic Alliance. The veteran politician is famed for having blown the whistle on an arms-deal corruption scandal in the 1990s for which former President Jacob Zuma is currently facing charges.

''Ramaphosa’s process of appointing his cabinet is far more consultative than his predecessor Jacob Zuma and harkens back to the days of how Nelson Mandela did it,'' Melanie Verwoerd, an independent analyst and former ANC member of parliament, said in an interview.

''This includes reinstating the custom of having at least one person from another political party as a minister. Zuma’s last term broke with that tradition and Ramaphosa’s theme for his presidency is national unity.''

Mandela’s cabinet, after he took power at the end of apartheid in 1994, included F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president, as one of his deputies, as well as Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of the ANC’s bitter rivals the Inkatha Freedom Party, as his home affairs minister. Chris Liebenberg, a technocrat with no party affiliation, was his finance minister between 1994 and 1996.

Other officials from the National Party and the IFP also served briefly as ministers of land and correctional services.

Mbeki appointments

Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s second black president, kept Buthelezi as his home affairs minister as well as Ben Skosana, another IFP member, as his correctional services minister. In his second term, there was a cabinet post for the Azanian People’s Organisation.

Kgalema Motlanthe, who served as president for less than a year between 2008 and 2009, did away with the tradition, as did Zuma, who ruled from 2009 until 2018. Zuma did have a deputy minister from an opposition party in his first term.

Ramaphosa’s nod toward diversity and inclusiveness was also underscored by making 50% of his 28-minister cabinet female and appointing younger ministers. There was no room for Jeff Radebe, his brother-in-law, who had served in every cabinet since 1994.

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