South Africa, we have a cabinet! After what seems like a lifetime, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Government of National Unity (GNU) cabinet on Sunday. It’s an interesting mix of the old guard and the new, with some questionable choices 🤭. The GNU is made up of eleven political parties, including the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Patriotic Alliance (PA) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). 

The ANC has the lion’s share of the cabinet with 20 ministries, while the DA has six. There are some changes and familiar faces, so let’s look at who’s who and who’s gnu in the cabinet.

Who survived the chop?

President Cyril Ramaphosa chose to bring back certain familiar faces to the cabinet. Paul Mashatile is still the deputy president, while Angie Motshekga is now the minister of defence and military veterans. Finance minister Enoch Godongwana has kept his portfolio, and so has the minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has also kept the Small Business Development ministry.

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is now minister of health, a position he held from 2009 to 2019. Joe Phaahla has been demoted to Motsoaledi’s deputy. 

Ronald Lamola moves from Justice and Correctional Services to the important Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). Earlier this year, Lamola led South Africa’s delegation to the Peace Palace, which houses the United Nations International Court of Justice, in the Hague after South Africa approached the International Court of Justice, under the Genocide Convention, concerning acts committed by Israel in the context of its attacks on Gaza. 

Gwede Mantashe has also (surprisingly) survived the cut. However, his department, now known as the Department of Mineral and Petroleum Resources, has lost its energy office, which has been combined with the Ministry of Electricity, now known as Electricity and Energy, under Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. 

Blade Nzimande is also, inexplicably, back in cabinet as the minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, which has split from the department of Higher Education. 

Meet the rest of the new cabinet and deputy ministers here.

In his speech, the president said all the parties have committed to respecting the constitution and promoting accountable and transparent governance, evidence-based policy and decision-making, professionalising the public service, integrity, and good governance. 

“The incoming government will prioritise rapid, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and the creation of a more just society by tackling poverty and inequality,” he said. 

In DA club

The former official opposition is now in the executive cabinet, with six ministerial positions and six deputy minister positions. Just a side note: Did you know that deputy ministers aren’t part of the cabinet?

In a statement right after the announcement, the DA said it was proud to rise to the challenge and take its place, for the first time, at the seat of national government. “The mission to create an open, opportunity society for all South Africans now becomes our sole focus as we work the levers of the highest level of government in our country,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said. 

So, who are the DA members of the cabinet, and to which ministries have they been assigned? 

  • Let’s start with Steenhuisen, who is now the minister of Agriculture. He now heads the department, which used to be known as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development but has now been split into two. Food for Mzansi notes that Steenhuisen’s appointment has surprised many in the agricultural sector as another DA member, Dr. Ivan Meyer, MEC of agriculture, economic development and tourism in the Western Cape, was expected to lead the department.
  • The DA’s chief whip in parliament, Siviwe Gwarube, is our new minister of Basic Education. Gwarube replaces long-standing minister Angie Motshekga, who led the department for fifteen years from 2009. She inherits a department in disarray, and experts say she has her work cut out for her. In April, Motshekga revealed in a written reply that more than 30,000 teaching vacancies are yet to be filled in South Africa. The dean of the education faculty at the University of the Free State, professor Loyiso Jita, says Gwarube should focus on filling these vacancies and called on her to stop with the increased focus on Grade 12 students, arguing that basic education begins at Grade R. “Stop the ranking of schools, districts, and provinces based on Grade 12 results. Find better ways to track learner development: Why not look at performance periodically, such as Grade 3, 6 and 9 for developmental purposes?”
  • The minister of Public Works and Infrastructure is Dean Macpherson. The 39-year-old from eThekwini in KwaZulu Natal is the former provincial chair of the DA in that province and was serving as chief whip for the party in that province. He, too, inherits a department that is constantly mired in scandal. Macpherson said on Twitter that he looked forward to advancing DA policies to grow the economy and create jobs. “It’s time to turn our country into a massive construction site that builds infrastructure for the future!”
  • Dr Dion George replaces Barbara Creecy as the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment minister. George is the DA’s constituency head in Knysna and has led some environmental causes for the area. George told the Knysna Plett Herald that his appointment presented an “enormous opportunity.”
  • The man who will be making sure that the system remains online at Home Affairs is Dr Leon Schrieber. Schrieber, the former DA shadow minister for Public Service and Administration, pledged to serve the people of South Africa and wanted to demonstrate that “South Africans can fix even the most intractable problems when we work together.” Schrieber is the leading force behind the “Cut Cabinet Perks Bill”, which he and his party said would “amend the Remuneration of Public Office-Bearers Act and reduce the obscene waste of valuable public resources that currently funds the Rockstar lifestyles of ANC ministers and deputy ministers.” ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba has questioned whether the ANC and DA would still pursue the bill since they’re in government together. 
  • Solly Malatsi has become the country’s Communications and Digital Technologies minister. He replaces Mondli Gungubele (now his deputy) and is expected to change the department per the DA’s policy document for the ICT sector. Malatsi has been a member of parliament since 2014 and was elected as the DA’s second deputy federal chair at its 2023 federal congress. 

The DA has also assumed deputy minister posts in the portfolios of Finance, Trade, Industry and Competition, higher education, Energy and Electricity, Water and Sanitation, and Small Business Development.

The Others

The IFP scored two ministries: The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Public Service and Administration. IFP leader Velenkosi Hlabisa will lead CoGTA, while his deputy, Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, will lead DPSA. 

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania’s Mzwanele Nyhontso will lead the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, which was split from Steenhuisen’s agriculture. 

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald will oversee the Department of Correctional Services. You will remember that this ministry used to be called the Department of Justice and Correctional Services but has now been split. 

GOOD Party leader and Tourism minister Patricia de Lille gets to stay in her position, which the sector has welcomed

PA leader Gayton McKenzie also made the cabinet as minister of Sports, Arts and Culture. McKenzie threatened to leave the GNU if the PA was not included in the cabinet and was openly gunning for the Department of Home Affairs. 

It’s going to be an interesting time for the GNU. Still, all the leaders seemed to be scrambling for cabinet, leaving the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Umkhonto we Sizwe Party, and ActionSA on the opposition benches and key portfolio committees. One thing is for sure: South African politics have changed, and the members of the GNU need to put their quarrels aside and work for the betterment of SA. We deserve it.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the ANC had 11 ministries instead of 20. We regret the error.