SA on ‘wait and see’ for new ministers in critical economic cluster

Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel has informed President Cyril Ramaphosa that he will not be returning to the Cabinet in the new administration after the general election. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel has informed President Cyril Ramaphosa that he will not be returning to the Cabinet in the new administration after the general election. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers.

Published May 30, 2024


Nicola Mawson

The roles of ministers of both public enterprises and trade, industry, and competition portfolios – two vital departments in the economic cluster – will hinge on the outcome of yesterday’s national and provincial elections.

This comes as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced his retirement early in March.

Gordhan’s announcement was followed by another ANC stalwart, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel, saying that he would also not be available to serve in the new Cabinet, just days before the elections.

Daniel Silke, a political economy analyst, on Tuesday said that there could be a “broader shuffle” in the Cabinet, partly because of these departures by the ministers.

However, Silke said South Africa will have to wait until after the elections to see who the new ministers will be, noting that – ultimately – the ANC was likely to be driving which ministers fill which portfolios.

He said a coalition with the EFF was not a possibility, but if it came to pass, the left-wing party could claim the portfolio of trade, industry, and competition, although this was not its first prize as it wants the National Treasury.

On Tuesday, Investec predicted 43% for the ANC, 22% for the current official opposition – the DA – and 12% each for the EFF and the MK Party (MK).

The latest Ipsos poll, from last month, showed the ANC winning just more than 40%, the DA almost 22%, the EFF coming in at 11.5%, and disrupter MK – led by former president Jacob Zuma – garnering 8.4% of the votes.

Silke said that in the past, the ANC had appointed ministers into portfolios when they did not have direct experience in that particular industry.

“If the ANC’s power does weaken, there could be a smaller pool of candidates,” he said.

“We’ll have to see how badly the ANC does. They could come under tremendous pressure and may be forced to appoint someone from a trade union or the communism bloc.”

Donald MacKay, CEO of XA Global Trade Advisors, suggested that the current Deputy Minister of Finance, David Masondo, could take over the position of Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition.

According to MacKay, Masondo has ambitions to lead the National Treasury and could head up the department as a stepping stone to this role.

MacKay did not think anyone from inside the department, such as deputy ministers Nomalungelo Gina or Fikile Majola, taking on the role.

He said this was the outcome of them working under a minister who has an “overwhelming personality”.

All this, however, is predicated on the ANC winning a majority, MacKay noted.

Cosatu, one of the ANC’s alliance partners, has vowed to engage with President Cyril Ramaphosa about the configuration and the composition of the Cabinet if the ANC wins the election.

Cosatu said the principles that will guide it when it comes to the composition of the seventh administration were that those appointed must have impeccable integrity and are incorruptible, capacity and be able to deliver upon the ANC’s electoral mandate, a track record of working-class struggles and a commitment to defending workers’ rights.

“They must have an understanding of what needs to be done to grow the economy, create decent work, slash poverty and inequality, tackle crime and corruption, and build a developmental state,” Cosatu said.

Old Mutual Group chief economist Johann Els was on Tuesday also of the view that the ANC will remain in charge of the government, even if it must form a coalition with a smaller party that will have minimal say over policy.

Els said the rand has been stronger ahead of the elections, partially because investors were pricing in an ANC win that will lead to continuity in terms of economic policies, which includes bringing in the private sector to help deal with issues such as load shedding and the logistics crisis.

“Investors like continuity. We could even see the rand improve when the results come out,” Els said.

Echoing Els, Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said the ANC was not expected to take on a destabilising coalition to policy continuity.

Though Silke said that this year’s numbers may take longer to count as there were more ballots, more complex logistics, and the potential for disruption, Bishop said she expected the results to be released on June 2.

“The first sitting of Parliament of the seventh democratic Parliament will then likely occur in mid-June, to elect the president, then the Assembly will normally adjourn for several days to enable the newly elected president to be sworn in and appoint his/her Cabinet,” Bishop said.