Here’s how South Africa’s ‘bloated’ cabinet compares with the rest of the world

President Cyril Rhamaphosa is under pressure to rein in the size of his cabinet. File picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers.

President Cyril Rhamaphosa is under pressure to rein in the size of his cabinet. File picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers.

Published Jun 23, 2024


Following his inauguration on Wednesday, June 19, Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce his new cabinet imminently.

As South Africans eagerly wait to see the composition of this new cabinet, with deadlocks reportedly taking place behind the scenes as the Democratic Alliance (DA) pushes for its desired ministerial posts, questions are also being raised about the size of the country’s cabinet.

It is widely rumoured that President Ramaphosa will increase the size of South Africa’s cabinet in order to include members of the other nine political parties that now form part of the newly formed government of national unity (GNU).

However, increasing the size of South Africa’s cabinet will not come without controversy. The outgoing executive structure has 30 cabinet ministers and 30 deputy ministers, and it has been widely labelled as ‘bloated’.

But how does South Africa’s cabinet size compare to the rest of the world?

In global terms it is relatively big in relation to the country’s population size.

The United Kingdom, for instance, currently has 22 ministers in its cabinet, excluding Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. President Joe Biden has 24 cabinet members within the executive branch of his US government.

Japan gets by with 19 ministers and Germany has just 15.

However larger cabinets are not uncommon among the so-called emerging economies.

For instance, the executive administration of Brazilian President Lula da Silva has 37 ministries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government also has a 37-member cabinet, which is albeit understandable given the country’s population size.

President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping. File Picture: Xinhua/Pang Xinglei

India, on the other hand, has 30 cabinet ministers within the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However size certainly counts for the Nigerian government, with 45 ministers falling under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Other African countries like Kenya, on the other hand, like to keep it lean with a 22-minister government.

While it remains to be seen how big South Africa’s cabinet will be following the imminent reshuffle, it’s worth noting that Ramaphosa’s 30-strong list of ministries is still smaller than former President Jacob Zuma’s 35.

Interestingly the DA has previously called for a cabinet with just 15 ministers, which would appear ironic if the new GNU structure emerges with an expanded list of ministers.