After recent election, women now make up half of South Africa’s incoming cabinet

Women now hold a historic number of positions in the nation's cabinet, with several being veterans of the country's government while others are new to the national scene

Former African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers remarks during the opening of the African Union Commission High Level Dialogue in 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As South Africa emerges from its election in which the ruling African National Congress retained power, one of the results was also the political emergence of women in its government.

“For the first time in the history of our country, half of all the ministers are women,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised press conference. He has also downsized the number of cabinet ministers from 36 to 28 as a measure to “downscale” what he believes is a “bloated government.”

According to CNN, Wednesday, Ramaphosa announced the decision was made to cultivate a new wave of leaders that would advance the country’s future. His ANC party, which was once led by Nelson Mandela was voted back into power earlier in May.

READ MORE: In South Africa, ruling African National Congress poised for election win but with decreased support

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chairperson of the African Union Commission, will retain her current role as the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs. She has held various governmental positions for the last 25 years. Thoko Didiza returns as minister of agriculture and has had that job for the last eight years. But among new appointments is Patricia de Lille, former Mayor of Cape Town, who has been appointed minister of public works.

While these appointments of the 14 female members to the new cabinet may have had noble intentions, Xolani Dube, a political analyst from the Xubera Institute of Research and Development based in Durban believes political appointments should based on merit and performance and not solely on gender.

“Many of the women the president announced have been there for many decades. We need to ask ourselves what kind of paradigm shift are we looking for in this country,” Dube told CNN.

Adding, “We need to introduce young women who have a different outlook on how South Africa is supposed to be governed in this particular age.”

READ MORE: South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa promises “new dawn”

Opposition party leader, Mmusi Maimane, is also skeptical of Ramaphosa’s plans and speculates the appointments were made more as a political publicity stunt, than a bid for gender equality.

“South Africa at this point deserves a diverse, competent cabinet that is not a negotiated settlement between factions, but instead a team of committed individuals who are ready to take South Africa forward,” Maimane said in a statement.

Maimane also said he plans to appoint a “shadow Cabinet” that would hold the government accountable.

South Africa’s new cabinet was sworn in on Thursday.

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