Women now make up 50% of South Africa's cabinet

South Africa's president on Wednesday named a trimmed-down cabinet that is 50 per cent women, making it one of a few in the world to be gender-balanced.

Country follows in footsteps of states like Rwanda, Ethiopia

Patricia de Lille, former Cape Town mayor, and now leader of the GOOD political party, is among the women appointed to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's new cabinet. The country is among few in the world that now have a gender-equal cabinet, comprised of 50 per cent women. (Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa's president on Wednesday named a trimmed-down cabinet that is 50 per cent women, making it one of a few in the world to be gender-balanced.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement followed similar moves by Ethiopia and Rwanda last year.

Ramaphosa cut the cabinet down from 36 ministers to 28 as he seeks to reduce the bloating under predecessor Jacob Zuma, who stepped down last year under pressure amid corruption allegations.

Fighting the corruption and mismanagement that has consumed billions of rand — the country's national currency — is the major issue facing the ruling African National Congress (ANC), whose election win this month was the weakest in its 25 years in power.

The ANC leadership still contains some Zuma allies, complicating Ramaphosa's reform efforts that are aimed at restoring investor confidence in the economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Creating jobs is another immense challenge in a country where unemployment is over 25 per cent and a growing youth population that never knew the harsh racial system of apartheid that ended in 1994 is restless for a better future.

Cyril Ramaphosa arrives for his inauguration as South African president at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

High expectations

"The people who I am appointing today must realize that the expectations of the South African people have never been greater and that they will shoulder a great responsibility," Ramaphosa said in a national address that stressed the need for an "ethical" government.

South Africa's new cabinet retains Deputy President David Mabuza, who also has faced graft allegations, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minster and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Ramaphosa also included younger leaders in his cabinet, notably former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola as the minister of justice and correctional services. Another youth leader, Njabulo Nzuza, was appointed deputy minister of home affairs.

One notable appointee in a cabinet that Ramaphosa said was meant to reflect diversity was that of Patricia De Lille, a leader of the recently created opposition party, which is called GOOD. She will serve as public works and infrastructure minister.

A notable exclusion from the new cabinet was former women's minister Bathabile Dlamini, who is seen as a strong ally of former president Zuma.

On the sensitive issue of land reform to help address long-standing inequality, Ramaphosa grouped departments dealing with land and agriculture under one ministry, and appointed respected former parliamentary chairwoman Thoko Didiza to lead it.