Press Review CW 27/2024: Of winners and losers
Press Review 28 June 2024 to 5 July 2024

New government cabinet formed in South Africa


On Sunday evening, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the distribution of posts in the new cabinet of the so-called Government of National Unity (GNU). 20 of the 32 ministerial posts will remain in the hands of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC), including key positions such as the Ministry of Finance, which will continue to be headed by Enoch Godongwana, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Competition, which will from now on be headed by Johannesburg’s former mayor, Parks Tau, and the Ministries of International Relations and Cooperation as well as Defence and Justice. The post of Deputy President will also continue to be held by the ANC, with Paul Mashatile, who has held the post since March last year. Meanwhile, six ministerial posts will go to the largest coalition partner, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Its party leader, John Steenhuisen, will receive the post of Agriculture Minister, while the Home Affairs and Education Ministries will also go to the DA. The remaining six ministries were distributed among the smaller parties that had joined the GNU. Two ministries go to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), while the head of the anti-immigration and populist Patricotic Alliance (PA), Gayton McKenzi, becomes Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture and the ministerial post for Corrections goes to Pieter Groenewald from the right-wing, white nationalist Freedom Front Plus. The GOOD Party and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania will also each receive one ministry each. This means that seven of the eleven parties involved in the GNU are represented in the cabinet.

The reappointment of key ministries by the ANC points to continuity, particularly in industrial and trade policy as well as foreign policy. For example, the continuation of a pro-Palestinian foreign policy under Ronald Lamola, who was appointed Minister for International Relations and Cooperation and had already played an important role in the case brought by South Africa against Israel before the International Court of Justice, is very likely. The South African Rand also stabilised again after the cabinet announcement and was even able to record a slight gain after the currency had initially fallen again due to the temporary standstill in negotiations.

The cabinet formation was preceded by weeks of tense and sometimes tough negotiations between the ANC and the DA, the two strongest parties in the coalition government that won 40.18% and 21.81% of the votes in the parliamentary elections on 29 May this year (press review week 23/2024). In the meantime, the DA, which initially demanded eleven and later eight ministerial posts and around a dozen deputy ministerial posts, threatened to withdraw from the GNU and insisted on a distribution of ministries in line with the election results. The leaking of confidential letters between the party leaders also caused anger. The DA, with whose support President Ramaphosa had been re-elected by parliament on 14 June, finally gave in after the ANC agreed to the partial double appointment of deputy ministers, in particular the deputy finance minister.

The new cabinet has been criticised above all for its size: with 32 ministers (compared to 32 ministers before the election), 43 deputy ministers and the president and deputy president, the new government has a total of 77 members. Instead of further streamlining the cabinet, it has been further bloated to satisfy all coalition partners, according to critics. The proportion of women is also lower compared to the previous cabinet at 44% compared to 50% (2019), but also reflects the drop in the proportion of women in parliament from 46% (2020) to 43%. However, the appointment of ministerial posts is only a first step in the negotiation of South Africa’s future policy. There are major political discrepancies between the ideologically left-leaning ANC and the centralist, market-liberal DA, particularly on economic policy issues, such as the continuation of the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), or with regard to the ANC’s efforts to expropriate land that is in white hands as a legacy of colonial conquests without compensation and return it to black farmers. These different positions will now have to be continuously negotiated.


Mauritania’s President Ghazouani re-elected


Mauritania’s Constitutional Council confirmed the re-election of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani on Thursday. In the presidential elections last Saturday, the 67-year-old, who had entered the race for the ruling party El Insaf, was able to win in the first round with 56% of the vote, as the Independent Electoral Commission CENI announced on Monday. Second place with 22.1% of the vote went to MP and anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, who was running for the presidency for the third time, this time for the Refoundation for Global Action Alliance (RAG). Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar, who leads the largest opposition party, the Islamist Tewassoul, came third with 12.8%. A total of seven candidates stood for election. According to the electoral commission, voter turnout was 55%; around two million people out of a population of 4.5 million were eligible to vote. Ghazouani, who was elected president for the first time in 2019 and currently holds the presidency of the African Union, can now govern for another five years.

Opposition candidate Abeid announced on Sunday that he would not recognise the election results and spoke of a sham election and an electoral coup in favour of Ghazouani. According to Abeid, the electoral commission had fraudulently awarded Ghazouani thousands of votes “out of nowhere”. The CENI electoral commission was founded in 2022 under Ghazouani’s government to oversee national elections. Analysts had already criticised irregularities in the vote count during last year’s parliamentary elections; the opposition had accused the ruling party of massive electoral fraud. However, according to Secretary General Aminatou Mint El Khaless, no official complaint was received by the Constitutional Council within the legal deadlines. Meanwhile, international election observers, including those from the AU and the European Union (EU), judged the atmosphere of the current presidential elections as peaceful and transparent in their preliminary reports.

In view of his accusations, opposition candidate Abeid called for peaceful protests on Sunday, a call which was followed by supporters in various parts of the country. However, on Sunday evening and Monday, there were also clashes between demonstrators and security forces, whose presence had previously been increased, for example in the capital Nouakchott and other cities in the country. There were further violent clashes during the demonstrations, particularly in the opposition stronghold of Kaédi in the south of the country. Several demonstrators were injured and three people who were arrested during the protests died in custody, the Ministry of the Interior announced on Wednesday. Mobile internet access was also blocked in the country as a result of the protests on Monday.

President Ghazouani, who is repeatedly accused by the opposition of cracking down on and arresting government critics, also faces major challenges in his second term of office. In addition to fighting poverty – more than half of Mauritania’s population lives in poverty – combating the high level of youth unemployment is also one of the most pressing tasks. Youth unemployment currently stands at 23%, with the under-25s making up around 60% of the total population. The country also fears that the Islamist uprisings that have been going on for years in neighbouring Mali and other countries in the region could spill over into Mauritania. Meanwhile, the country is one of the main host countries for Malian refugees. According to official figures, there are currently around 81,000 people in Mauritania who have fled the violence in Mali to the neighbouring country. So far, President and former military officer Ghazouani, who is considered an important ally of France and the USA in the region, has succeeded in securing stability in the country. The EU also concluded a migration agreement with Nouakchott as recently as March of this year in order to increase police presence at the borders and reduce the number of migrants arriving.



In other news


On Monday, Eritrean Biniam Girmay became the first black African cyclist to win a stage of the Tour de France. The 24-year-old managed to win on the longest section of this year’s Tour de France, which stretched over 230 kilometres from Piacenza to Turin. After the actual favourite Mark Cavendish crashed shortly before the end of the stage, Girmay, who rides for the Belgian team Intermarche-Wanty, was able to prevail in a sprint final against the Colombian Fernando Gaviria and the Belgian Arnaud de Lie, who took second and third place. The victory was not only a great moment for him, but also for Eritrea and Africa, said Girmay in an interview, who had followed the Tour de France on television since childhood. Among African cyclists, only the two South Africans Robert Hunters (2007) and Deryl Impey (2019) have so far managed to achieve stage wins at the Tour de France; the Kenyan-born and raised four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (2013, 2015-2017) has competed for Great Britain. Cycling is also becoming increasingly popular in African countries and next year Rwanda will be the first African country to organise the Road Cycling World Championships.

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