Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma’s new cabinet is too big and will be too costly, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) said on Monday.

“While we understand that cabinet appointments offer the president an opportunity to reward his supporters and to balance the interests of various influences within the ANC-led tripartite alliance… we are very concerned about the size of our cabinet, which is among the biggest in the world,” said Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba in a statement.

“A developing country like ours, with a small tax base and whose economy has been seriously under-performing, cannot afford such a bloated cabinet.”

He said South Africa needed to have more people with experience as business leaders and entrepreneurs so that government would be more sensitive to the interests of business, “which is the goose that lays the golden egg”.

Not enough business-savvy ministers

“Our cabinet is made up of people with different experiences, including those from the ANC’s allies in Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, with very little business representation,” said Nyatsumba.

“Most of the ministers have never held a corporate job in their lives. Striking a healthy balance among all the interest groups would have made for a more balanced cabinet.”

Seifsa, however, welcomed the appointment of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and the retention of Rob Davies as trade and industry minister.

“Davies has been readily accessible to the business community and has interacted with it with an open mind,” he said.

“He has a very good appreciation of the challenges confronting the business community in the country and understands that our economy will continue to under-perform unless manufacturing in the country is stimulated.”

Nyatsumba said Nene had had an opportunity, as deputy minister in the portfolio, to under-study both former finance ministers Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan in the past decade.

“Mr Nene has worked very well with ministers Manuel and Gordhan, both of whom are generally acknowledged to have been the most outstanding ministers since the dawn of our democracy, and he is more than ready for the task at hand,” he said.

Sacci welcomes Nene appointment

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the appointment and said Nene was a skilled and experienced leader.

“The Cabinet shows a commitment to the priorities… these being accelerated infrastructure investment, radical economic transformation, and jobs growth,” Sacci CEO Neren Rau said in a statement on Monday.

“Sacci will be an active partner toward an improved economic and investment environment but remains of the view that this must be predicated on lower levels of state interventionism.”

The Chamber of Mines congratulated the new cabinet and welcomed the appointment of Ngoako Ramatlhodi as mineral resources minister.

“The Chamber of Mines is encouraged by the appointment of… Ramatlhodi as he brings years of experience in government as a former premier of Limpopo and deputy minister of correctional services,” it said in a statement.

“The South African mining sector faces challenges that require concerted efforts by all stakeholders and the chamber believes minister Ramatlhodi can only add value through his leadership of the department.”

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said it expected the new cabinet to pick up where the last administration left off.

“We believe that this is an opportune time for the government to deliver many of the South Africans still living in dire poverty from that situation and improve on the unemployment figures,” it said in a statement.

“Popcru trusts that the president’s decision to establish the new ministry of small business development to be led by minister Lindiwe Zulu will lift some of the pressures felt by those attempting to aid the unemployment crisis through self-employment.”

The union also welcomed the merging of the justice and correctional services departments.

“This combination will undoubtedly lift the heavy burden placed on the justice system resulting in overcrowding in our prisons.

“We view this as a step in the right direction…”