New South African ministers greeted with caution
South Africa's new cabinet, announced this week (10 May), has garnered a mixed reaction from the country's researchers.
President Jacob Zuma appointed new ministers in both the science and technology and the health departments — replacing Mosibudi Mangena and Barbara Hogan — and has created a new minister for higher education.
New science and technology minister Naledi Pandor is a political veteran who "won serious respect" as the country's education minister, says Renfrew Christie, dean of research at Cape Town's University of the Western Cape.
But Wieland Gevers, general secretary of the Academy of Science of South Africa, says there was "an iron curtain" between the science and education ministries when Pandor was in charge. She also lacks the "scientific know-how" that previous minister mathematician Mosibudi Mangena had, he says.
The appointment of Blaze Nzimande — leader of the South African Communist Party — to head up the new Ministry for Higher Education and Training has been met with apprehension.
"His political clout will be useful but his ability to govern is completely untested," says Christie, questioning whether an "untried minister" could win the kind of investment higher education needs.
The choice of medical doctor Aaron Motsoaledi as the country's new health minister has been met with less concern although commentators have pointed out the enormous responsibility of dealing with the country's heavy HIV burden.