DTIC minister Ebrahim Patel retires

South Africa’s trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel has retired from cabinet. He did so after the May 29 national election and is the latest longstanding economics figure from the ruling African National Congress to step down from government.

Patel’s department oversees a number of regulatory and financial development agencies, including the competition commission which would have a say in any potential new bid by BHP Group BHP.AX for Anglo American AAL.L.

“It has been a great honour to serve my country as a member of cabinet for 15 years and three terms of office,” Patel said in a statement. “I have advised the President that I will conclude my service in cabinet at the end of this third term.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Patel as trade minister in 2019. Prior to this, he was the Minister of Economic Development.

“During the 15 years, the world changed significantly. I entered Cabinet in the wake of the 2008/9 global economic crisis, with the SA economy entering a recession.”

“In the period since then, the challenge of climate change has become more urgent, geopolitical tensions are sharper, volatility is now baked into economies and technological innovation and the rise of artificial intelligence is reshaping our world. During this period we saw state capture locally and the fight against it, the biggest pandemic in 100 years leading to the deepest recession globally since the second world war, war in Europe that led to food, fuel and fertiliser price spikes, continued conflict around the right of Palestinians to statehood, and droughts, floods and unsettled weather patterns.”

South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan also announced in March that he would not be available to serve in the next national executive after the election. Gordhan oversees state entities including struggling power utility Eskom and logistics firm Transnet, whose poor performances have dragged down South Africa’s economic growth.

“The recent departure of Ebrahim Patel from his role as South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition has sparked significant discussion about the future of the country’s economic leadership,” said Prof Theuns Pelser, Executive Director at TWIMS, in a post on LinkedIn.

“Patel’s tenure, characterised by long hours and a micro-management style, has been criticised for fostering inefficiencies and failing to effectively negotiate with businesses. His retirement, after 15 years in the Cabinet, has been met with relief by many within his department, who viewed his management style as a hindrance to progress.”

“The African National Congress (ANC) did not include Patel on its parliamentary list, signalling a lack of confidence in his leadership from within the party.”

“David Masondo, the current Deputy Minister of Finance, is seen as a strong candidate to succeed Patel. Masondo’s background includes roles such as CEO of the Automotive Industry Development Centre and Deputy Finance Minister, where he has demonstrated the ability to engage both communists and business leaders.”

“His potential appointment is viewed as a step towards career growth and a possible future as Finance Minister. However, his ascension is contingent on the ANC retaining control of the portfolio and navigating internal party dynamics, including potential opposition from the tripartite alliance.”

“The challenges facing the new leadership are substantial. South Africa’s economy is under pressure from high unemployment, poverty, and structural issues such as power cuts and logistical constraints. The new minister will need to address these deep-rooted problems through effective negotiation and deal-making with businesses to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.”

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has the constitutional authority to appoint up to two non-MPs to his cabinet, offering flexibility in choosing Patel’s successor. The upcoming elections and potential coalition dynamics will play a crucial role in shaping the future of South Africa’s economic policy and leadership.”