Few institutions have been as sceptical of Cyril Ramaphosa's credentials as a reformer than the Institute of Race Relations (IRR). Ever since he succeeded to the presidency of the African National Congress (ANC) nearly18 months ago we have scrutinised not only his own pronouncements but also legislation, draft legislation, and policy documents flowing out of both the ANC and various ministries.
The Cabinet appointed last week vindicates our scepticism. Even though President Ramaphosa said that the general election last month had provided his administration "with a clear mandate to accelerate inclusive economic growth", some of his key appointments are more likely to do the opposite.
Trade and Industry is to be combined with Economic Development and headed by Ebrahim Patel, an erstwhile militant trade unionist with a power-hungry attitude and a governmental track record of constant interference. He can be expected to carry on implementing the other policy identified by Mr Ramaphosa when he announced his Cabinet, namely "the need to build a modern developmental state that has the means to drive economic and social transformation".
Quite apart from the fact that building such a state is beyond the capacity of the cadres deployed by the ANC to run the public sector, using the state to "drive transformation" is a formula for impeding rather than "accelerating" growth. Retaining another former union heavyweight, Gwede Mantashe, at Mineral Resources (combined now with Energy) confirms that Mr Ramaphosa regards "transformation" of what is left of the mining industry as more important than permitting it to recover and grow. At least Mr Mantashe has not joined the hue and cry against coal.
At Employment and Labour we now have Thulas Nxesi, a one-time general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu). This union bears a large part of the responsibility for the wretched state of the vast majority of South Africa's public schools. When he was still at its helm, Mr Nxesi could not bring himself to repudiate Sadtu officials who threatened violence against teachers and pupils failing to comply with union decrees, dismissing explicit threats as "political rhetoric". He is hardly the man to liberalise the restrictive labour law introduced in 1995 by Tito Mboweni, law whose pro-union bias is a disincentive to employers to hire workers.
Keeping Angie Motshekga at Basic Education does not inspire confidence that Mr Ramaphosa's government will take on Sadtu, whose praises Mr Ramaphosa has himself previously sung.