Sweeping change in Zuma cabinet

CAPE TOWN: South African President Jacob Zuma unveiled an inclusive and vastly changed cabinet on Sunday, with the closely watched finance ministry changing hands for the first time in 13 years.

One day after his swearing in, Zuma announced a restructured cabinet including minority party members and leftist allies, establishing a powerful planning commission which will be headed by the hugely popular former finance minister Trevor Manuel.

Zuma said the strategic planning body would "enable us to take a more comprehensive view of socio-economic development in the country."

Former tax boss Pravin Gordhan, credited with improving tax collection during his time at the helm of the country's revenue service, will take over in steering the crucial ministry through a global economic crisis.

Kgalema Motlanthe, who the outgoing president seen as a benchwarmer after his predecessor Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign, will be deputy president.

Zuma, who campaigned hard on a pro-poor platform promising change and a renewed focus on service delivery warned civil servants that "the era of hard work has begun".

"We reiterate that we will not tolerate laziness and incompetence and that we will emphasise excellence and achievement from the cabinet and the public service," he said.

"With these objectives in mind, I am confident that the new structures of government will enable the state machinery to speed up service delivery."

The key health ministry has also changed hands, going to relatively unknown provincial education head Aaron Motsoaledi while Barbara Hogan -- in the health job for only six months -- was moved to the key public enterprises post.

Mbeki's denialist policies saw the AIDS crisis spiral out of countrol, giving the country one of the world's worst infection rates while his health minister promoted vegetables instead of medicine.

Zuma also split the minerals and energy ministry into two, believed to give better focus to the key energy industry which was marred last year by mass blackouts.

The education department was also divided into two, with close Zuma backer Blade Nzimande -- the head of the South African Communist Party -- named chief of higher education.

A new ministry focusing on women, youth and children was also created along with a ministry of economic development.

Zuma named the head of one of the smaller white minority parties, Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus, as deputy minister of agriculture. Many white Afrikaans farmers have complained their views are not heard by government.

While campaigning Zuma appealed to minority groups who may feel sidelined, promising a more inclusive approach to government.

South African media called on Zuma to watch his cabinet ministers closely and replace those who did not perform. Mbeki who was frequently criticised for keeping on under-performing ministers.

"Corrupt ministers and officials must be fired, not redeployed or allowed to fight on endlessly at the public's expense," said the Sunday Times.

Zuma's team takes office as South Africa is sliding toward its first recession since the fall of apartheid 15 years ago.

"We must acknowledge that we find ourselves in difficult economic times," Zuma said in his inaugural speech Saturday.

"We will not be spared the negative impact, and are beginning to feel the pinch. This will require more hard work than ever before."

Zuma's ascent to power was nearly derailed by corruption claims and bitter in-fighting within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

His fierce rivalry with Mbeki, Nelson Mandela's immediate heir, sparked a dramatic power struggle within the party.

Zuma ultimately took control in December 2007 and pushed the ANC to sack Mbeki as head of state nine months later, provoking a breakaway from the former liberation movement.

Despite the dissent, he led the party to a 66 percent victory in general elections on April 22.