Lamola: Ramaphosa signals foreign policy continuity with Cabinet pick

Lamola at ICJ: SA's new international relations minister

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Ronald Lamola as Minister of International Relations, in a new unity government he announced Sunday.

The Cabinet comes a month after the ANC lost it majority in May elections, forcing the party to form a government with other parties. The 41-year-old Lamola is a former deputy president of the ANC Youth League, where he was Julius Malema’s number two. He was previously Justice Minister, and now replaces Naledi Pandor, who announced her retirement months before the elections, and was highly regarded across Africa.

Lamola has this year been in the international limelight, playing a key role in the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. His appointment may signal some continuity in foreign policy for Ramaphosa’s administration.

The ANC’s foreign policy has been marked by non-alignment on key issues such as the Ukraine war, while the country has pushed to support the global south through BRICS, a body that seeks to act as a counterweight to Western influence.

As coalition talks began after the election, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said his party’s foreign policy would not be swayed by the unity government.

“Our foreign policy believes in multilateralism and working with other countries. Will the ANC abandon its ideas in terms of foreign policy, let’s say for the people of Palestine, Western Sahara, Cuba and everywhere else? We’re not going to change,” Mbalula said, adding that he did not expect the DA to change its ideological positions either.

Taking over from Naledi Pandor, Lamola is faced with the significant task of continuing the robust and assertive foreign policy stance that South Africa has developed in recent years, says Mpilo Cele, executive chairperson of the South African Youth Association of Global Affairs.

“The appointment of Lamola clearly indicates that the seventh administration intends to continue the foreign policy strategy implemented during the sixth administration. Lamola’s key role in the historic ICJ case and his alignment with Ramaphosa’s vision reflect a South Africa that is decisive and unambiguous about its foreign policy stance,” Cele says.

Ramaphosa also appointed opposition DA leader John Steenhuisen as Agriculture Minister. However, Ramaphosa separated land reform from Agriculture and appointed Mzwanele Nyhontso, from the Pan Africanist Congress, as Land Reform and Resettlement Minister. Enock Godongwana was retained as Finance Minister. He will have two deputies, one from the ANC and another from the DA. The DA’s Leon Schreiber will head Home Affairs, giving him charge of the key area of immigration.