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South African Reshuffle Irks ANC Allies, Zuma Confidant to Oversee Nuclear Deal via US News and World Report

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Zuma is unpopular with many investors after sacking respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March, a move that hit South African financial assets and helped tip the country’s credit ratings into “junk” territory.

He changed six ministers in all on Tuesday, including those for home affairs, education and communications. Blade Nzimande, a fierce critic of Zuma whose South African Communist Party (SACP) is a key ally of the ruling African National Congress, was axed as higher education minister.

The appointment of David Mahlobo, formerly state security minister, to head the energy ministry will heighten speculation that the 75-year-old president is trying to push through the nuclear deal before his second term ends in 2019.

“The appointment of Mr Mahlobo to head up the energy department needs to be seen in the context of the President wanting to push ahead with the proposed nuclear energy program,” Jeffrey Schultz and Nic Borain, analysts at BNP Paribas South Africa said.

South Africa is preparing to add 9,600 megawatts of nuclear capacity — equivalent to up to 10 nuclear reactors — in a contract that could be worth tens of billions of dollars and would be one of the biggest nuclear deals anywhere in decades.

Companies including Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s Kepco, France’s EDF and Areva, Toshiba-owned Westinghouse, and China’s CGN are eyeing the project, which has been criticized by South African civil society groups and the opposition for lacking transparency.

Investors are also worried about the potential impact of the project on South Africa’s already strained public finances.

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