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S. Africa’s Manuel to Lead Africa Infrastructure Plan

South African President Jacob Zuma put National Planning Commission head Trevor Manuel in charge of the country’s plans to expand infrastructure development in Africa, as local newspapers reported he may leave the Cabinet.

Manuel is still the minister in charge of the National Planning Commission and will take on the Africa infrastructure role on behalf of Zuma, the minister’s spokesman, Dumisa Jele, said in a phone interview from Pretoria today. A government statement yesterday said Manuel’s new job is “in line with the minister’s national planning responsibilities.”

Business Day and the Sunday Independent newspapers, both based in Johannesburg, have cited unidentified officials over the past week as saying Manuel may leave the Cabinet and possibly take up a senior position at the World Bank. The Presidency’s statement may damp speculation that Manuel is set to leave his post.

Manuel “is to assist President Jacob Zuma to fulfill his new responsibility as the African Union champion of the North-South infrastructure development corridor in the continent,” the presidency said.

In a separate statement yesterday, the government responded to media speculation about changes to the Cabinet, saying Zuma had the final say on appointments.

“Any change to the composition of the executive is the prerogative of the president,” it said in a statement published by the South African Press Association today. “Only the president knows whether or not there will be a reshuffle, what form it would take if there was one, when it would happen if it is to happen and other details.”

As finance minister for 13 years prior to assuming his current post in May last year, Manuel slashed the budget deficit and introduced inflation targeting, policies that were criticized by labor unions that helped bring Zuma to power.

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