NEC to haul Gordhan over the coals

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is on the back foot as he steps into the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend, in which chief among the agenda items is a progress report on state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The auditor-general this week slapped Gordhan with a devastating report card on the department’s financial performance, while his traditional praise singers in the opposition DA have called for his dismissal, labelling him “a national and economic liability”.

Speaking to the media ahead of the three-day NEC meeting, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula gave the closest hint that Gordhan would face a torrid time, saying Eskom had begun to stabilise under Mpho Makwana, who recently resigned as the power utility’s board chairperson following a fallout with Gordhan over the choice of a CEO candidate.

“We were not impressed because we thought this board of Makwana had brought stability. There was at least some semblance of good governance going on. And then, boom, we’ve got this particular challenge,” said Mbalula.

Mbalula referred to the commission of inquiry into state capture for both ministers and board members to draw lessons on the role of the rule of law in the management of SOEs.

“The minister will be here; he will brief the NEC on the SOEs and the strategic intervention the government is making.”

Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter left Eskom in February and former chief financial officer Calib Cassim is acting CEO.

Other items on the agenda include progress on loadshedding and the rise of crimes such as cash-in-transit heists and the illegal mining conundrum.

Ahead of the NEC meeting, there has been an outcry that Gordhan blocked the appointment of yet another black executive, Dan Marokane, who was the favourite candidate to become Eskom CEO.

The speculation is that Gordhan rejected Marokane’s name because his preferred candidate is either former Eskom regional distribution manager Deon James or former Eskom CFO Paul O’Flaherty.

At least six candidates were shortlisted for interviews in May, and the board was expected to hand over three names to Gordhan for the cabinet process to start. But the board submitted one name, Marokane.

Three months later, Gordhan allegedly questioned the process, insisting on three names and the inclusion of candidates over 60 years. Both James and O’Flaherty fit that bill.

But insiders questioned why Gordhan did not insist on three names when De Ruyter was appointed. “So, by the time Pravin appointed André, the information memorandum was in place, so they should have submitted three names by then. I don’t think they did, and Gordhan proceeded to appoint a single candidate, André.”

But another source said Gordhan was raising things that are consistent with the rules. “He is a stickler for rules. He is saying, ‘You did not give me three names, why did you give me  only one?’”

The person said the board could have easily given Gordhan three names in terms of their rankings. “As to what beef he had with Makwana, I don’t know. But it is clear it was not a healthy relationship because a phone call could have resolved this. It does not take three months.”

It was also not the first time Gordhan appointed a CEO over the board’s choosing, a source said, referring to De Ruyter’s appointment and that of former Transnet Group CEO Portia Derby. The Transnet board’s candidate was Development Bank of SA CEO Patrick Dlamini. But Derby sneaked in without even going through the interview process.

“This thing happens because someone on top of him is doing nothing. The president has abdicated his responsibility, and Pravin is running the country. ”

Another source said Gordhan’s choice was O’Flaherty, who failed to make the cut during the interviews. Makwana felt Gordhan was abusing his powers, leading to his resignation.

The shortlist included Marokane, former City Power CEO Vally Padayachee and Eskom’s former distribution head, Ayanda Noah.


Latest News