Cape Town - After two decades in the service of her country as a member of the provincial legislature in the Western Cape, Lynne Brown was ready to retire from public office.
But President Jacob Zuma had other ideas, and Brown is expected to be sworn into office in one of the most senior positions in his cabinet on Monday, that of Minister of Public Enterprises, replacing Malusi Gigaba,
“It came as a big surprise to me,” the 52-year-old told the Cape Argus on Monday. “I was in retirement mode already.”
Describing herself as “a typical Capetonian”, Brown was born in District Six, before a disruptive series of relocations to Maitland, Salt River, Parkwood Estate and Portlands in Mitchells Plain.
She graduated from Hewitt College as a teacher and joined the NGO sector, before being sworn in as an MPL in the inaugural Western Cape legislature in 1994.
Since then, she has served as Finance, Economic and Tourism MEC from 2004, until she replaced Ebrahim Rasool as premier in 2008.
But after another full term as leader of the official opposition in the legislature, she was ready to call it quits – and even declined a place on the ANC’s national election list.
The party twisted her arm and she was placed at number 76.
“And then I received a phone call on Sunday morning, from Lakela Kaunda, in the president’s office, and I was called to meet the president,” she said.
Despite her initial reservations about serving in Parliament, she conceded the training she had received at the London School of Economics, where she was sent by the ANC, plus her tenure as MEC, equipped her well.
“Being head of Public Enterprises is all about getting the state-owned companies to run at their optimal,” she explained.
These included SAA and SA Express; Eskom; Broadband Infraco; Denel; SA Forestry Company (Safcol); and the Alexkor mining company.
“At the moment, they are all multi-billion-rand companies. And, of course, there are challenges,” Brown said.
“But I would be imprudent making any statements on them until I have met all the companies in the next couple of days.
“I believe in good governance and that that leads to economic growth. That’s my vision.”
It would, however, take a little while for her to understand the “landmines” in her portfolio.
Her new posting would radically alter family life at her home in Rondebosch East.
“I now almost have to serve 54 million people,” she said. “My family will need to take another five years to adjust to it.
“But I’m quite conscious of balancing things.”