PRETORIA – Tellingly, former Deputy Finance Minister and chairperson of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Mondli Gungubele, did not make it into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet that was announced on Wednesday this week.
Gungubele is one of only two deputy ministers who did not find their way back into the fold.
Although details about his exclusion are somewhat sketchy, some political commentators have speculated that his implication in a number of scandals at the PIC, could have contributed towards his exclusion.
The widespread resignation of the PIC board also appears to have backfired and contributed to this fall from grace.
A source close to developments within the African National Congress (ANC), told Independent Media on Saturday that Gungubele’s exclusion from Cabinet, was a strategic move done to manage factional politics between the two camps in the ANC.
“The other issue is the initial decision by the finance minister Tito Mboweni, to fire the PIC board, which included Gungubele. With that being said, I also hear he will be deployed to an embassy as an ambassador,” said the source.
Earlier this year, Gungubele testified under oath that he had not been put under pressure to resign; however, conflicting testimony alleged that this was not the case and that Gungubele had received a phone call from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, during a PIC board meeting, instructing him to resign or be fired.
The instruction from Mboweni is said to have led to the widespread resignation of the board, which some interpreted as undermining the finance minister.
The en masse resignation of the PIC board, according to some PIC executives who testified earlier this year at the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into impropriety at the PIC, was orchestrated by Sibusisiwe Zulu. Zulu is a PIC board member who is one of those linked to corruption deals that were blown wide open by whistle blower James Noko.
According to Noko, Zulu is the live-in-lover of businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi, whose businesses ventures have also benefitted from deals at the PIC to the tune of hundreds of millions of rand.
Professor Sipho Seepe, a political analyst and former ministerial advisor, is of the view that Gungubele has run out of luck, as a result of the revelations regarding the PIC.
“First you get reports that he orchestrated the wholesale resignation of members of the Board of which he was Chair. Doing so, especially being a member of the Executive, is frowned upon,” said Seepe.
Seepe further explained that the ease with which one jumps ship, is also interpreted as a lack of leadership and integrity.
“When the going gets tough, you steel yourself and get on with the job. He seemed to have chosen the easy route. Thirdly, Mondli is outspoken about what he believes. Politics is also about ensuring survival. He seems to have overplayed his hand and rubbed those with influence up the wrong way. He placed himself in a position where it was easy to be sacrificed,” explained Seepe.
Earlier this year, calls for Gungubele’s head to roll, mounted after he was implicated in a series of emails linking him to corrupt activities with a number of individuals serving as executives at the Public Investment Corporation.
Following the mass resignations of the PIC board, which placed the institution in dangerous limbo, others contended Gungubele should have been placed on suspension or dismissed as the deputy minister of finance, due to the break in trust and confidence of his portfolio as the PIC chairman.
However, Gungubele downplayed allegations that he was left out of cabinet as a result of being implicated in the James Noko emails.
He explained: “This is a new term and I am not the only one who has not gone to cabinet. Who comes in, is the prerogative of our President and I have never ever felt entitled to be a Minister or a deputy. As far as I am concerned, I have done my task to the best of my ability. With the issue related to Noko, the investigators have not found anything against me. Besides that, I will be in parliament, and as for being an ambassador, I do not know anything about that as it is up to the ANC to deploy people,” he said.
He added that people were entitled to interpret his exclusion from cabinet whichever way they saw fit, as he had served in many other portfolios and spheres of government prior to the new term.
The new deputy minister of finance and chair of the PIC is David Masondo.