ANC says it stands by Gordhan despite Mbalula tongue-lashing over Transnet woes

File Picture: Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan was criticised by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula over the state of rail infrastructure at Transnet. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA).

File Picture: Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan was criticised by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula over the state of rail infrastructure at Transnet. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA).

Published Jul 24, 2023


Durban - Criticism of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan by secretary-general Fikile Mbalula over dereliction of duty regarding the country’s rail transport system did “not amount to a call for his removal”, the ANC said.

Mbalula, speaking at the ANC Women’s League conference on Saturday at Nasrec, issued a stern warning to Gordhan to fix Transnet to reduce the number of heavy trucks on the roads, suggesting that failure to do so may see him being removed from his position.

Poor maintenance and a shortage of locomotives have seen Transnet cost the country’s bulk commodity producers billions of rand in revenue as they moved away from rail to trucks to transport their goods.

“I am going to say to Pravin Gordhan, I was with him there, I was also a minister of transport. Comrade Pravin, move faster or otherwise we will move you.

“We need all the trucks off the road because people are dying because of these trucks.

“Trucks must get off the road and goods be transported with rail. Let’s not act like we are not in government. We are in charge,” Mbalula said.

The government’s focus has been on the trucking industry after a spate of attacks two weeks ago on trucks across three provinces leading to damage amounting to multi-millions of rand and road traffic congestion on key routes.

Five suspects have been arrested for these incidents.

Mbalula also spoke about the spectre of load shedding and the devastating impact it was having on the economy.

“Load shedding will be defeated and it will be defeated not temporarily but permanently. And it will be defeated not for the election but forever, because it’s eating into the economics of our country,” Mbalula said.

The ANC yesterday defended Gordhan, saying the present challenges facing the country, including load shedding, required a bold resolve on the part of government in the quest to improve the quality of life of all South Africans.

“Freight rail and logistics are essential in building a resilient economy in our country.

“Admittedly, the government alone cannot succeed to roll back all of these challenges.

South Africans from all walks of life have a singular and collective obligation to help the government to craft policy interventions in addressing such challenges,” a statement issued by a spokesperson said.

“The minister of Public Enterprises will undoubtedly not provide answers alone on problems facing our rail transport system.

“The fact that a clarion call is sounded on the minister to fast-track policy interventions to address our rail and freight logistics does not amount to a call for his removal.”

The party said the government working together with all South Africans must find amicable programmes in extending the frontiers of a better life for the people.

“The ANC will at all material times urge the government to move with the necessary speed to implement policy intentions aimed at ensuring a better life to all.”

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the ANC’s failures were concentrated on critical portfolios including those of Gordhan and Minerals Minister Gwede Mantashe.

“It may be that Mbalula is frustrated at the president’s lack of willingness to speak out.

“Ramaphosa could easily hold him to account and he has the leverage to address his ministers, but he is too diplomatic.”

Mathekga said Mbalula had also criticised Mantashe in recent weeks.

“There is the realisation that the party is not holding senior ministers to account.

“Gordhan has performed poorly, but remains in his position.”

He said it was possible that Ramaphosa was frustrated with the failings of Gordhan and Mantashe, but was using Mbalula to deliver a public rebuke of the ministers.

Another analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe, said Mbalula cracking the whip was more a threat, than reality.

“He has a habit of saying things and not delivering on them.

“Mbalula can always say he had no choice but to be critical and he is not the most senior person in the top seven, so he can always retract his statements if called to order.”

Seepe said Gordhan was busy with ANC factional battles and has been absent from his portfolio.