Furore over Molefe's new job implodes
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Johannesburg - The swearing-in of Brian Molefe as an MP is causing ructions of seismic proportions within the ANC and its alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, as the party battles a groundswell of criticism over Molefe’s elevation to Parliament.
The Sunday Independent can reveal that the ANC’s special national executive committee meeting to discuss policy documents on Monday degenerated into a heated argument between the top leaders over Molefe’s nomination as an MP by the North West province.
Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is said to have led the charge against the decision, expressing his unhappiness to President Jacob Zuma. Mantashe is alleged to have been backed by chairperson and Speaker of the Assembly Baleka Mbete, who warned the decision would lead to cracks and calamity within the party. Mbete and Mantashe are said to have also cautioned Zuma not to replace Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with the disgraced Molefe as that could rattle the markets on a similar scale to that when Nhlahla Nene was replaced by backbencher Des van Rooyen.
Sources privy to the meeting, which came two days before Gordhan presented his 2017/18 Budget in Parliament, said Zuma made his unhappiness with Gordhan clear. He allegedly accused Gordhan of showing insubordination and refusing to take instructions from him, and behaving like another president.
Insiders told The Sunday Independent that Zuma was so irked with Gordhan that he no longer cares about the reaction of the markets should he fire the minister.
“The old man (Zuma) doesn’t care any more about these rating agencies because at times they have a political agenda. Look at the current price-fixing scandals which involved Standard Bank, Absa and Investec. Zuma feels Gordhan is not doing enough on that part.”
Following the decision to fire Nene, billions of rand were wiped off the JSE. Zuma subsequently told Parliament in March that “the markets have their own temperament”.
He allegedly told his senior comrades at the special meeting that it is his prerogative as the president to appoint whomever he wants in his cabinet, and he is protected by the constitution.
According to insiders, some of the ministers targeted for reshuffle are Aaron Motsoaledi (health) Derek Hanekom (tourism) Thulas Nxesi (public works) and Joe Phaahla (health deputy), who supported a motion of no-confidence against Zuma during an NEC meeting late last year.
Motsoaledi said yesterday: “I was never told anything. This matter, that I’m going to be fired, is not new. I also know nothing about the official meeting in question. I also don’t discuss internal matters of the ANC through the media.”
The ANC, which is faction-riven like never before in its history, is facing an internal backlash over its decision to deploy Molefe to Parliament, despite the adverse findings by former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, which linked the former Eskom chief to the controversial Gupta family, Zuma’s friends.
The report showed that from August 2, 2015 to March 22 last year, Molefe called the eldest of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, 44 times and Ajay called him 14 times. In addition, Madonsela’s report placed Molefe in the Saxonwold area, where the Guptas live, 19 times between August 5 and November 17, 2015.
Asked to comment, Mantashe said: “The ANC appointed Molefe as an MP. I’m not aware of anything that is wrong with his branch. What is important is that he is now an ANC MP appointed by the ANC.
“I know nothing about the president removing the comrades you mentioned. I also know nothing about Molefe to be appointed as a minister. I’m not in the business of speculating. It is unethical for an official to speak about the meeting in the media. Who is that official? That official is unethical.”
The SACP was scathing of the swearing-in of Molefe as an MP, with its deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin saying the decision could result in the ANC losing its moral compass.
“We can say the SACP was not consulted. If we had been consulted, we would certainly have said it was a very ill-advised move, even for Molefe himself, because he enters the Parliament space with other intentions as well and a dark cloud (hanging over him) as well,” said Cronin, speaking to the media on Friday ahead of the SACP’s central executive committee meeting this weekend.
“We have not had the opportunity of meeting directly with the ANC, but we certainly would be raising this (issue). They are diminishing the credibility (and) the moral compass of the ANC. The hard-won games in the trenches of the Struggle are being undermined”
Asked if the SACP would consider recalling its leaders serving in Zuma’s cabinet if Gordhan was removed, Cronin said: “I don’t want to pre-empt any discussions, but nothing is off the table when we are looking at what might transpire.
“We need to look at all options as we ensure the fight against looting, the fight against those who attempt to loot the Treasury.”
Asked what actually was wrong with Molefe being sworn-in as an MP, Cronin said: “From a narrow legal view, there’s nothing wrong.
“Clearly, the public protector’s report into state capture makes very serious findings but there is no direct evidence.
“Politics is not just about your reputation.
“But there needs to be a process, (you) need to show remorse for the serious allegations and findings.
“It’s extremely ill-advised in our view for the swearing-in to happen so rapidly in a clumsy way. It suggests undue haste, undue recklessness and the question arises as to why the scramble.”
Cronin was full of praise for Gordhan, saying he had delivered a balanced Budget in the face of a very difficult situation, locally and globally.
Earlier on Friday, Cosatu “expressed its profound disapproval” of Molefe’s deployment to Parliament.
“The union federation views this appointment as regrettable and unhelpful because Molefe remains tainted by the public protector’s state capture report,” said Cosatu general secretary Sizwe Pamla in a statement.
But the ANC’s youth and women leagues were scathing of Gordhan, with ANCYL president Collen Maine accusing Gordhan of being an impimpi (spy) for his “monopoly capital” policy. He went as far as to make veiled threats of violence against him, saying he must be dealt with in the same way the ANC dealt with the impimpis (apartheid informers) during the liberation Struggle.
“Who is this person representing? Is he the minister from the ANC or is he representing something else?
“You know previously we used to call people izimpimpi, and now we want to sugar-coat it. Certain things were done to izimpimpi in the past, before 1994. Something must be done to this comrade (Gordhan)”, said Maine, addressing delegates at the ANCYL KwaZulu-Natal elective conference in Durban yesterday.
Maine was emphatic in his call for Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, as well as the director-general, Lungisa Fuzile, to leave the Treasury.
Gordhan said his spokesperson, Yolisa Tyantsi, was the better person to respond to Maine’s statement. Tyantsi had not responded to this newspaper at the time of publication.
On Thursday, the ANCWL criticised Gordhan’s Budget, saying it was incompatible with Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).
“Regrettably, there are incoherences between the Sona and the Budget speech, and we are hoping this incoherence will not trickle down to various departments which are responsible for the implementation of government programmes.
“This will be direct sabotage of the radical socio-economic transformation agenda of the ANC-led government,” the ANCWL said.