Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)/Archives.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)/Archives.

Pravin Gordhan’s ‘anti-black’ crusade at SOEs

By Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Karabo Ngoepe Time of article published Nov 24, 2019

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has been accused of launching a “crusade” against black executives. 

This comes after he allegedly stalled the appointment of the Transnet chief executive officer for months because he did not approve of the shortlisted candidates.

Gordhan allegedly also “imposed” André de Ruyter as Eskom chief executive despite him having no engineering qualification, being accused of destroying the share value of packaging company Nampak and his name having not featured during a briefing to the ANC deployment committee chaired by deputy president David Mabuza.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who oversees Eskom as part of the conditions for government bailout and guarantees, is the former chairperson of Nampak.

Mboweni did not take part in the interviews.

Sources within the ANC and Transnet told Sunday Independent this week that Gordhan allegedly instructed the board to appoint a female candidate after Dan Marokane, Patrick Dlamini and Simo Lushaba were recommended in September.

“Transnet board submitted those shortlisted for the Transnet position around the last week of September, long before the Eskom one, but Pravin is stalling the appointment because none of them is his favourite and also because they are black,” said a highly placed source within Transnet.

Another insider added that Gordhan allegedly instructed the board to appoint a woman after receiving Marokane, Dlamini and Lushaba’s names.

“Pravin is on a crusade against black executives and he seems to have the support of some members of the ruling party in his anti-transformation drive,” he said.

Gordhan failed to respond to questions sent to his spokesperson Sam Mkokeli.

However, President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly rejected criticism that De Ruyter’s appointment was anti-transformative, saying he was the right man for the job because he had skills.

“We have affirmed black people in our state-owned enterprises. This time around we have come up with the person we think has the appropriate skills,” he said at an SACP gathering on Friday evening.

Developments within Transnet and Eskom came as the Auditor- General’s report revealed this week that state-owned enterprises were in their worst financial state ever.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) also released a statement reigning in SAA, which received R20billion in taxpayer bailout since 2007, for failing to release financial statements and annual reports for two consecutive years.

Ratings agency S&P Global Ratings changed South Africa’s sovereign credit rating from stable to negative on Friday evening. It cited low gross domestic product growth, rising fiscal deficits and a growing debt burden as the reasons.

However, South Africa was not downgraded further into the junk quagmire.

A highly placed ANC source said Andries Calitz, former Eskom chief Jacob Maroga, the power utility’s former executive Marokane and energy expert Thembani Bukula were favourites for the Eskom job.

Calitz was a “firm” favourite, the source added, until Gordhan allegedly objected at the 11th hour saying only he believed Calitz was not the right man for the job.

“The plan was to appoint Andy Calitz but things turned sour when he (Calitz) refused to take the mandate and demanded that the Department of Public Enterprises, more specifically Pravin, mustn’t interfere with his appointment.

“He said they must allow him to do his job without any interference from the minister. We understand that’s when his name was withdrawn from the race and André de Ruyter came in.”

De Ruyter’s appointment is said to have followed a fallout between Gordhan and Calitz, who allegedly said he would accept the job on condition there would be no political interference in the running of Eskom.

“Calitz told them he wanted to be given the position only if he deserved it. He also said he would take the job if he would be allowed to run Eskom the way he sees fit.”

South African-born Calitz, who is based in London, began his career at Eskom before taking over as chief of LNG Canada, a Shell-Petronas-PetroChina-Kogas-Mitsubishi joint venture, in 1996.

Sources close to Marokane and Maroga this week confirmed that they were never interviewed by the ministerial committee despite having been shortlisted by the Eskom board.

The committee consisted of Gordhan, his Energy and Minerals counterpart Gwede Mantashe, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel and Thoko Didiza, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform.

The Sunday Independent has also established that hours after Gordhan announced De Ruyter as the new Eskom chief, one of the directors of the recruitment agency that oversaw the process “retired”, allegedly to avoid answering questions about the appointment.

In an internal email, Sognium Africa announced Auguste “Gusti” Coetzer’s “well-deserved retirement” as a director, adding, however that she remained a shareholder.

Eskom board member Professor Malegapuru Makgoba yesterday confirmed that the board submitted three names to the minister for recommendations, but denied that anyone was a favourite.

“The process was thorough and vigorous. We didn’t listen to industry experts as they didn’t know the processes we were going through in our interviews. We interviewed six people and recommended three of them to the minister for consideration.”

De Ruyter’s appointment was widely rejected by various organisations this week, largely because he has no engineering qualification or energy-related experience, and allegedly ran down Nampak.

This included EFF, National Union of Metalworkers SA, Black Management Forum, ANC Women’s League, ANC Youth League national task team and the South African Energy Forum (SAEF). The ANC, Cosatu and the Organisation Against Tax Abuse (Outa) backed De Ruyter’s appointment.

EFF president Julius Malema said this week that Gordhan and Ramaphosa would not be able to solve the challenges facing SOEs and the country because the current administration had “wrong intentions”.

The intention of the Ramaphosa administration was to “mismanage” the SOEs underpinned by the “desire to break and sell them”.

“There are two people you must blame: Cyril and Pravin. The way it’s going, people are going to start saying they miss (former president Jacob) Zuma. You are going to force people to start missing criminals,” Malema said.

“Even at Transnet now, we are told the minister’s preferred person didn’t make it, and the minister is not happy.”

SAEF spokesperson Chumile Goqwana said his organisation would legally challenge De Ruyter’s appointment because “it isn’t progressive” and that the new Eskom boss had “a terrible track record at Nampak and has no knowledge on energy”.

Gordhan has been accused of replacing black chief executives with white males at SOEs such as Eskom, Denel, SAA Technical (Saat) and Mango Airlines, where he allegedly imposed under-qualified Nico Bezuidenhout as chief. Gordhan’s alleged interference in Bezuidenhout’s appointment is now the subject of a probe by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Political Bureau 

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