Gordhan, Jonas speak out on Molefe 'noise'

2017-02-22 15:07 - Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, on Wednesday spoke out on rumours that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was set to take one of their jobs in a bid to shake up Treasury.

Addressing media ahead of the Budget Speech in Parliament, Gordhan said they "serve at pleasure of the president". 

Gordhan said if President Jacob Zuma wanted to "redeploy" them, then that "is his decision". 

"We don’t have an appeal process like you," he said. "You are either in or out, that is the end of the story. We are very much alive to that situation."

Using the word "deploy", Gordhan said the use of the word "fired" was "not very dignified". 

He did, however, warn against messing with key institutions in the country.

"In the interest of generations of South Africans to come, there are a couple of institutions you don’t mess with. Treasury is certainly one of them."

Gordhan’s soft touch on the emotional topic occurred moments after Jonas criticised the deployment process.

Without referring directly to the African National Congress or Zuma, he said deploying people for specific political reasons often "complicates the matter" and could "fly against any logical thinking".

Zuma has been accused of deploying unsuitable politicians to key positions as part of the patronage system, with some people claiming the Guptas recommend people to key positions to ensure their companies get state tenders.

Molefe to be sworn in as MP

Jonas himself has accused the Guptas of offering him a R600m bribe if he took over as finance minister when Nhlanhla Nene was fired in December 2015.

Molefe is set to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament on Wednesday or soon thereafter, which has set off alarm bells that the nuclear energy proponent will replace Gordhan or Jonas.

He resigned as Eskom’s chief executive after former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report implicated him in an allegedly corrupt process regarding the Guptas’ purchase of Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore in 2016.

Madonsela’s evidence that Molefe made countless phone calls to Saxonwold – where the Guptas live – during the sale period resulted in an obscure response by Molefe, in which he said he often frequented a Saxonwold shebeen. The misplaced joke – which he borrowed from a colleague – has been turned into the symbol of patronage.

Molefe has been punted as a Zuma-friendly and possiblly Gupta-friendly finance minister for months, but Nomura emerging economist Peter Montalto said Molefe’s resignation from Eskom ruled him out of the position.

"Outgoing Eskom CEO Brian Molefe’s lack of availability means there is now no 'easy' replacement for Pravin Gordhan," he said in November 2016.

However, with his move to Parliament, it would appear Molefe does not need to clear his name.

UPDATE: Two sources from Parliament confirmed to News24 that Molefe was sworn in as ANC member of Parliament in the Speaker's office on Thursday morning.

READ: BREAKING: Brian Molefe sworn in as ANC MP


Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas at Parliament on Wednesday. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

Asked by a journalist whether he knew whether Molefe would replace him, Gordhan joked: "Do you know something I don’t know? Come see me afterwards and let me know."

Asked whether it was important who the finance minister was, Gordhan said: "Does it matter who is minister? It depends where you are. Right now, he (Jonas) is very important. We work very well as a team.

"I suppose it does matter, in terms of ideas that are generated, in terms of the advice the president gets," he said.

READ: Brian Molefe quits IDC board

Gordhan said Treasury has come a long way in the last 15 months since Nene was fired (redeployed to a non-existent job).

"We have dealt with the ratings issues and very successfully brought together labour, business and government," he said. "It might be something we have to repeat."

He cited the business fund which, under the CEO Iniitative the Youth Employment Service, will provide one million people with the opportunity to work for three years in the private sector to get work experience.

"Treasury… has sustained its professionalism (and its) approach to serving government," he said. "High standards have been maintained at Treasury."

"We have done the best we can," he said. "The record is very clear on what we have delivered." 

"We have been very committed to develop a very clear road map that takes us beyond this year."

* Visit our Budget Special for all the budget news and in-depth analysis.

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter: