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Pravin Gordhan back, this time as Minister of Public Enterprises

Feb 26 2018 23:10
Tehillah Niselow and Jan Cronje

Cape Town - Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan will be returning to a Cabinet position, but this time it won't be that of finance minister. 

Gordhan is set to become South Africa's new minister of public enterprises, taking over from Lynne Brown. 

As such, Gordhan will oversee state-owned companies including Eskom, South African Airways, Denel and others. 

The announcement was made by President Cyril Ramaphosa as apart of a major Cabinet reshuffle on Monday evening. 

Gordhan previously served as finance minister during former president Jacob Zuma’s first term between 2009 and 2014.

Before that he was credited for the turnaround of the South African Revenue Service between 1999 and 2009.

Gordhan was appointed as minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs in 2014, but became minister of finance for a second time in December 2015, after objections were raised about the qualifications of Des van Rooyen, who lasted only three days in the finance ministry. 

Getting to work

Trade union Solidarity on Monday was one of the first groups to congratulate Gordhan. The union immediately appealed to him to conduct an urgent investigation into allegations of financial misconduct at state arms company Denel.

In a statement, Solidarity said it has communicated several times over the past week with former minister Lynne Brown about the problems facing the parastatal but they were ignored.

The union claims 700 jobs are on the line, with retrenchments looming due to financial mismanagement. 

Solidarity deputy general secretary Deon Reyneke said the trade union would like to work with Gordhan to find solutions at Denel.

Former finance minister Malusi Gigaba said in his Budget Speech last week that Denel’s board would be the next of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to be changed, but did not provide further details. 

Unions expressed concern in December around reported uncertainty about the state arms manufacturer's ability to pay salaries due to liquidity challenges.

The salaries were paid, but Denel CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe admitted to MPs that the SOE would struggle to pay them in February and March.

The United National Transport Union on Monday evening also welcomed Gordhan's appointment, saying it was "overwhelmed with joy" that he would be replacing Brown. 

'Connect the dots'

After being removed as finance minister at the end of March 2017, Gordhan was appointed as a member of the sub-committee on public enterprises in Parliament.

He became increasingly vocal about state capture after his removal, continuously urging South Africans to “connect the dots”.

He was particularly critical of Brown and other senior officials at SOEs when they appeared before the parliamentary inquiry into governance at state power utility Eskom.

Gordhan notably told Brown in November last year that her only answers to credible accusations of state capture in SOEs was "lies, lies, lies". 

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