‘I do not have a spanner or anything else in my office to go around to fix a power station or anything like that’
ONCE hailed as a valiant anti-corruption warrior, Pravin Gordhan has fallen thoroughly out of favour. His department might cease to exist after next year’s elections, and opposition parties and even trade unions have called for his head. Reports of political meddling regularly surface – especially at Transnet and Eskom – following the resignations of several executives and board members at the two entities.
In September, Transnet CFO Nonkululeko Dlamini and group CEO Portia Derby resigned, followed by the freight rail executive Siza Mzimela. Granted, Transnet deteriorated to the point of total collapse under Derby and Mzimela, but insiders believe their exits were due to interference by Gordhan. The minister has dismissed these claims against him, and said their respective departures were related to Transnet’s performance. There have also been claims that the delay in the appointment of a new Eskom CEO should be laid at Gordhan’s door. The announcement of Dan Marokane as Eskom CEO – almost a year after André de Ruyter’s departure in February – is a case in point. Marokane’s name was reportedly put forward for CEO months ago by former Eskom board chair Mpho Makwana.
But Gordhan and Makwana crossed swords over a number of governance and management issues, and Gordhan dismissed Marokane’s nomination, dragging the recruitment process back to square one. Makwana later resigned and Gordhan replaced him with former MTN CEO Mteto Nyati. By all accounts Gordhan’s political career will soon be over. An ANC insider summed it up as follows: “Eskom and Transnet are in shambles, and they are all singing the same song – it can’t be a coincidence. It’s a good thing we have considered closing down this department after next year’s election.”
LIFE OF PRAVIN
Gordhan holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the former University of Durban-Westville. A student activist in the 1960s, he was later politically active in the SACP and ANC structures. He participated in the Codesa talks ahead of the first democratic election in 1994. Gordhan was commissioner for the South African Revenue Service for 10 years – a position he served with distinction. In 2009, then president Jacob Zuma appointed him finance minister. During the height of state capture, Zuma dismissed him, only for current President Cyril Ramaphosa to reappoint him to his cabinet in 2019.