Minister: Public Enterprises: South Africa
‘Whatever commentary one might have about an individual, it is absolutely unfair and uncalled for to use that kind of language for somebody who tried their best to get Eskom out of the mess it was in’
IS Pravin Gordhan’s political career all but over? At the ANC’s national elective conference in December, Gordhan declined a nomination to be re-elected to the national executive committee (NEC), the ruling party’s highest decision-making body. NEC members carry significant political clout and often wield influence behind the scenes regarding cabinet appointments.
Now that Gordhan is no longer an NEC member, there just might be calls for his axing, especially since matters went from bad to worse at South Africa’s terrible twins, Eskom and Transnet. In fact, steps may well be in place to close his department following an ANC conference resolution in January that Eskom fall under the watch of the department of mineral resources and energy. Gordhan was appointed minister of public enterprises in 2019 when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet – a position that would have set even the most experienced administrator up for failure owing to the dismal state of the country’s state-owned entities.
2022 was a particularly bad year: Eskom implemented more than 200 days of power cuts, and together with the logistical paralysis at Transnet, the two state-owned entities cost the South African economy hundreds of billions of rand in lost opportunities. Although these problems were years in the making, the buck ultimately stops with Gordhan as public enterprises minister. ANC insiders suggest he will be redeployed elsewhere in the cabinet, a step he might even welcome.
Judging by his belated defence of outgoing Eskom CEO André de Ruyter against the inflammatory remarks from Mines and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe (see quote above), as well as his halfhearted calls on the Eskom management to get the country out of Stage 6 load shedding, the signs are that Gordhan is tired and has most likely accepted defeat.
LIFE OF PRAVIN
Gordhan is one of the longest-serving cabinet members since South Africa became a democracy. In 2009, then-president Jacob Zuma appointed him as finance minister – a position he held until 2014. In 2015 he was reappointed to the finance portfolio but summarily dismissed in 2017 to make way for Malusi Gigaba. Gordhan then became an ordinary member of parliament, where he played a crucial role in exposing state capture by Zuma and his cronies. Gordhan holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree from the former University of Durban-Westville, and a DTech in Business Administration from the Free State Central University of Technology.