Public Enterprises: South Africa
Arguably the most effective minister in president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet, Pravin Gordhan has shown no sign of slowing down his attempts to fix South Africa’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs), forcing Eskom managers to cancel their December holidays and touring power stations himself until shortly before Christmas. The axing of Siyabonga Gama as CEO of Transnet was seen as a big win in the fight against corruption, but much work remains to be done to ‘turn the ships’ that are South African Airways (SAA), Denel and Eskom. The power utility, which supplies more than 95% of South Africa’s electricity, looks like the hardest nut to crack. With a debt load of R419bn (and rising) and load shedding planned for the foreseeable future as Eskom desperately tries to catch up on its maintenance backlog, another government bailout seems inevitable. Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, is clear that there is no more good money to throw after the bad. Thousands in job reductions are also inevitable, at the very least through natural attrition. Acrimonious wage talks in 2018 led to sabotage at a number of power plants, with Gordhan intervening and forcing management to backtrack from its 0% offer. Talks have been going on for months with the banks, insurers and asset managers about ways in which SOEs can tap into private sector funding. But before these parastatals show clear signs of operational improvements, Gordhan’s funding options remain limited.
“I don’t make deals with smugglers or tax-payers or submit to bullying.”
LIFE OF PRAVIN
A veteran politician and activist who was jailed for his anti-apartheid activities, Gordhan has been one of the most vocal critics of state capture in South Africa. He used the courts to highlight suspicious banking transactions by the Gupta family, and recently opened a case against the EFF and leader Julius Malema after a smear campaign against him and his daughter. He is a qualified pharmacist.
- Web Address: www.dpe.gov.za