Knives out for Hogan

Battle lines have been drawn between Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan and her detractors in Cabinet and in black business circles, with the conflict set to intensify at next week’s Cabinet lekgotla.

Hogan declined to be interviewed this week, saying she would wait until after the lekgotla.

But sources have told the Mail & Guardian that the knives are out for her. At the Cabinet pow-wow she will be expected to explain her “anti-transformation agenda” in respect of the parastatals she oversees.

Hogan’s critics have used the claim — based particularly on her role in the Jacob Maroga saga at Eskom and the Siyabonga Gama affair at Transnet — to attack her since her appointment as minister.

The row leaves Cabinet and the tripartite alliance split between a group led by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and the ANC Youth League, who want Hogan out, and another that includes Trevor Manuel, Dipuo Peters and Pravin Gordhan — as well as senior leftists such as ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni — who back her insistence on strict adherence to governance principles.

Hogan’s handling of the Transnet succession battle irked former transport minister Radebe. In Parliament she also named a company of which Nyanda was director as having benefited from a Transnet security tender worth R55-million. Nyanda’s supporters say this unfairly cast doubt on his integrity.

The chairperson of Parliament’s public enterprises committee, Vytjie Mentor, has joined the battle, calling on Hogan to clarify her statement to the committee.

The campaign against Hogan has distinct racial undertones, with senior ANC members and government ministers saying she “should have been fired after the Dalai Lama incident” but is being kept in Cabinet “because she is white”.

Hogan became health minister in 2008, replacing the controversial Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, and gaining the respect of civil society and many health department officials for her active approach to the fight against HIV/Aids.

She broke ranks with government last year by criticising the refusal to grant Tibet’s Dalai Lama a visa.

President Jacob Zuma appointed her a minister in 2009, but initially crossed swords with her over the Eskom crisis when calls for chief executive Maroga to step down led to clashes between the board, staff and the government.

Hogan’s handling of the suspension of Gama, where she effectively opposed him, also gave her enemies ammunition.

Hogan was called in by the ANC after she hinted that non-performing state enterprises need to be discarded. In response she pointed out to Mantashe that her sentiment is in line with a resolution passed at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference.

Tensions are said to be running high between those who want her sacked and others who insist she must be allowed to stay to make public enterprises work. Her critics insist that she refuses to acknowledge that, since Polokwane, parastatals are seen as the implementing agencies of the ANC’s transformation policy.

“She doesn’t understand that you can’t put white people in as chief executives. The parastatals must be an example of how the ANC empowers black people to be in top positions,” said a government official aligned with Hogan’s detractors.

A Luthuli House official close to Zuma admitted there was widespread unhappiness with Hogan’s opinions, which often differ from those of the mainstream ANC.

But the official added: “Even if there is a problem with the minister in terms of her decisions she will not be removed.”

Calls from ANC and Cabinet ranks for Hogan to step down have been rejected by Zuma, who is said to respect “independent-minded” ministers.

Said Zuma’s spokesperson Zizi Kodwa: “From time to time those tensions will arise. It should not be a matter of hatred or personalities, it is just a matter of different opinions.”

Hogan is not a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, which dilutes her political clout in Cabinet. But she has heavyweight backing for what her supporters describe as her clear insistence on basic principles of governance and the rules of the Public Finance Management Act. In the wake of the Eskom debacle this approach appears to have won Zuma over.

During the row about Eskom’s leadership, the ANC Youth League and many black business people stood behind Maroga, who was clinging to his job. Hogan and former Eskom chair Bobby Godsell were ultimately lent support by Mantashe and Baleni.

“She simply insists on the proper relationship between the minister, the board and the chief executive,” said one person familiar with Hogan’s decision-making.

There is intense anger among those around Hogan over what they see as a war for the massive resources at stake in tenders for new power stations and transport infrastructure. Radebe’s interventions in relation to Gama, whose disciplinary hearing began this week, smack of efforts to regain control of the fiefdom that Thabo Mbeki took from him in 2004, these sources say, adding that Nyanda’s willingness to be brazen about his association with the R55-million security tender is “incomprehensible”.

Hogan’s camp shrugs off the ­allegations of blindness about transformation. “All of the shortlisted candidates for the Transnet job are black,” said one insider.

“People have to realise,” said a Hogan ally, “that you can’t run to Luthuli House to sort out all of your problems. There cannot be ‘political solutions’; there are laws that must be adhered to.”

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Mandy Rossouw
Guest Author
Mmanaledi Mataboge
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