Brian Molefe inter-ministerial committee draws immediate flak

Cabinet on Thursday announced that President Jacob Zuma has set up an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) to look into the bungling of Brian Molefe’s resignation/retirement and later return to Eskom as chief executive.

It was immediately criticised – just as a group of academics characterised IMCs as a method Zuma has employed in what they describe as a “silent coup” against the legitimate state.

“Cabinet appreciates that the matter regarding the re-employment of Mr Brian Molefe as the chief executive officer of Eskom is before courts and in Parliament, and shall therefore respect these processes,” it said in an official statement on Thursday, following a scheduled meeting. “The president has, however, set up an inter-ministerial committee … to gather the facts in order to guide Cabinet on how to deal with such matters in future.”

The committee’s “convener” is Justice Minister Michael Masutha. It also features the ministers of finance and energy, as well as public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, whose conduct in the affair has been brutally criticised by the ANC, opposition parties, a trade union, and civil society organisations.

The DA yesterday said the move undermined Parliament, which has in principle agreed to its own enquiry around the Molefe saga.

“The president is clearly deathly scared of the evidence which will emerge from a full-scale and transparent Parliamentary inquiry,” said DA shadow minister for public enterprises minister Natasha Mazzone in a statement. “Parliament is the only body that is empowered to oversee and investigate the level of rot at Eskom and it is only a full-scale parliamentary inquiry that can get to the bottom this.”

By chance, the IMC statement was followed, only hours later, by a scathing dismissal of IMCs in general by a group of academics, who described such committees as part of a strategy to create parallel government structures that stand beyond oversight.

“There appears to be concerted efforts under way that undermine collective political institutions in the executive, including Cabinet,” wrote the authors of Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen, released on Thursday evening. “It appears that critical decisions are delegated to handpicked groups, masked as inter-ministerial committees, that are able to function in an unaccountable manner.”

The report is a collaboration by leading academics from the universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, the Witwatersrand, and Stellenbosch. It accuses Zuma of overseeing a political project that has been repurposing state-owned enterprises like Eskom into engines of patronage and corruption.

“The nature of IMC’s is that in and of themselves they lack transparency, in that they do not report to Parliament (which individual members of Cabinet are required to do) and they are not formulated in legislation (as is the case of formal Cabinet structures),” the authors said.

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Phillip De Wet
Guest Author

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