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Rumours swirl that key SOEs will report to Mabuza

Vuyani Jarana’s sudden resignation from crippled SAA is being used by some as the latest proxy weapon in the governing ANC’s power battles.

The Mail & Guardian has spoken to people in the various factions in the ANC who have painted a picture of a party bitterly divided.

In a report that the M&G has seen, the ANC’s integrity commission has warned of the damage this disunity is doing to the party. As the newspaper has reported online and in other pages of this edition, factions are using whatever means they can, from arguments over the role of the Reserve Bank to who should control state entities, to gain an upper hand.

In the past week, factions have used Jarana’s resignation and, to a lesser extent, that of Eskom head Phakamani Hadebe, as a tool in a bid to shake the powers of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

A source went as far as to claim that discussions had started, at last weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla, that could lead to several key state-owned enterprises (SOEs) reporting to Deputy President David Mabuza.

The M&G could not establish whether the ANC has taken a resolution on the issue, despite speaking to several party leaders. Another insider said the discussions had started and would be advanced at this weekend’s Cabinet lekgotla. The two sources do, however, know each other.

If it were to happen, the move would alter power dynamics in the ANC. One pro-Mabuza insider said the deputy president has always been frustrated that his authority as the ANC’s head of deployment did not have any influence over Gordhan in recent deployments to SOEs. But Mabuza now appears to have the upper hand, the source said, in part because of his drama around his swearing-in, including his assertion that he would rather be at Luthuli House than sitting as deputy president with no real functions.

As with the argument over the role of the Reserve Bank, SAA has brought about heated discussions in the party. In his presentation at the lekgotla, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said SOEs, in particular SAA, presented the biggest threat to the implementation of the ANC manifesto.

Other people in the ANC told the M&G that it wasn’t practical to bring SOEs under the deputy president.

An NEC member said such a move would not make sense: “There is already a ministry in charge of SOEs. If you hand it over to the DP [deputy president], what happens to the ministry? Which SOEs would this apply to? There are so many under so many departments. It would be untenable.”

On Thursday, ANC economic transformation head Enoch Godongwana said the lekgotla’s reports did not contain anything about possibly moving SOEs: “My sense is that the president is thinking long-term about SOEs. Right now we are in a transition and there will be no proper structure, but strategic thinking about SOEs is going to take place.”

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Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

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