/ 17 October 2023

NEC rejects Gordhan’s SOE presentation

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. (Reuters)

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan was sent packing by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) during its meeting on Monday. 

Two insiders who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said that the ANC’s highest decision making body between conferences poked holes in Gordhan’s presentation about the workings at state owned enterprises (SOEs) before rejecting it. 

“He did not give us a comprehensive report on SOEs, that is why it was rejected. Even with Eskom, he only zoomed in on Gauteng and even Panyaza Lesufi spoke up saying that they had not received this report as the government in the province,” an NEC member said.

ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula denied this during a media briefing on Wednesday saying that reports that Gordhan’s presentation was rejected by the NEC are false.

The insiders said that President Cyril Ramaphosa came to Gordhan’s defence during a heated debate.

“After he presented, with everyone expressing their frustration over his report, the president tried to calm the situation and explained that energy was handled by four ministers,” another NEC member said. 

The party leaders said there was a suggestion that was supported by a majority in the NEC – for Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Sputla Ramokgopa to have more powers at Eskom. 

“There was a feeling that Sputla should be able to have more powers, interface with the board more closely. Some were saying to eliminate the governance problems perhaps Sputla should oversee the board at least for the short term. The president asked for time to look at this possibility in terms of legislation and the law. It’s complicated and I don’t see it materialising,” the NEC member said. 

Gordhan also came under fire during the party’s national working committee (NWC) meeting on Monday.

ANC leaders have bemoaned Gordhan’s performance with SOEs. The minister has also been criticised by former Eskom board members for allegedly having “meddled” in its affairs. 

In a previous interview with the M&G, former Eskom board chair Malegapuru Makgoba said his tenure at Eskom was the “most difficult time” of his life as he constantly had to fight for accountability from others and also had to fight against political interference.

Makgoba, who worked closely with former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter for a period of three years, previously told the M&G that Gordhan regularly ignored the council and spoke directly to the power utility’s management. 

Eskom lost yet another board chairperson in the form of Mpho Makwana last week, who called it quits after Gordhan’s alleged political interference. 

The state-owned enterprise has been without a full-time chief executive for more than seven months, following De Ruyter’s resignation in December last year, with a lack of political support being among the reasons he left.

In his closing address at the NEC meeting, Ramaphosa said the NEC advised Gordhan to urgently attend to the hardships that many people are subjected to through the overloading and sabotage of transformers in the townships. 

He said concern was expressed that some communities have faced years without access to electricity. 

The ANC has in the past blamed Eskom for “sabotaging” its electoral chances. 

In January, the M&G reported the ANC’s Parliamentary caucus had summoned Gordhan and senior Eskom representatives amid growing anger against crippling power blackouts, where the country is plunged into 12 hours of darkness a day, in some areas.

This story has been updated to include the comments made by Mbalula at the Wednesday press briefing.