/ 8 March 2024

Pravin Gordhan announces retirement

Pravingordhan 179798
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Photo: Essa Alexander/Sunday Times

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has announced that he will retire after the 29 May 2024 general election to prepare the way for the new administration.

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) confirmed in a statement on Friday that Gordhan has “expressed his intention to retire from active politics” when the term of the current administration comes to an end following the elections.

“Minister Gordhan has led the Department of Public Enterprises since 2018, a tenure that followed a string of other critical leadership roles he previously held in government since the advent of our democracy 30 years ago,” the department said.

His retirement brings to an end decades of leadership in the public service.

Gordhan served as the minister of finance from 2009 to 2014, a period marked by the government’s attempts to stabilise the economy, manage fiscal policy and promote accountability in public finances.  

He played a role as a central figure in investigations during the Zondo Commission on State Capture, which focused on corruption, and maladministration during the presidency of Jacob Zuma.

Gordhan has been a vocal advocate for fiscal responsibility, ethical governance, and the rule of law during his time in government and has spoken out against corruption and inefficiency, most recently calling for urgent intervention at troubled state-owned entity Transnet. He urged the board to urgently make recommendations to address a range of operational shortcomings facing the R5.7 billion loss-making freight and logistics company  before the resignation of former chief executive Portia Derby and chief financial officer Nonkululeko Dlamini in October 2023.

Gordhan served as Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) between 1999 and 2009. During his decade-long tenure, he implemented significant reforms, including modernising the tax collection system, enhancing compliance, and combating tax evasion.

He also briefly served as minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs from March to May 2014.

“This announcement that the Minister intends to retire from active politics following the upcoming elections is emblematic of the minister’s desire to be candid so that all critical constituencies that relate to his current portfolio are sufficiently informed of his plans,” the department said.

“Secondly, the announcement is intended to set in motion processes to ensure a smooth transition for the minister and the department as it is often the case at the end of every administration.”

“Minister Gordhan thanks the Acting Director-General and staff of DPE; the boards and management and employees of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and all other stakeholders for their collaboration and contribution to reforming and rebuilding the SOEs,” the department said.

However, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on public enterprises Mimmy Gondwe said Gordhan had “squandered the public goodwill” that he had at the beginning of his tenure as public enterprises minister “by choosing to pander to the ANC and, in the process, failed to clean up the mess created by the criminal state capture project”.

“Perhaps a serious indictment to his legacy is that he has left many SOEs in a much worse shape than he found them, with some on the verge of collapse,” Gondwe said. “When former Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter, exposed the existence of deep-seated corruption at Eskom perpetuated by a labyrinth of politically connected criminal networks and costing the entity R1 billion a month, Gordhan decided to close ranks with his ANC comrades.”

“He chose to victimise De Ruyter rather than ask law enforcement agencies to investigate the merits of the corruption allegations.”

She alleged Gordhan had “stood idly by as Eskom lurched from one crisis to another”.

“Since his appointment to the Public Enterprises portfolio, South Africans have spent more days in the dark than at any other time since the crisis began 17 years ago. By failing to decisively deal with the load-shedding crisis, Gordhan should shoulder part of the blame for South Africa’s struggling economy, loss of jobs, closure of businesses, and attendant decline in private sector investment,” Gondwe said.

She accused Gordhan of triggering “an unprecedented attack on parliamentary transparency and accountability” for not disclosing the SAA/Takatso Share Sale and Purchase Agreement documents, citing third party confidentiality.

“Under Gordhan’s tenure, SOEs have become chronically dependent on taxpayer funded state bailouts to remain in business. Of the R331 billion that has been spent on SOE bailouts since 2013/2014 financially, R213 billion has been spent from 2018 when he was appointed Minister of Public Enterprises. Despite these multi billion rand bailouts, Gordhan himself confirmed that taxpayers have only been able to realise R1 million in dividends,” Gondwe said.