/ 20 December 2022

Pravin Gordhan (Grade E)

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Halden Krog/Getty Images)

Public enterprises

Pravin Gordhan

Key Goals

  1. Stabilise Eskom: Failed
  2. Enhance the governance and integrity in state-owned entities (SOEs): Failed
  3. Improve the financial resilience of SOEs: In progress
  4. Restructure SOEs: In progress

There is perhaps no minister in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet who elicits as hostile a reaction as Pravin Gordhan. The minister’s public image is a far cry from what it used to be, when he was widely viewed as one of the few members of the executive capable enough to steady the ship.

But Gordhan’s current ship — the department of public enterprises — is the one with the most obvious failures in its design. It is also in charge of the two SOEs, Eskom and Transnet, most injured by state capture’s assault.

That said, Gordhan’s efforts to turnaround the country’s ailing SOEs have been riddled with errors, the most obvious of which has been laid bare in his handling of the SAA transaction. Still yet to be completed, the deal has been marked with secrecy, raising questions about whether the department can be trusted to strike these types of deals.

But Eskom remains the biggest thorn in Gordhan’s side. The minister was criticised for his failure to reinforce the utility’s board, which until recently was operating at almost half its intended capacity.

There may be hope on the horizon, with the government’s decision to take over a large portion of Eskom’s debt, freeing the utility’s finances up. 

If this happens, it will go far towards fixing Eskom. But, with little faith in the utility’s current management, no one is holding their breath.

A lower debt burden will also pave the way for Eskom’s unbundling, which ought to have got off the ground in December with the transition of the utility’s transmission division.


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