POLITICS

Ferial Haffajee On Brian Molefe: Forget Finance Minister, Here's Zuma's Real Plan.

If Pravin Gordhan is removed, the markets will go berserk and the rand will tumble.

17/02/2017 18:33 SAST | Updated 21/02/2017 10:18 SAST

ANALYSIS

Is this going to be the life of Brian?

Former Eskom boss Brian Molefe will become a member of parliament, according to a statement released by Parliament on Friday afternoon.

Molefe will unlikely want to be an MP. Before Eskom, he led the Public Investment Corporation, the public pension fund asset manager which is the country's most powerful investor.

Prior to that role, he was a rising star at the National Treasury. Having worn three very powerful hats, a position on parliament's rowdy back-bench may be a little too junior for him.

So, assuming this is correct, it is pretty clear President Jacob Zuma has a bigger plan for Molefe. You don't have to guess too hard at what that is. The political beehive has long buzzed with news he was headed to the National Treasury. But will it be as finance minister?

This is unlikely. If incumbent Pravin Gordhan is removed, the markets will go berserk, the rand will tumble and the governing ANC might be forced to do something about President Jacob Zuma. Things on the party's National Executive Committee are tense after four Cabinet ministers attempted a motion of no confidence against Zuma in November.

Undoubtedly, President Zuma has made his stealthy calculations of the balance of forces and may know this: He can make Molefe a deputy finance minister and survive. Incumbent deputy Mcebisi Jonas lacks a profile in the business community and he can be sacrificed.

If Molefe moves into Jonas's position, he can satisfy three of President Zuma's desires. One, he can frustrate and stymy Gordhan who has gone from being a loyalist of the President to becoming his nemesis. Two, Molefe will become Zuma's eyes and ears at the Treasury -- the nation's bank-vault, regarded as alien territory by the President. He often rails against its intransigence. And, thirdly, Molefe will become chairperson of the PIC, a position traditionally held by the deputy finance minister. That can unlock funding for any number of deals a late term president needs to cushion his post-retirement life.

This week, the TV channel, ANN7, which is owned by the Gupta family who are close to the President and Molefe, ran an unforgiving campaign against Jonas. The family's angry because he blew the whistle when they offered him the job of finance minister ahead of the shock axing of then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. But this may also have been tilling the field to prepare the ground for his axing.