POLITICS
20/01/2018 18:31 SAST | Updated 20/01/2018 18:31 SAST

First Take: Gordhan's Fingerprints All Over Eskom Exorcism

Changes at the embattled parastatal will help South Africa's case when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa travels to Davos on Monday.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Pravin Gordhan, former minister of finance, surely was deeply involved in the Eskom intervention, argues Ferial Haffajee.

ANALYSIS

The presidency on Saturday announced an Eskom exorcism.

President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, took control of Eskom out of the hands of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to turf out almost the entire Eskom board, to take out all executives accused of corruption and to put in place a hot-as-hell acting chief executive.

Gordhan is a key strategist behind the transition from Zuma to Ramaphosa and he has long pushed for a clear-out at Eskom.

A Treasury blue-blood, Phakamani Hadebe, who has run the Land Bank is a former Absa executive, has been parachuted in to run Eskom as an interim CEO and the board has three months to make key new appointments.

Eskom is so geared, or indebted, that the JSE threatened to suspend its bonds if the company failed to produce financial statements by the end of January. Government backs Eskom bonds and the electricity utility's financial position imperils the nation.

Zuma never ever chose specialists to sit on parastatal boards and instead packed them with cronies.

Ramaphosa is the lead report for the new board which reveals that the moves at Eskom are part of a package of measures to reinvigorate the economy and instil confidence in the country. Ramaphosa jets off to the elite gathering of business in Davos, Switzerland on Monday.

The Eskom move allows him space to sell a story of a South Africa being pulled out of the vortex of corruption and sleaze it has wallowed in.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's deputy president, left, speaks to Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, before the presentation of the 2016 budget to parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Gordhan stuck to a pledge to bring down the budget deficit, targeting civil-servant jobs and increasing wealth taxes to stave off a credit-rating downgrade to junk. Photographer: Halden Krog/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The changes at Eskom have all the hallmarks of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan about them. Gordhan is very close to Jabu Mabuza, the Business Leadership SA boss and experienced businessman who will chair Eskom. He also chairs Telkom where he has engineered a successful turnaround with CEO Sipho Maseko.

Gordhan is a key strategist behind the transition from Zuma to Ramaphosa and he has long pushed for a clear-out at Eskom.

That's now been achieved.

The government team, which quickly put together a new board for Eskom, drew widely from the most talented ranks of South Africans.

This changes the pattern of appointments to state-owned enterprises under Zuma. Eskom has been run by a board of no-name brands allied to the Gupta family and chosen by their lieutenant Salim Essa at his Melrose Arch offices.

Mabuza is joined by executives like former MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, the leading businesswoman Sindi Mabaso-Koyana and Imperial Holding's Mark Lamberti. In addition, there are electricity technocrats on the board like Rod Crompton and Nelisiwe Magubane.

Zuma never ever chose specialists to sit on parastatal boards and instead packed them with cronies.

"For South Africa to flourish, Eskom must work and work well," said Ramaphosa in a statement on Saturday.