17/02/2017 18:24 SAST | Updated 18/02/2017 00:21 SAST

If Rumours Molefe Will Be The Next Finance Minister Are True, What's In It For Zuma?

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has been made a member of Parliament.

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Brian Molefe.


This time last year, South Africans were still reeling after the dramatic events of our "9/11", as it came to be known: that dramatic weekend in November when widely-respected finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was unceremoniously dumped for the almost completely unknown Des Van Rooyen. It was widely assumed that Van Rooyen would make a more compliant political head for President Jacob Zuma and his allies, whose big, and often questionable projects -- like the massive proposed procurement of nuclear power stations -- were being stymied by the cautious Treasury.

The events that followed made history. Business, and the banks in particular, rallied along with South Africans and two days later Van Rooyen was out and Nene's predecessor, the even more circumspect and respected Pravin Gordhan, was put back in his previous position to reassure frantic markets.

But the story didn't end there. Gordhan has since been subjected to a series of charges and tactics aimed at getting him out of his role. This time last year, he was sent 27 questions by the Hawks to answer ahead of delivering his budget speech to an anxious nation. He would go on to deliver his speech to a standing ovation, but charges against him have continued to linger.

Now former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has been nominated to be a member of Parliament, giving credence to the rumour that he is in line to replace the embattled Gordhan as finance minister or stymie him as deputy. Parliament confirmed on Friday afternoon that he would be sworn in when a date was determined.

Molefe famously resigned after a tearful speech where he furiously denied the clear evidence laid out in then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's "State of Capture" report, linking him to the notorious Gupta family, who have made massive profits thanks to their often dubious ties to government.

Molefe has been dubbed a Mr Fixit during his time at Eskom but his legacy is more complicated than that.

If Molefe is appointed near the top of treasury, and if the report into state capture is to be believed, he will be far more aligned to Zuma's interests and may allow through big budget items like the nuclear deal which, at some estimates, could cost over a trillion rand and which Treasury under Gordhan has been reluctant to commit to.

Zuma's allies like Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, whose department is in disarray, have recently come out to rail against Treasury, saying the department stood in the way of other departments' work and had become a de facto government.

Her statements, along with Molefe's appointment to Parliament, may be part of a series of manoeuvres to ready the ground for a Molefe-led, or co-led, Treasury. If that happens, expect another tumultuous market reaction and an outcry from business, the public and civil society.