07/03/2018 06:03 SAST | Updated 07/03/2018 06:04 SAST

Pravin To The Rescue: Gordhan's Plans To Fix SOEs

New board changes are in the pipeline, while steps to turn around SOEs will be announced in the coming weeks, says Gordhan.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Rogan Ward / Reuters
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Newly appointed minister of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has vowed to focus his energy on fixing state-owned enterprises. In a speech delivered to the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) conference in Pretoria on Tuesday, Gordhan reportedly vowed that there would be changes to the boards of several SOEs in the coming weeks, and said new leadership at Eskom meant there could be positive changes there within three to six months.

But it will not be easy, he said, as those who have benefitted from state capture will try to push back against efforts to reform the SOEs.

According to IOL, Gordhan said there was a "new hope and optimism" thanks to "political changes" in "recent times".

"We now have a government in place, by and large, which will ensure that we reverse state capture, that we recapture the state and these [state-owned] institutions so that they actually work for the South African public, and the workers that are employed," said Gordhan.

But this does not mean that everyone wants to see state capture ended, he reportedly said.

"There is this new atmosphere of hope and optimism, but with hope and optimism comes greater expectations as well. Expectations that you can click your fingers and solve all these problems. One of the things we are learning is that these sorts of changes where we want to reverse the bad things that have happened in our country, won't happen easily. There will be many who have benefited from that system who will fight back in that own way. They will resist the rolling back of state capture."

Gordhan reportedly there could even be attempts to "sabotage" efforts to turn government around, according to Fin24.

"The damage is not something that happened overnight [...] we are on a good wave in South Africa and it is possible to re-capture the state and re-orientate these institutions," he said.

Gordhan was not specific about which companies needed reforms, although change could be coming to state-owned arms manufacturer Denel, where controversial board chair Daniel Mantsha recently resigned.

Gordhan reportedly said there was a "huge need to restructure state entities to function in the public interest, not just to serve a few people".

"It won't be an easy task, nonetheless it is not impossible," he reportedly said.

Gordhan told the conference that "a good team" at Eskom needed to assure South Africans that they are working to contain costs, according to Fin24.

"Given 3 to 6 months, you could start to see some positive changes," he reportedly said.

Without being specific about which companies, Gordhan said changes would happen at several SOEs in the coming months, reported Eyewitness News (EWN). He reportedly said that there would be new board members at some firms within two to three months, while the steps to be taken to fix SOEs will hopefully be made public in the next four weeks.