South Africa

South Africa

Joining Parliament’s Rogues’ Gallery: Brian Molefe, MP

Joining Parliament’s Rogues’ Gallery: Brian Molefe, MP

Former Eskom chief turned ANC MP, Brian Molefe, is now sitting on the parliamentary benches he used to face when briefing committees in his various roles as senior public servant. And in those parliamentary benches he has joined those who have come to Parliament under a cloud, as a political consolation price for biting the bullet in factional politicking – or in a holding pattern for another office. Say, in the executive. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

Molefe attended his first ANC parliamentary caucus on Thursday after being sworn in. He was absent in the latter part of Thursday afternoon’s sitting of the House. DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen noted that Molefe was only doing “a half day” on his first day, but ANC Deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude rose in Molefe’s defence: “He’s filling in forms.”

A little later Molefe’s deployment again came up. And Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stepped up: “It is the right of an individual whether he or she wants to serve in Parliament or not. He too made a choice to be deployed in Parliament.”

Molefe arrived perhaps a little later than initially expected, amid widespread speculation that the parliamentary benches are a step into executive office in the noisy political battle over control of the national finance portfolio. Daily Maverick is reliably informed that the official paperwork required in terms of the Electoral Act took time to wrap up, even if political steps were taken.

That is the thing about aligning the political and governance – it’s not always as simple as the political party, even the governing ANC, writing a letter. Processes must be followed to ensure legal compliance at least on the surface to adhere to the letter of the law – if not quite the spirit.

To send someone to Parliament outside election times, the party lists of public candidates must be amended. That cannot happen for a year after an election, according to Schedule 1A of the 1998 Electoral Act, and then only once a year. Changes can include the ranking of names or even replacing up to 25% of names on the list, according to Section 21 of the schedule. And if there are others above the one who is earmarked for Parliament, then those need to somehow fall off the list to be able to argue it is depleted.

Whatever may unfold, it was crucial for Molefe to become an MP. The two spots President Jacob Zuma has in his executive for non-MPs are already filled by Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

The connection between amending lists and deployment to the top levels of government is perhaps best illustrated by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. The Free State list was amended to put him in first spot on September 2, 2015, according to the Government Gazette. According to City Press he was sworn in as MP a day after the list was amended, but his departure from the Free State executive council, where he served as agriculture MEC, was announced by the provincial ANC on September 18 when Premier Ace Magashule reshuffled his executive. President Jacob Zuma announced Zwane’s appointment as minister on September 23, 2015.

Soon thereafter various media reports emerged about the new minister’s links with the Gupta family – a controversial Free State dairy farming project and his letter to clear the way for guests for a Gupta family wedding to land at the military Waterkloof Air Base. Reports also focused on how in January 2016 he flew to Switzerland to negotiate over the Optimum mine, later acquired by the Guptas. This Zwane denied in a parliamentary reply to the DA.

The objective of the only reported official trip to Switzerland, which took place in 2015, was widely reported, and even in Parliament… The ministry denies any knowledge of the said trip to Switzerland in January 2016, and is therefore unable to respond further,” reported Fin24 in May last year.

Molefe, while at Eskom, was also linked to the politically connected Gupta family in the public protector’s State of Capture report. It listed 19 phone calls between August and November 2015 to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold, Johannesburg, home plus another 58 phone calls to a Gupta business associate from August 2015 to March 2016. This contact came at a time when the Guptas’ Tegeta Exploration and Resources company was acquiring Optimum coal mine. Ultimately, the deal involved a R600-million pre-payment from Eskom for future coal deliveries to the power utility.

He resigned from Eskom in November 2016. He also resigned effective January 25, 2017 from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) board, according to News24 on Thursday.

With the public protector’s state capture report taken on review to court by President Jacob Zuma, until there is a court decision, its findings and recommendations are in abeyance.

Let’s be clear. Molefe qualifies to be an MP. He is not a unrehabilitated insolvent, has not been declared by a court as being of unsound mind, nor was he jailed for more than 12 months without the option of a fine. Those are the disqualifications for being a parliamentarian are set out in Section 47 of the Constitution.

Political parties have much leeway in determining who represents them in Parliament or other legislatures. And more so than any other political party, the ANC has had to do some tricky juggling to accommodate various interests amid its factional battles while also managing the public blowback, which the party in 2012 acknowledged is impacting on its standing.

At its 2012 Mangaung national conference the ANC decided to establish integrity commissions at all levels and resolved that “more urgent steps should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society by ensuring, among others, that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct”.

By the 2015 ANC national general council it emerged that the integrity commission process wasn’t quite working amid debates invoking the “legal principle of being innocent until proven otherwise” because “comrades feared admitting guilt by stepping aside”, according to party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe’s organisational report.

And so Molefe joined the ANC parliamentary benches, where others sit despite having publicly admitted to misconduct, current trials or having accepted this deployment as political payback in the often bitter factional politicking of ANC structures in provinces and metros.

Pule Mabe, ANC whip on the finance committee, came to Parliament after the May 2014 elections despite fraud charges over his head until December 2104, when he was acquitted.
Former Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi took up his seat despite his public acknowledgement of having misused his government credit card to purchase
“suits in India, the groceries in the local grocery store and the artwork in the office”, according to his public apology reported by The Star. He resigned from office in December 2012, but was 111th on the ANC’s May 2014 elections list, approved at the party’s top structures.

Ex-Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, who since June 2015 has been a delegate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), remains there even as she is on trial for the fraud scandal over a Nelson Mandela memorial. Another former Buffalo City metro mayor, Zukisa Faku, was redeployed to Parliament, but that came to an end when the East London magistrate’s court sentenced her to three years in jail for misusing her council credit card. Leave to appeal was denied.

Limpopo’s former premier Cassel Mathale was deployed to Parliament in 2013 when he was asked to resign amid bruising local ANC politicking. He returned after being 81st on the ANC May 2014 election list. The Limpopo legislature played musical chairs with national counterparts in the first half of 2015 during a party political battle to replace provincial Speaker Merriam Ramadwa, who had refused to be recalled.

Perhaps not so fortunate was Zanoxolo Wayile, who was deployed from trade union federation Cosatu’s Eastern Cape ranks as Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor, but fell foul of party-politicking by early 2013 when he was redeployed to Parliament. He did not return after the May 2014 elections because he was too low on the candidates’ list.

One who declined redeployment to Parliament was former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu, who was told to resign in early 2016 after months of internal party battles, which cost him the provincial chairperson’s post in late 2015. In a letter published in The Times, he wrote:

On Sunday the Secretary-General (of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe) communicated with me in the main on deployment… He specifically explained the decision to me to allow Provincial Government reshuffle and their intention deployment [sic] to the National Assembly”.

Molefe chose otherwise. His deployment at the parliamentary coal face settled – for now – it’s anyone’s guess how long he’ll stay. DM

Photo: Brian Molefe (Photo by EE Publishers)


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