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Explainer: Who might replace Pravin Gordhan as Finance...

South Africa

South Africa

Explainer: Who might replace Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister?

A reshuffle of the Finance Ministry is widely expected to be imminent, with President Jacob Zuma’s relationship with current Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said to have broken down “irretrievably”. Who will step into Gordhan’s shoes? We take a look at some of the possible candidates. By REBECCA DAVIS.

Sfiso Buthelezi

Sfiso’s Story:

Active in the ANC since the age of 20, Buthelezi, 55, was part of a unit responsible for testing the feasibility of military bases for the ANC in apartheid South Africa. He spent eight years on Robben Island after his arrest, being released in 1991.

Buthelezi was COO of the investment vehicle Makana Investment Corporation, and a former chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Yep, Prasa). Buthelezi and President Jacob Zuma go way back, with Buthelezi serving as Zuma’s economic adviser when Zuma was still MEC of KwaZulu-Natal.

He was sworn in as an ANC MP in March 2016, and promptly appointed to the standing committee on finance.

Qualifications for Finance Minister:

Buthelezi holds a B Comm (Honours) from the University of Cape Town and a Masters in Commerce from UCT.

Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana told Tim Modise in 2015: “Anyone who knows [Buthelezi] in business, they’ll tell you that if there’s someone who is a committed South African, is a great South African, but a great businessman who understands and who knows economics very well, [it’s Buthelezi]”.

Claim to Infamy:

There’s very little public information on Buthelezi – described in one media report as a “mysterious businessman” – so not much in this department. His arrival in Parliament was reportedly seen by some in the ANC as queue-jumping, given that Buthelezi was not on the ANC’s electoral list for 2014.

The Public Protector’s 2015 report on maladministration in Prasa concluded that Buthelezi’s CEO post at Makana, while he was chairman of Prasa, might constitute a conflict of interest because one of Makana’s subsidiaries was providing an advisory service to Prasa.

Links to Guptas:

Buthelezi was the chair of Prasa at the time when former CEO Lucky Montana blew the lid on an alleged attempted capture of Prasa by the Gupta family, involving the Guptas’ pressuring the transport ministry to secure a R51-billion tender. Montana also claimed that the Guptas demanded the restructuring of Prasa’s board. There was no suggestion that Buthelezi was directly involved, however, and a meeting between Buthelezi, Montana and then transport minister Ben Martins led to the board reshuffle being averted.

Upon Buthelezi’s arrival in Parliament, he was the subject of EFF heckles suggesting he was a Gupta favourite deployed to replace Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas. “He must behave here because the Guptas have gone,” the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu said in reference to Buthelezi.

Quirky fact:

Buthelezi worked closely with ANC veteran Mathews Phosa in the 1990s. Phosa has recently been vocal in his criticism of the current ANC regime.

Chances of being South Africa’s next Finance Minister:

Possible. Speculation has been swirling about Buthelezi being groomed for the top spot – or the deputy spot – since last year. There were previously rumours that he would replace Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas in a Cabinet shuffle that never materialised.

DA MP David Maynier tweeted, upon Buthelezi’s arrival in Parliament: “So Sfiso Buthelezi is one step closer to being appointed as the deputy minister of finance!” Buthelezi has also been rumoured as a potential successor to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, however.


Life of Brian:

Molefe, 50, has played a role in practically every state-owned entity in the country over the course of his career. A former director of the Airports Company South Africa, he led the country’s most powerful investor, the Public Investment Corporation, as well as Transnet, before landing the top job at Eskom. He arrived at the parastatal garnished with praise from Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, who said he had a great reputation as a turnaround man.

After resigning from Eskom following the release of the Public Protector’s State of Capture report (more below), in February Molefe was sworn in as a Member of Parliament for the ANC despite protests from opposition parties.

Qualifications for Finance Minister:

On paper, excellent. Molefe holds a B Comm from Unisa, a postgraduate diploma in Economics from the University of London, a Masters in Business Leadership from Unisa and completed an Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2006. Experience in the Treasury also means he knows his way around.

Business Day writer Sikonathi Mantshantsha told 702 that up until leaving the PIC at the end of 2010, Molefe could be pointed at as a great success story of the new South Africa.

Claim to Infamy:

Best known to many South Africans for having broken down in tears when presenting Eskom’s results in November 2016, instantly transforming the images of his blubbing face into a potent internet meme. Molefe, who was Eskom CEO at the time, was emotional at the time over the release of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report. Madonsela had harsh words for Eskom over the improper hiring of its board and its dealings with a Gupta-linked mining company, Tegeta. Eskom agreed to buy shedloads of coal from Tegeta, which helped the Guptas purchase the Optimum coal mine.

Links to Guptas:

Cosy, to say the least. Molefe was personally singled out in the Public Protector’s report for having made no fewer than 58 telephone calls to oldest Gupta brother Ajay between August 2015 and March 2016, just prior to the Tegeta deal. Cellphone tracking records also showed that Molefe had been in the region of the Guptas’ Saxonwold home 19 times within four months in 2015. Molefe had failed to declare his relationship with the Guptas to the Public Protector.

Signature quote:

When explaining his frequent visits to Saxonwold, Molefe said: “There’s a shebeen there, two streets away from the Guptas. I will not admit or deny that I’ve gone to the shebeen. But there is a shebeen there.”

Quirky fact:

In an EWN interview last year, Molefe praised Gordhan for inspiring confidence and uniting the country. After a one-on-one, journalist Gia Nicolaides concluded: “I’m convinced that Molefe wouldn’t be overly excited if he was offered the [Finance Minister] job.”

Chances of being South Africa’s next Finance Minister:

Molefe is Zuma’s favourite, but his chances have dimmed somewhat after ANC Top 6 were reportedly against him. Still, why anoint him as an MP if he wasn’t destined for greater things? For a man who has run some of South Africa’s most significant state entities to be relegated suddenly to an ANC backbencher could feel a demotion, to say the least.

OUTLIER: Naledi Pandor

Naledi’s Narrative:

Current Science & Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, 63, is one of the most experienced politicians in the Cabinet, having served in Parliament since 1994. This is her second stint in the science portfolio; she has also previously served as Minister of Education and of Home Affairs.

Qualifications for Finance Minister:

Poor on paper (then again, so are Pravin Gordhan’s). Pandor’s educational background is firmly in the Humanities, holding MAs from the universities of London and Stellenbosch in English and Linguistics. She is, however, very much respected as an elder stateswoman of the ANC and would undoubtedly supply a much-needed cool head.

Claim to Infamy:

Pandor attracted her fair share of controversy while presiding over South Africa’s failing education system, but no personal scandal. Pandor has previously clashed with EFF leader Julius Malema while he was still ANC Youth League leader, with Malema suggesting during student protests that Pandor should “use that fake accent to address our problems and not behave like a spoilt minister”.

Links to Guptas:

Pandor was Minister of Home Affairs during Guptagate in 2013, when the Gupta family were allowed to land a plane at the Waterkloof military airbase. In that capacity, she said that opposition parties were “consumed by their hatred of President Jacob Zuma and unable to look objectively, rationally at an issue if it provides an opportunity to throw stones at our president”.

The DA said at the time that Pandor should take responsibility for the Guptagate scandal because her department was the first to know that the Guptas would be landing at Waterkloof.

Pandor attended the Gupta wedding, saying she did so because “the invitation was intriguingly beautiful”. She confirmed to the Mail & Guardan that she knew the Guptas through their ownership of the New Age, and once attended a Diwali dinner at their home.

Signature Quote:

How would a [Cabinet] colleague have a 13-bedroom house and another a three-bedroom house? [They have] 13 bedrooms in Sandringham or something and I have a three-bedroom in Claremont,” Pandor told the Sunday Times last weekend with reference to Cabinet members living suspiciously beyond their means.

Quirky fact:

Pandor converted to Islam after marrying Sharif Joseph Pandor.

Chances of being South Africa’s next Finance Minister:

Unlikely, but Pandor was designated acting finance minister while Gordhan was away on his short-lived investment roadshow. Pandor may be headed for another high-profile role in the executive, however: she has even been mentioned as a possible running mate for Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency bid. DM

Photo: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)


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