Zuma moves to fill holes before 2010 ends

2010-12-18 11:14

President Jacob Zuma is moving swiftly to fill key positions in government as he seeks to reinvigorate service delivery in key ­economic state apparatuses.

This week he approved the transfer of ­Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ­director-general (DG) Tshediso Matona from his current position to a similar role at the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).

The position at the DPE has been ­vacant since the departure of Portia Molefe in November last year. Matona will take the reins at the department next month and his key ­responsibility will be to ensure that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) contribute to the macro-economic policy as detailed in the new growth path, which aims to generate 5.5?million jobs over the next 10 years and reduce unemployment to 15%.

Matona’s appointment comes hot on the heels of the appointment of Elias Masilela last week as the chief executive of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

As PIC chief, Masilela will be the most powerful fund manager in South Africa, ­responsible for managing R910.9?billion­ belonging to state-employed pension savers.

Over the past few years the PIC has been a formidable shareholder activist and has been a vocal supporter of black economic empowerment, attacking large JSE-listed firms that refuse to transform.

In June Zuma also closed a leadership ­vacuum at state-owned electricity supplier Eskom, when he approved Brian Dames as its boss.

Earlier this year Siza Mzimela took up the reins at South African Airways (SAA), a year after Khaya Ngqula stepped down.

Government is also on the verge of filling the chief executive’s role at transport and ­logistics company Transnet, which has been vacant since February last year after Maria Ramos quit to head banking group Absa.

Last week public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba ushered in a new board, which will lead the hunt for the new Transnet chief executive.

Matona said that he would work closely with the SOEs which report to him, to ensure that they contribute significantly to South Africa’s competitiveness and its economic growth.

“I will endeavour to work with the SOEs to ensure that they deliver on their mandates ­effectively and efficiently.

“For Eskom, we have to ensure that it keeps the lights on while delivering on its build programmes. Transnet has to ensure that goods are moved as swiftly and ­efficiently as possible,” Matona said.

The bulk of government’s R846-billion ­infrastructure investment will be spent by ­Eskom and Transnet. The former is in the midst of building power stations, while the latter is charged with upgrading South ­Africa’s rail and ports infrastructure.

Transnet is also overseeing the ­construction of a multi-product pipeline that links refineries between Durban’s ­seaport and ­Gauteng.

Last week Gigaba commissioned a team of specialists to probe why the cost of ­constructing the pipeline had more than doubled – from R9.5 billion in 2006 to R23.4?billion currently.

Matona, an economist and industrial policy expert, said one of his priorities would be to ensure that the management teams of the parastatals that reported to him were strengthened and key positions filled.

Besides Eskom and Transnet, other SOEs that report to Matona are weapons manufacturer Denel; forestry company Safcol; ­telecoms company Broadband Infraco; and the national airline, SAA.

Loss-making Denel is also without a chief ­executive after Talib Sadik said in October that he would not renew his contract.

DPE spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said in a statement this week that Matona’s ­appointment would allow the department to focus its attention on the SOEs that fell ­under its oversight.

“The appointment of the DG provides leadership stability to the organisation and allows it to better focus its attention on its shareholder oversight role,” she said.

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