A GOOD friend asked me recently if I believe that load shedding is now a thing of the past, and if Brian Molefe is the CEO government should have roped in years ago to save us the millions that have already gone down the drain at the hands of his predecessors.
She wondered aloud what it was that Molefe had brought to the table that, seemingly, none of his predecessors had been capable of. I jokingly replied that Brian is probably just holding in a big fart, and that it would only be a matter of time before he can no longer do so.
The cynic in me couldn’t resist the urge to think that Molefe would probably keep holding in the fart - if this were truly the case - until just after the elections. After all, where would he have come up with the additional electricity supply that our economy has craved for so many years? How did he, in such a short space of time, manage to find the additional energy reserve that we had been told was slipping away?
It could be the Medupi factor, of course; that must be where the relief is emanating from.
In any case, load shedding seems to be a thing of the past – at least for now – and we should all be rejoicing. Don’t get me wrong, I am also rejoicing. Molefe has been around the state-owned entity sector for over a decade. He knows how to play the politics of that harsh environment very well, and he understands management. That much should be given to him.
Nene dodging knives and daggers
Another potentially shining light in the often very murky world of political smoke and mirrors is the soft-spoken National Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene. He seems unassuming at first glance, but this minister has also grown through the political ranks within the finance ministry and, unlike most of his colleagues, understands what needs to be done and is serious about accomplishing it. I have no doubt that he wants to do the right thing but to succeed, he must keep practising the age-old art of dodging knives and daggers.
Recent reports that Treasury has been clamping down on the abuse of resources and has issued a strict list of directives to set limits on excessive travel by public servants, accommodation, car hire, entertainment, etc is the right way to go. If only Nene could be given the powers to partner with the Assets Forfeiture Unit (does it still exist?) to deal with those who continue to abuse public resources!
Stink spreads in Treasury’s living room
Where Nene’s hands seem seriously tied is when it comes to managing the clearly unmanageable and increasingly notorious Dudu Myeni - the primary school teacher President Jacob Zuma mysteriously saw fit to appoint as chairperson of the board of South African Airways; yes, that former shining star of African and, ambitiously, global aviation. Myeni, known to be a very, very, close friend of the president, is also president of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
Needless to say, one of her chief responsibilities in the latter position is to raise funds for the foundation. To do so, she must constantly be on the look-out for or create opportunities to replenish its coffers. She’s also known to be untouchable. Reels and reels of newspaper reports have been written about huge tenders that she tried to manage by herself, often excluding her fellow board members, and her constant interference in executive management functions of the airline.
Surreal anecdotes have also been shared relating the shenanigans she’s capable of. It is said that she used to ignore calls to meet with her former boss and minister of public enterprises Malusi Gigaba, and that she even threatened to have him removed from that post. Some believe she played a role in Gigaba being shifted from Public Enterprises where, it can be argued, he was doing quite well, to Home Affairs, where recent visa requirement regulations have pushed him into an unsavoury corner.
Post Gigaba, Myeni continued to mete out the same treatment to Lynn Brown, his successor. Brown is another one who takes her job seriously. She’s meticulous about getting things done, but she soon realised that right behind Myeni lurked a huge shadow that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye.
Myeni couldn’t give a toss about any directives given to her by Brown. To apparently solve the problem, Zuma kicked the can containing the Myeni national problem right into poor Nene’s cosy Treasury living room. It didn’t take long for Nene to smell the stink. Now, with all of Treasury’s windows and doors open to let some fresh air in, the stubborn stink remains.
Myeni continues to ignore even Treasury directives and has recently been fighting South African Airways (SAA) pilots, the one group of people without whom the airline would literally be grounded. She has been pitting them against ground staff and cabin attendants in an attempt to make them appear to be the source of SAA’s seemingly intractable problems. Clearly, Myeni never looks into the mirror.
With no political heavyweight courageous enough to speak out against the stink spreading in the Treasury’s living room, all seemingly fearful of the large shadow lurking behind it, poor Nene seems alone on this one. But if he fails, we will all be affected. What to do; what to do?
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Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley.