MP ousted to make place for Molefe

2017-02-19 06:00
Brian Molefe

Brian Molefe

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The intrigue surrounding the impending swearing-in of former Eskom chief executive officer Brian Molefe as an MP deepened when City Press learnt that an ANC MP, Abram Mudau, was pushed to resign from Parliament so that Molefe could come in as a replacement.

The ANC in North West had also claimed that they nominated Molefe because he belonged to a branch in Madibeng in that province.

But leaders of the branch in Ward 29 in Hartbeespoort yesterday denied that he was on its books.

Several sources told City Press that Molefe’s alleged branch membership was a concoction to justify parachuting him to Parliament, despite the fact that he didn’t appear on any provincial list of ANC members in line to be deployed.

It is widely speculated that President Jacob Zuma wants to appoint Molefe as a minister or deputy minister, possibly in the finance or energy departments, during an anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.

The branch leaders insisted that Molefe was not known in ANC structures in North West as he was from Pretoria, despite owning a property in Hartbeespoort.

A branch office bearer confirmed to City Press that Molefe had never been an active member in that branch.

“It is not true. We only learnt about him being in this branch through statements. We don’t know him.”

This was corroborated by another senior ANC member in the province.

“I can tell you that the provincial executive committee (PEC) has a tendency of manipulating processes. It is fraud and corruption. But we know that his membership will be imposed by the PEC on that ward after the fact.”

However, ANC North West secretary Dakota Legoete said:

“We want to caution our members and supporters about individuals who seek to mislead them and distort information regarding comrade Brian’s membership.

"It is disappointing that some within the ANC are spreading the falsehood that [Molefe] is not a member of the ANC in our province or a resident of Bokone Bophirima.

“For the record, comrade Brian is an ANC member in good standing of Ward 29 in Hartbeespoort in the Madibeng local municipality.”

To be sworn in

ANC insiders, including MPs, said that Mudau was among office bearers who had been forced to sign postdated resignation letters some time last year. Mudau did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

City Press reported last year that MPs were being forced to sign postdated resignations in case the provincial leadership wanted to remove them.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe later intervened and put a stop to the practice.

Parliament has confirmed that Molefe would be sworn in as an MP.

Despite efforts to put pressure on him, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was not expected to pronounce any new radical economic spending in this year’s budget.

Staffers said Gordhan was going about his business as usual, even after the news about Molefe was announced on Friday.

“He was calm. If there was anything that affected him, it did not show in his demeanour,” said a source close to Treasury.

On Friday, Gordhan met with the board of SA Airways and on Saturday, he and his team were at work finalising preparations for the budget speech.

City Press understands that the budget, to be tabled on Wednesday, is going to be business as usual in as far as the current revenue spending is concerned.

This is mainly because South Africa’s debt levels have been rising over the years and currently stand at a massive R1.9 trillion.

Also, there is no sense of what the concrete plan is to achieve the radical economic transformation agenda announced by Zuma.

Insiders said the fact that Gordhan emphasised the country’s need to reduce deficit by 2.4% over the next three years, as well as cutting the expenditure ceiling by R25bn, meant there was little room to move to cater for additional spending.

There have been concerns about whether Gordhan would be pushed into a corner to do a balancing act and tweak the budget after Zuma’s state of the nation address, in which the president spoke of how government would start a new chapter of radical socioeconomic transformation.

There have also been other efforts to force Gordhan out of his position, including the institution of criminal charges last year, which were later withdrawn.

On Friday, the ANC Youth League called for the dismissal of Gordhan and the restructuring of Treasury.

The league’s call is consistent with that of other Zuma allies, who share the narrative that Treasury – and, by implication, Gordhan – are blocking transformation projects.

This despite the fact that all ministers and their directors-general are involved in the drawing up of the budget that is approved by Cabinet.

"Budget is under duress"

Last week, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said Treasury’s wings needed to be clipped.

However, it is unlikely that the budget would be used to appease Gordhan’s detractors.

A Treasury insider said: “The budget is under duress and there is no space for additional spending. Sixty percent goes to public servants’ salaries and the other chunk to paying off debt.

"There is no room for extra spending and the budget is unlikely to allocate money for new things.

“The budget itself can do nothing to promote the project, other than maybe through tax to provide certain benefits. In an environment where there is no money, we can only increase taxes, but these are also under pressure.”

However, it is understood that none of the strategic instruments for Zuma’s radical plans outlined last week would require Treasury to dig deeper into its pockets.

The only cost associated with Zuma’s big plans is catered for in the existing department of trade and industry’s budget for the Black Industrialist Programme.

“The money is already available. That budget will have to be rolled over because not enough people came forward since its inception.

"There is nothing in the budget that will introduce new spending in terms of this radical economic transformation,” said an insider.

The only other big project announced by Zuma that would require resources is the Moloto Road upgrade.

Zuma said that the SA National Roads Agency had started with the planning phase of the R4.5 billion project to upgrade the road.

He added that South Africa had signed a cooperation agreement with the People’s Republic of China to build the Moloto Rail Development Corridor.

But later statements raised eyebrows with government officials, who said that specific details regarding procuring services for the upgrade should be left to government technocrats, rather than be influenced by political interference.

Those in the know say Gordhan was not stressed at all. If anything, it is the ANC government he represents whose back is against the wall.

For one, the governing party can’t risk raising taxes for the poor and working class, as this could trigger a political reaction.

“Raising taxes will only have to target high-income earners,” said an insider.

As such, Gordhan could announce tax on high-income earners and even a wealth tax.

Gordhan is also expected to outline the consolidation of all development finance institutions (DFIs).

The aim is to consolidate capital available for development, thus creating fewer but more powerful entities under one roof, in line with Zuma’s plans of radical economic transformation.

These include provincial and national entities with diverse property holdings, among them the Industrial Development Corporation, the Industrial Bank of Southern Africa, the National Empowerment Fund, the Independent Development Trust and the National Youth Development Agency.

They will have to be rationalised, which means others will be done away with and many boards dissolved to create one powerhouse.

Gordhan made Treasury’s intentions clear at last year’s budget when he flagged the fact that some entities had overlapping mandates, adding that the merger of housing DFIs was already in progress.

Read more on:    anc  |  eskom  |  brian molefe

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