Pretoria: There has been increasing pressure on South African president Cyril Ramaphosa from inside and outside the ANC alliance to remove public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Deputy president David Mabuza last week said he believed Gordhan and the Eskom board had misled Ramaphosa when they told him there would be no rolling blackouts before mid-January. This was followed by Cosatu calling for Gordhan’s removal.
There have also been calls for Ramaphosa to place Eskom under the control of mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. The group of veterans - which includes Frank Chikane, Mavuso Msimang, Cheryl Carolus, Wally Serote and Sydney Mufamadi - said they were “appalled” by the utterances of those who had couched a political assault on Gordhan in “insincere concern” over the crisis at Eskom.
“The true target of those ANC politicians and their fellow travellers who are leading the attack is President Cyril Ramaphosa,” they said. “A convergence, or ‘unity’, of these individuals and organisations is indeed under way and is self-evidently designed to bring about the removal of a president committed to rehabilitating the country’s institutions and eliminating corruption.”
Gordhan has been in the crosshairs of some factions in the ANC, as well as the EFF, from day one in his role as chief corruption buster. The campaign now enjoys much broader support, with numerous ANC insiders deeply critical of both his failure to turn Eskom around and his political and leadership style.
The pro-Gordhan stalwarts said the proposal to shift control of the ailing power utility was impractical, especially at a time of institutional instability, and was a manoeuvre to undermine and politically weaken Gordhan. They said casting blame on the minister for the state of affairs at Eskom was “disingenuous and duplicitous”, as the decades-long management failures were compounded by state capture, aided and abetted by ministers who served in former president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet and those appointed to its board at the time.
“Those clamouring for the head of comrade Pravin Gordhan fool no one. We know, as do most right-thinking members of the ANC and the citizenry, that these elements are engaged in a long-term project of state capture and regard the Ramaphosa presidency as a necessary interval before they are once more in power,” said the veterans.
The group called on Ramaphosa to stand firm and refuse to bend to those in the ANC national executive committee (NEC) and cabinet who would “steal from and cripple the state”.