As Cyril Ramaphosa begins to crank up his challenge to lead the ruling party as the 2019 general election looms ever closer, the ANC has, surprisingly the cynics might claim, displayed a conscience.
The sudden resignation as an MP of discredited former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe as a member of parliament after a scant three months – and the board at the power utility’s unseemly haste to “reappoint” him after he had claimed early retirement – is likely to strengthen Ramaphosa’s hand.
Molefe’s volte-face, it is strongly believed, has more to do with the Eskom board voting to award him a R30 million golden handshake – a payout Lynne Brown, the minister of public enterprises, described at the time as “very irregular”.
But Brown backed down and endorsed the rehiring of Molofe as Eskom head.
The ANC, not an organisation that has shown many signs of being embarrassed, took the moral high ground on the whole fiasco, expressing disappointment with the minister for backing a “clearly immoral and illegal” decision of the Eskom board.
“We’re embarrassed as the ANC that she could embrace what appears to be illegal and immoral,” said party spokesman Zizi Kodwa.
“The only moral thing we were expecting, and we’re still expecting, is to rescind and reverse that decision, or dismiss the Eskom board because, with this decision, they have failed to [undertake] their fiduciary responsibilities.”
Harsh words indeed, but likely to add strength to Ramaphosa’s arm.
Ramaphosa, despite the stigma of the Marikana massacre that still clings to him like persistent body odour, is seemingly starting to ring alarm bells within the factionalised organisation and is emerging as the voice of reason.
It is axiomatic in the cut and thrust of politics that any perceived weakness is pounced on.
Ramaphosa will surely not miss the botched Molefe affair as an ideal opportunity.