If Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown is indeed cleaning up Eskom, I’ll join those who should apologise for calling her Brown-nose.
Brown could help collapse the crooked Gupta empire. Although briefings this week by the captured public protector gave a glimpse into some of the Guptas’ astonishing ambitions, the prize remains a trillion-rand nuclear deal.
Ben Ngubane’s resignation as Eskom chair, and Brown’s refusal to accept the reappointment of Brian Molefe as chief executive are significant steps in blocking the Zuptas’ nuke plans.
Rumours of the deal’s death are exaggerated. On Monday, Russia’s state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom said it was “in contact with South African authorities” – despite a high court ruling that the South African government’s decision to call for proposals for nuclear procurement was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Last month, after the court ruling, Eskom said it had terminated its request for information on the nuke programme.
But the Russians, like the Zuptas, don’t respect our courts, especially when rulings stand between them and untold riches. So in Moscow, Rosatom’s Anastasia Zoteyeva had no qualms about saying they are proposing to develop a whole nuclear cluster in South Africa.
The question of who is in charge of South Africa’s nuclear procurement is crucial. In November, when Pravin Gordhan was still finance minister, Cabinet declared that Eskom was the designated procuring entity. Some saw this as an attempt to sidestep Gordhan and the Treasury, who said the programme was unaffordable.
With Molefe and Ngubane toppled, the Gupta influence on Eskom is under threat. Matters will become clear on Friday if the remaining board members are removed and not replaced by more Zupta stooges. The leaked Gupta e-mails have a role here. Some board members have been implicated. Anoj Singh, executive director and chief financial officer, has Gupta links.
When weighing up the chances of Brown installing a Gupta-free Eskom board, bear in mind that she has to present new appointments to the Cabinet for approval. And Gupta puppet Zuma controls the Cabinet.
If Gupta support at Eskom does falter, Saxonwold could still have its way via a tame finance ministry. Treasury approval for any pro-Gupta nuclear deal is more likely with Malusi Gigaba.
Gigaba has been discredited by the e-mail leaks. His pro-Gupta role during his term as public enterprise minister has been laid bare. Without him, the Guptas would not be so entrenched in so many state-owned enterprises.
He was further embarrassed by the publication of letters showing he bent over backwards to grant South African citizenship to several Guptas.
Gigaba’s deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, is also tarnished in the e-mails, which show he benefited from Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) contracts while he was Prasa chair.
With these people in charge of South Africa’s purse strings, no wonder the Russians remain confident of a deal, which would nuke South Africa’s battered economy.
For as long as she remains minister, Brown has a potentially heroic role to play in preventing this grand theft. In that task, she deserves support, not insults.