Brian Molefe sworn in under a cloud
Opposition parties strongly condemned the swearing-in of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe as an MP on Thursday, saying he should have cleared the cloud over his name before joining the honourable members of the national legislature.
Molefe came to Parliament by filling a vacancy on the ANC list of MPs in the North West amid widespread speculation that he is to be appointed as a member of President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet.
Molefe resigned as CEO of Eskom late in 2016 after being accused by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her State of Capture report of having a corrupt relationship with members of the Gupta family, who benefited unduly from the utility’s coal contracts.
Molefe sat on the ANC back-benches in the National Assembly on his first day as an MP, while his wife sat in the gallery.
Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete formally announced he had been sworn in, which was greeted by an insult from the EFF.
ANC leaders have not yet decided to which committee Molefe will be deployed. Encountered in the corridors of the National Assembly shortly after having been sworn in, an uneasy Molefe said he did not know where he would be going or whether he would be a member of the finance committee.
"I am okay," he said when asked how he felt about being an MP when for the past 15 years or so he has sat opposite MPs either as a member of the Treasury team, as head of the Public Investment Corporation, CEO of Transnet or CEO of Eskom.
Nonceba Mhlauli, the spokeswoman for ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, said the decision on Molefe’s role would be made later by the leaders of the ANC caucus after consultations with Molefe.
DA spokesman on finance David Maynier said that swearing in Molefe as a MP and his possible appointment to a position in the finance family "represents a clear and present danger to the institutional independence of National Treasury".
Maynier described Molefe’s swearing in as "a major escalation in the civil war within the ruling party and the battle for control of National Treasury, being driven by Zuma.
"We cannot be sure, but it will presumably not be long before Brain Molefe is appointed to the finance committee to serve time before being appointed as the deputy minister of finance with a view to controlling the R1.8-trillion managed by the Public Investment Corporation.
"The Guptas will be delighted because, if the State of Capture report is anything to go by and Brian Molefe is eventually appointed to a position in the ‘finance family’, they will finally have National Treasury, the Public Investment Corporation and South African Airways on speed dial," Maynier said.
The EFF’s chief whip, Floyd Shivambu, said his party regarded Molefe as a Gupta deployee who was being sent to Parliament to protect their interests.
He anticipated that Molefe would shortly be deployed to a critical ministry.
"We think it was wrong for the ANC to appoint a person who himself admitted that he must step aside [as CEO of Eskom] because there is a cloud over his head.
"He should have clarified his cloud first and come to Parliament afterwards."
The EFF also objected to the unprecedented announcement by Parliament last Friday that Molefe would be sworn in as an MP for the ANC.
This had never happened before and indicated that Parliament was becoming partisan, Shivambu said.
African Christian Democratic Party finance spokesman Steve Swart said the party was "deeply concerned" about Molefe’s swearing-in.
"Whilst he is very experienced and skilled, there is a dark cloud hanging over his head relating to his relationship with the Gupta family.
"The findings of the former public protector still stand, they have not been set aside on review," Swart said.
"I think it is improper for him to come to Parliament before those issues have been resolved. He should have waited until there is some resolution to that dark cloud hanging