Sikonathi Mantshantsha Deputy editor: Financial Mail
Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba after a meeting with the CEO Initiative, which some who attended called 'a step in the right direction'. Picture: Masi Losi
Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba after a meeting with the CEO Initiative, which some who attended called 'a step in the right direction'. Picture: Masi Losi

Now that the wrecking ball from Nkandla has finally been sent packing, the great job of rebuilding SA must start without delay.

Cyril Ramaphosa gets sworn in as president today, and his immediate task will be to assemble the best possible team of technocrats to reprioritise the ANC’s motto, “a better life for all”. The Financial Mail joins the rest of SA in wishing him the best success.

The trickier part will be offloading the albatrosses who enabled the giant state looting project of the past nine years. At the front of the queue is the finance minister, the 46-year-old former ANC Youth League leader Malusi Gigaba.

You might intuitively imagine that Bathabile Dlamini (social development) or Mosebenzi Zwane (mining) were Jacob Zuma’s most ruinous appointments. You’d be wrong: it is Gigaba who has single-handedly done the most damage to the economy.

To understand why, you need to go back to May 2009, when Zuma appointed Gigaba as public enterprises minister. It was the mother of blunders, loosing an egomaniacal delinquent on the most strategically critical assets of state.

There, Gigaba took the first step in bending the state to the will of the influential Gupta family — a family whom Zuma described as his “friends”.

Under his watch, Brian Molefe was appointed CEO of Transnet, Anoj Singh as his finance chief and Iqbal Sharma as a director. At Eskom, the likes of Ben Ngubane (who also enabled Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the SABC), Zethembe Khoza and Zola Tsotsi rose up the ranks.

The upshot of Gigaba’s interference was that Eskom lost an estimated R200bn in the five years he was public enterprises minister. Much of this, as is now common knowledge, was stolen from the utility and seemingly diverted to the Guptas and other equally nefarious characters.

Under his watch, massive delays and cost overruns in building the Medupi and Kusile power stations also occurred. These were not simply events beyond anyone’s control, as Gigaba’s defenders argue, but a result of his compromised leadership.

From there, in 2014, Gigaba moved to home affairs. In his wake, he left an Eskom that was effectively bankrupt and in need of an R83bn cash bailout. Worse, it had become a paradise of free-for-all looting. It was the same story at Transnet.

Soon, the rot at SA Airways, SA Express and Denel also escalated to an industrial scale. Can it be mere coincidence that all these, which fell directly under Gigaba’s political control, had been looted to bankruptcy within the five years of his stewardship?

Leave aside his tenure at home affairs, where his clunky and ill thought-out administrative changes caused massive damage to our tourism industry, and it seems clear that Gigaba, with his comrades Lynne Brown and transport minister Joe Maswanganyi, have no place in an honest administration.

If the time of turning a blind eye to brazen theft of public resources has now come to an end, so should their tenure in government.

Rather, what Ramaphosa needs are honest and hardworking servants of the people. The people of substance who should take up leadership roles are Pravin Gordhan, Mondli Gungubele, Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, Mcebisi Jonas and Nhlanhla Nene. At this time, trusted hands are needed to restore confidence and revive the country’s fortunes. There is no time for experimentation.

This suggests either Nene, Gordhan or Jonas should be picked as finance minister. Any one of them could deliver the national budget next week — and do so with far more credibility than Gigaba in the eyes of the ratings agencies.

Elsewhere in the economic cluster, Mkhize and Gungubele could play a strong role, anchored in good governance and limited to policy making.

From there, Ramaphosa can look to restore confidence in the other ministries gutted by Zuma’s awful appointments: mineral resources, public enterprises, local government, energy and transport. Those ministries are crying out for real leadership.

After all, it is in the performance of those ministers that will determine whether real service delivery to the people of SA lives or dies.

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