Brian Molefe. Picture: ALON SKUY
Brian Molefe. Picture: ALON SKUY

Had it happened two years ago, the mooted arrival of Brian Molefe in the halls of parliament would have been cause for celebration. His intellect, skill and financial savvy would have been a welcome salve for stale or misguided debates in the national assembly.

After all, many politicians entrusted with the power to pass laws in a modern economy such as ours are not equipped with the right skills for this task. This is a legacy of SA’s history, where many go into politics as a first job, rather than going there to contribute to society what they have learnt in business or other social endeavours that enable citizens to lead a full life.

Molefe, with his background in the capital markets division of national treasury, as CEO of the Public Investment Corp and then later at Transnet, would be a boon for any of the economic cluster committees.

He would even have been a fantastic addition to national treasury itself — either as minister or as deputy. Few would have quibbled, considering that over the past 23 years of democracy, Molefe proved himself a technically well-equipped administrator who got things done.

Only, the current speculation that Molefe might be elected to parliament, looked at in the cold light of 2017, is another story entirely. Nearly all the goodwill his name used to carry evaporated after his behind-closed-doors dealings with the Gupta family, at both Eskom and Transnet, were brutally exposed by former public protector Thuli Madonsela last October.

Today, Molefe’s proximity to the Guptas, as well as his vociferous defence of their business practices, mean he remains a symbol of state capture. His tearful references to the Saxonwold Shebeen, far from convincing the public, became cause for amusement instead.

Madonsela’s report showed how the Guptas amassed billions of rand from government contracts at Eskom and Transnet, leaving the strong stench of possible corruption.

Now, it remains true that Molefe has been found guilty of nothing. Despite that, commendably, he resigned as Eskom’s CEO rather than cling to the post — something few others have the nous to do. But this doesn’t remove the serious issues raised by Madonsela’s report.

Reports in the past week suggest that Molefe’s elevation to parliament may be a precursor to appointing him to the finance ministry. Amid talk that President Jacob Zuma is planning a cabinet reshuffle, insiders say Molefe may be appointed to fill the post of deputy to Pravin Gordhan, with Mcebisi Jonas deployed elsewhere. Others say Molefe may get Gordhan’s job — but this seems a bridge too far for an already-weak Zuma.

Either way, it would be a disaster. Jonas has proven his integrity, playing a fundamental role in resisting efforts to compromise treasury. Having withstood the brazen assault of Nhlanhla Nene’s axing, and David Des van Rooyen’s short-lived appointment, the last thing treasury needs is someone accused of corruption anywhere near the helm.

And while the relationship between Gordhan and Jonas is fluid and workable, there is no love lost between Molefe and Gordhan. Such an appointment would cripple treasury.

This week, in the wake of reports about Molefe’s elevation, the rand weakened — something analysts attributed to this prospect.

Molefe, who was roundly commended after resigning from Eskom last year, should do what he vowed to do back then: fight to clear his name. Were he to reject any overtures for political office until the cloud of suspicion has lifted, it would do much to re-establish his credibility.

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