EDITORIAL: Whatever happened to Lynne Brown?
The minister, a once-respected struggle stalwart, has squandered her reputation and will find it difficult to regain it
Brown’s apparent willingness to toss away her hard-earned credibility in defence of President Jacob Zuma’s rotten shadow state is a symbol of how the ruling party itself has been perverted. She’s not the only one in this position.
In parliament on Tuesday, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan expressed the question on many people’s lips when he asked: who had ordered her to reinstate Molefe? Was she simply doing Zuma’s bidding? The real question, though, was: what had happened to her?
It’s an apposite question, given how Brown has come out swinging to defend the decision to reappoint Molefe as CEO. She also was trapped in a lie, telling parliament Eskom hadn’t signed any contracts with Trillian Capital Partners (a firm part-owned by an associate of the Gupta family, Salim Essa). Only, as AmaBhungane pointed out, Eskom had actually paid R266m to Trillian.
But the Molefe scandal could be the death knell for her political career. By aligning herself with the wild contradictions, obvious lies and clumsy spin that marked Molefe’s return, she has made her stewardship of the state-owned companies sector appear embarrassingly amateurish.
On Monday, Molefe and Brown filed affidavits as part of their defence against the Democratic Alliance’s bid to set aside Molefe’s reappointment.
This time, Molefe claimed he was on "unpaid leave". He says: "My original contract of employment did not come to an end."
Only, this excuse contradicts his "statement" last November in which said he had "decided to leave my employ at Eskom" — something the entire country understood as a resignation.
The next excuse, which emerged last week, was that the 49-year-old Molefe had applied for "early retirement" when he left, and had to return because this approval was being "rescinded".
Now, in these new court papers, he claims he was on "leave". Never mind that Brown didn’t sign any leave form; never mind that his job was widely advertised; and never mind that he took another job as a member of parliament.
What next? He was on maternity leave? He was kidnapped by the forces of "white monopoly capital" and imprisoned in Stellenbosch?
Gordhan put it best when he said "the answers are all over the show; they lack credibility".
He wasn’t alone in thinking so. The ANC went so far as to say the "unpaid leave" argument was "not only disingenuous", it amounted to "perjury".
At least Brown looked suitably sheepish in parliament this week. So much so that she abandoned her decision to fight the DA’s application.
She also flatly denied doing Zuma’s bidding, or lying. "If I lie in my affidavit, that’s kind of the end of me as a public representative. More importantly, that’s the end of the person I know," she says.
Of course, many people who knew her feel it has already been some time since she was the person she once was.
To demonstrate her independence and claw back her reputation, she’ll need to go further than she did on Tuesday: convene her own "state capture" probe of state-owned companies that report to her, deal decisively with the findings, and replace the contaminated boards.