Numsa: Gordhan’s retirement as the minister of Public Enterprises is ‘good riddance to bad rubbish!’

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has decided to retire from politics. Picture: David Ritchie

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has decided to retire from politics. Picture: David Ritchie

Published Mar 9, 2024


By Irvin Jim

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is overjoyed that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the worst minister since the advent of democracy, has decided to retire from politics. We cannot wait for him to leave, in fact, as Numsa we volunteer to help him pack his bags. It is an absolute pity that he cannot leave sooner.

Just like the hit song by Miley Cyrus, Gordhan came in like a wrecking ball in 2018 and he has wrecked every single state- owned entity (SOE) that he touched.

We said in our previous statement that he has a “deadly Midas touch” because everywhere he goes, SOEs collapse and workers suffer. He claimed he was turning around SOEs unfortunately, most of them are in ICU or have died because of his involvement.

It is a painful irony that Gordhan once served as a member of the South African Communist Party Central Committee because his actions have been a relentless and brutal attack on workers and their families. His values are the opposite of Communism and its noble ideals, which are to advance and to improve the lives of the working class.

Gordhan is entirely self-serving and he is the worst performing minister ever to hold the portfolio of Public Enterprises minister. Those who have had the misfortune to work closely with him describe him as a bully, and a person who interferes in the day to day running of organisations. At SAA he interfered directly with the board, and we saw this type of irregular interference at other SOEs as well. He does not respect the principles of corporate governance at all.

Currently, Gordhan is trying to bully Parliament into covering up the “dirty deal” with the Takatso consortium. He has stubbornly refused to publicly disclose the details of the SAA Takatso deal, and he is abusing the principle of confidentiality.

His legacy is characterised by the following:

– Denel is in ICU and is about to collapse because Gordhan is choking the entity of the necessary funding it needs to be sustainable. In 2018/9 it had an order book of between R20 billion and R30bn. As we speak there are potentially billions worth of contracts that can be serviced, but Denel is unable to deliver on these orders because it does not have enough operating capital.

During Covid-19, workers at Denel were not paid their salaries for months. They lost cars, and assets. Two workers committed suicide because of the stress caused by Gordhan’s cruel policies and he was completely unapologetic for the suffering he imposed on them.

- SA Express no longer exists because of Gordhan. More than 800 workers lost their jobs, to date, many of them are still unemployed. We all witnessed how he and the department enabled the deliberate destruction of SA Express to the point where it was liquidated.

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) objected to the liquidation of SAA by Airlink and it went to court to oppose the application, but in the case of SA Express the DPE did not oppose this application even though it had the power to do so. It did not lift a finger to prevent the liquidation of the airline and it took a back seat throughout the entire process.

- SAA was placed under business rescue and more than 3000 workers lost their jobs. And then Gordhan engineered a deal to sell 51% of the state owned airline to a consortium, which he hand-picked. Numsa will never forget how the governing ANC, Parliament’s oversight body, the Standing committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises capitulated to his outrageous demands. They are the most powerful organs of the state, but they behaved like meek little lambs in the face of Gordhan’s rampant mismanagement.

They are actively participating in covering up the Takatso deal at SAA, by acquiescing to his demands for secrecy. Gordhan sold a glorious airline, which was once valued at more than R14bn in 2017, for a mere R51 to the Takatso Consortium. This is an example of rampant corruption, but all of these bodies are too cowardly to admit that.

– Eskom is collapsing and we have frequent load shedding because of a senseless decision taken by the minister to rush and implement the Just Energy Transition.

Without consulting any stakeholders, and against all the warnings given by trade unions, Gordhan shut down Komati coal fired power station prematurely and that action, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost in the province of Mpumalanga. None of the jobs which were promised ever materialised. The area around Komati is a ghost town and ordinary people are suffering because they depended on the power station. Its closure removed at least 2000MW of energy that we desperately need to keep the lights on.

- On Mango airlines, Gordhan is deliberately abusing the legal system to prevent the sale of Mango. The high court has ordered the minister to make a decision on the sale of the airline, but he is refusing, and he is in direct violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

He has launched a pointless appeal, which is an abuse of our tax money on a frivolous court application to the Labour Appeals Court, which is likely to fail. He is doing this to sabotage the sale because his ultimate goal is that Mango must also collapse like all the other SOEs. Numsa continues to support the business rescue practitioner Sipho Sono and we hope that Gordhan’s attempts to destroy Mango will fail.

- Gordhan has single-handedly contributed to hundreds of thousands of job losses during his tenure and the destruction of livelihoods. He has contributed to the country’s poor economic performance because of the destruction of SOEs.

We must also question some members of the media who behaved like extensions of Gordhan’s propaganda machinery because they embedded themselves in his faction. We have noted how they write glowingly about his tenure and gloss over his complete failures as Public Enterprises minister.

The manner in which Gordhan has conducted himself on SAA is another form of state capture. Unfortunately these media houses have shamelessly glossed over his attempts to cover up the dodgy Takatso deal, and they lack the guts to call him out for his corrupt behaviour. History will judge them for their dishonesty and their cowardice.

As much as we want Gordhan to leave, we also demand accountability. He cannot be allowed to get away with selling SAA for far less than its value. Workers at SAA wanted to use their pensions to invest in the airline so that they could be shareholders, but he denied them that opportunity.

Instead, he engineered the deal so that it can be sold to people hand-picked by him, for less than a R100! Most of the workers who were retrenched remain unemployed. Gordhan’s sins must not go unpunished. We demand justice, on behalf of the working class which has suffered immeasurably under his tenure. As Numsa we say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”

Numsa General secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Irvin Jim is the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).