Rewind seven years. Malusi Gigaba lands the daunting job of public enterprises minister after the widely respected Barbara Hogan is shuffled out the door.
Mere days after his promotion from deputy minister of home affairs, he begins media engagements, making clear statements about the role he sees for state-owned entities and their place in a developmental state.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian at the time, he cut the same lean, intent figure as he did this past Saturday at his first press conference as the new finance minister.
In the interview, given a day before he had met his senior staff at public enterprises for a full briefing, he laid out his strategy for the country’s largest state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including Eskom and SAA.
“We are going to play a much more hands-on, robust, strategic leadership role,” he said.
His attitude was a marked departure from Hogan, who espoused board independence and reduced state intervention in SOEs.
There was a tendency to conflate robust leadership “with interfering in the operations of these organisation”, he said, but parastatals were “not private entities, they are state-owned enterprises; they must implement the vision of government”.
Back in 2017, Gigaba will be haunted by the parlous financial state of SOEs, including ones he once oversaw – specifically because of the contingent liabilities they pose to the government’s finances.
This was highlighted by S&P Global in its decision to downgrade South Africa’s credit rating to junk earlier this week.