Cyril Ramaphosa has been trying to fight the flames of discontent across the SOE portfolio this week, following the resignation of South African Airways CEO Vuyani Jarana on Sunday. His departure marked the third in a series of high-profile executives to leave their roles from the parastatals in 2019.
Former CEOs of Eskom and Transnet – Phakamani Hadebe and Siyabonga Gama respectively – have both moved on from trying to reignite the flailing fortunes of these state institutions.
According to EWN, Jarana’s departure put many of his colleagues on-edge. This lead to the president’s decision to convene a meeting with 20 other SOE chiefs on Wednesday evening.
President Cyril Ramaphosa met with chief executives of over 20 key state owned companies (SOC) at the Union Buildings this afternoon to discuss the contribution these SOEs can make to economic revitalisation and social development. https://t.co/kZaDKU9weS pic.twitter.com/NjdQZ71vXl
— PresidencyZA (@PresidencyZA) June 5, 2019
Cyril Ramaphosa holds crunch talks
It’s understood a number of issues were raised by the business leaders during the round-table discussions at the Union Buildings in Pretoria – some of the main talking points, according to Spokesperson in the Presidency Khusela Diko, included the following:
- Ramaphosa assured all the CEOs they have a key part to play in South Africa’s economic recovery
- Several executives “highlighted the need for a better definition of their mandates”, demanding clarity over their roles.
- Many asked for government policy to be amended, so it can “effectively support” their mission statements.
- Multiple CEOs expressed concerns over “inconsistencies” in appointing boards to their companies and complained about the legal red tape they had to contend with.
- According to Ramaphosa, “political interference” was also cited as a problem.
Political inteference raised as a concern by SOE bosses
The last point is an intriguing one, as it stokes the fires of some unconfirmed theories regarding the SOE CEO exodus. Jarana’s resignation statement alluded to political interference – and it’s a point the EFF picked up and ran with earlier in the week.
They blamed Pravin Gordhan for overstepping the mark as public enterprises minister, by trying to seize control of SAA and make decisions on Jarana’s behalf. The airline boss’ departure has been the proverbial kick to the hornet’s nest, and Ramaphosa must turn words into action if he is to soothe his parastatal collective.