Malusi Gigaba is arguably the most important minister in South Africa right now. Whispers that he is a next generation presidential candidate were confirmed at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung last December, where he got the second highest number of votes at the election of the ANC’s all-important National Executive Committee (NEC). This may have boosted his confidence, but for the moment Gigaba has the task of reinventing our state-owned enterprises and of driving the biggest infrastructure projects in South Africa’s history. Liesl Peyper interviewed him at his office in Pretoria.
It’s easy to mistake Malusi Gigaba for a big shot in the corporate world. Elegantly dressed in a grey double-breasted suit and silk tie he is the spitting image of a CEO. But despite his appearance the dapper Minister of Public Enterprises has no appetite for the private sector. “There’s not an ounce of entrepreneur in me,” he says when pressed about his future plans. “I’ll probably still be a member of parliament if the ANC wishes so after 2014 – at best, if I were to leave politics I’ll go and teach.”
Not that he needs to have contingency plans. Ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung some 30 branches nominated him for one of the top six positions. He didn’t get elected to the top brass, but he garnered 2 669 votes behind his name – the second most – for the party’s NEC, which is the ANC’s highest decision-making body. Like other outspoken supporters of President Jacob Zuma, Gigaba was rewarded abundantly when voting for NEC members took place. Besides his prominent position on the NEC, he also occupies an influential position in President Zuma’s cabinet. As custodian of SOEs, among which are South African Airways (SAA), Eskom, Transnet and Denel, he undoubtedly has more clout than the average member of the executive.