Malusi Gigaba is by almost all accounts an effective, hard-working minister who understands his portfolio better than most. He was clear when he took the job that he would be an active shareholder in South Africa`s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In line with the Zuma administration, Gigaba believes SOEs must be at the heart of state-led economic development and the linchpin of the country`s infrastructure development plans.
The test of this vision was always going to be Eskom. But the building of three new power stations (Medupi, Kusile and Ingula) has been plagued by difficulty. Gigaba inherited a company already signed up for a mega-construction programme that had not constructed anything on that scale for decades. The projects have been beset by labour strife and there has been trouble with two major Medupi contractors. This has repeatedly delayed the delivery date, which could now be the end of 2014, and caused the costs to skyrocket. There was also an accident at Ingula, which claimed the lives of six workers.
Meanwhile, the country has been running on a razor-thin electricity reserve margin. During this time, Eskom financial director Paul O`Flaherty and chief executive Brian Dames have both quit. Although it has been denied, there is speculation that the resignations came, in part, because of Gigaba`s habit of micromanaging executives. The company has a R200-billion funding gap to fill, after the national energy regulator did not grant it the tariff increase it wanted.
Leadership trouble at South African Airways has decreased somewhat under the new chief executive, Monwabisi Kalawe. The airline has begun its long-term turnaround strategy, but whether it can continue without yet another bailout from the government remains a question.
More positively, Transnet has been steadily rolling out its plan to overhaul its railway networks, largely from its own account, which has been considered strong enough to warrant an upgrade by the credit ratings agency Fitch.
The department under Gigaba has maintained a relatively even keel, although the auditor general did highlight that it had not achieved 32% of its planned targets.
Gigaba`s appointment as the organiser of the ANC`s election campaign has raised some eyebrows, given his demanding post.