The former chief executive of South Africa’s state-owned power utility was sworn in as a member of parliament Thursday in a move that could deepen a power struggle within the ruling ANC party.
Brian Molefe, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, is expected to be promoted into the cabinet and play a key role in government.
He resigned from the Eskom power company in November after being implicated in a public ombudsman report detailing corruption involving the wealthy Gupta business family.
The African National Congress (ANC) spokeswoman in parliament confirmed Molefe’s appointment, which analysts described as a move by Zuma to weaken Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Strongly supported by several other ministers, Gordhan has been at loggerheads with Zuma for months, with many presidential loyalists calling for him to be ousted.
According to the Eurasia Group consultancy, Molefe could become deputy finance minister.
“Molefe would then be able to play a key role in undermining Gordhan,” it said in a briefing note.
The opposition Democratic Alliance described the appointment as a “major escalation in the civil war within the ruling party and the battle for control of national treasury”.
The ombudsman report revealed Molefe’s extensive contact with the Guptas when they were in the process of acquiring a mine that supplies Eskom with coal.
Molefe denied any wrongdoing but resigned as Eskom chief days after the release of the report.
He previously served as chief executive of the state-owned logistics firm Transnet.