Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas has painted a bleak picture of the ANC as a broken party that is without vision and is not a coherent leader of society, compared with when it assumed power in 1994.
Jonas was delivering an annual lecture at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, titled Hope After State Capture. The lecture was dedicated to the life and memory of Laloo “Isu” Chiba, who would have turned 90 this week.
While delivering his speech, Jonas took the time to compare the current leadership of the ANC with that of 1994.
He criticised the party for not having direction and solutions for the poor majority. He argued that, in the main, what the ANC had managed to do was create a “black elite”.
“The 1994 consensus gave us a stable political platform to build a new democracy, assemble new state architecture, and deliver services and welfare to millions of needy South Africans. A small but powerful black elite was created through boardroom deals and access to state rents. This fragile consensus held together for the first two decades of freedom, but has rapidly unravelled since then,” he said.
Jonas took a moment to address the corruption cases currently playing out in government, including tose related to Eskom, state capture and Covid-19-related procurement.
According to the former deputy minister, the country has not done enough to protect the poor, and has also failed to choose suitable candidates to lead the party.
“We no longer have the same kind of credible and embedded political agency to lead us. Underlying this is the realisation that the governing party has not adequately filtered who rises into leadership.
“It has to rebuild its own ethical foundations before it can lead a broader campaign for a new moral order in the state and society,” Jonas said.
He lauded the efforts of the state capture commission to expose the corruption surrounding state capture, however, he said that the state remained a shadow of its former self and was still plagued by high levels of mistrust among citizens and key stakeholders in labour unions, business and civil society.
“As necessary as the Zondo commission has been in revealing the dirty workings of state capture, the everyday stories of abuse and malfeasance continue to undermine the state’s credibility. The capacity of the sphere of government closest to the people – local government – remains a real concern,” he said.
Jonas said that it was ironic that, after 26 years of democracy, the country was still talking about inequality.
He added that the country must start looking at a growth model that focused on fixing the high levels of unemployment, the small size of the small business sector, and the failure to build a black entrepreneurial class.
“White South Africans make up more than 60% of the country’s elite, and Africans just 20%. This plays directly into unhelpful racial populist narratives, which in turn lead to the flight of know-how and capital.
“We cannot afford to become more racially polarised and divided as a society,” he said.
For Jonas, the solution to this problem would be to increase support for frontline jobs.
“We must protect price stability, because hyperinflation impacts the poor the worst.
“And if we have to cut posts or services, we must ensure these are not frontline posts. We must reverse the current trend of cutting back on police officers, teachers, nurses and the like. If we have to cut, it must be at the top.
“As budgets for procurement shrink, we must open up new opportunities in the real economy for black entrepreneurs. Big capital must come to the party.”