Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas believes South Africa isn’t far removed from chaos and that there exists a "historic opportunity" for the government to effect drastic and necessary structural changes to the economy and the country.
He told Fin24 in an interview on Wednesday that President Cyril Ramaphosa is keenly aware of what needs to be done, but added that the political system in which he operates – which puts ANC politics at the centre – constrains both Ramaphosa and government in terms of executing the solution.
Jonas, who has just published a book titled After Dawn: Hope after state capture, also warns that the country is closer to seeking help from the International Monetary Fund than many believe.
"I disagree with people who say we aren’t close to asking the IMF for help. We are close! If we miss the targets in our fiscal framework by a significant number and if we cannot fix Eskom soon, we will be in crisis," Jonas, who was dismissed as deputy minister of finance by former president Jacob Zuma on March 30, 2017, said.
If the country cannot agree on what is needed to ensure economic growth, how to guarantee an effective state or how to fix education, it could lead to chaos and further corruption and deterioration, he added.
During the launch of his book on Tuesday evening, he told interviewer Redi Thlabi that the ANC is facing an "existential crisis" which it is going to have to tackle. The party has been facing this crisis of paralysis ever since the global economic crisis in 2008 (a year after the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007) "when the ANC’s intellectual capacity started to wane", he argued.
After Dawn is an analysis of the political economy and details what structural deficiencies in politics and society led to state capture and how the country can recover from it. It also offers solutions to the myriad economic problems the country faces and argues that the 1994 democratic accord is under pressure because of low growth, a weakened state and political actors acting in self-interest.
The book launch was attended by a who’s who of the resistance against state capture, including a large group of former National Treasury staff, including former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, former director general Lungisa Fuzile, deputy director general Ismail Momoniat and former spokesperson Yolisa Tyantyi.
Also in attendance were governor of the SA Reserve Bank Lesetja Kganyago, as well as ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom, former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, former minister of public enterprises Barbara Hogan, recently resigned CEO of the SA Post Office Mark Barnes as well as former judge of the Constitutional Court Johann Kriegler.
Jonas told the audience that the ANC’s fightback against state capture was mostly driven out of self-interest: "Most of the push (against state capture) was about saving the ANC…and I think that (saving the party) is still up for debate. There was a complete demobolisation with the ‘New Dawn’ and those that resisted state capture only recently reorganised themselves again because the factions that are resisting reforms have resources…I think we underestimate the depth of the fightback."
According to Jonas, he appreciates the extent to which institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority have been damaged by state capture, but action against those that have enabled grand corruption must be taken urgently. "Unless we see ministers or former ministers be prosecuted the fight against state capture will remain theoretical. But the NPA would rather ensure success in prosecutions than having to withdraw a case that isn’t ready. I understand that."