South Africa

Mcebisi Jonas on State Capture, the economy and Nelson Mandela Bay

By Nkateko Mabasa 7 March 2018

Mcebisi Jonas keeps a level head amid talks of expropriation of land without compensation and a potential mayorship candidacy for Nelson Mandela Bay. By NKATEKO MABASA.

Former Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas has intimated that, if called upon, he is ready to serve if the ANC calls on him to be mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Port Elizabeth.

He was speaking at the launch of an Anti-Racism Week hosted by the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa, a group of organisations which have partnered to fight racism in the country, convened by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

Earlier in the week, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema said it is ready to vote Mcebisi Jonas in for the mayorship in the metro after it tables a vote of no confidence against current Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip.

The EFF announced its decision to table a motion of no confidence against Trollip as a way to punish the DA for voting against their own motion in Parliament to amend the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.

The motion received popular support from the EFF and ANC (after their Nasrec policy to adopt radical economic transformation) and therefore passed by 241 votes in favour, 83 against.

The EFF then announced that in place of Trollip they are willing to support the candidacy of Mcebisi Jonas because he refused a bribe of R600-million from the Guptas.

However, though Jonas is willing, he has not received such a mandate.

I am an ANC member. Anything that I will do, really, will emerge out of what the ANC tells me to do. And at the moment, there has been no communication in that regard, so I can’t even comment…” said Jonas.

When asked about his capability to fill the big shoes and run the metro, Jonas said,

This myth of thinking you can bring one person and everything is solved is actually wrong, it’s not a correct way of approaching it. So, again, as I am saying, I can’t comment on the Nelson Mandela thing because it’s supposed to be the ANC that speaks on the matter, not me. And I belong to the ANC,” said Jonas.

The question of State Capture, said Jonas, will be central in the next couple of years whether we like it or not, within the public discourse and state action and activities.

Because I think to bring back credibility in the state, the political party must be seen as decisive in dealing with those questions. The difficult challenge though will be how quick you can move, how fast you move. We cannot prolong it because it creates its own fatigue in society,” said Jonas.

To Jonas, this is not enough on its own. As the state deals with State Capture and corruption, it needs to ensure that it tackles the triple challenges of inequality and unemployment.

However, this is undermined by the challenges that the party has to grapple with as it seeks renewal and economic growth.

State Capture and corruption have eroded the credibility of the state on the one side, and public confidence in public institutions,” said Jonas.

Jonas said institutions were critical for development and the rebuilding process was urgent. And to achieve this, “putting credible individuals in state institutions” is vital. “I mean, the face you see in state institutions is likely to tell you what that state institution is likely to do or not likely to do.”

Jonas emphasises the importance of “consistency of policy” in different sectors of the economy such as mining and manufacturing. This could be achieved by re-evaluating regulatory measure in place within the economy.

Earlier in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa reached an agreement with the Chamber of Mines and the National Union of Mineworkers and Solidarity to suspend the court application set to review the Mining Charter. He seeks to resolve the deadlock between industry and the government with regards to mining regulations.

There is an argument that says our economy is too regulated. And it makes sense to look at our regulations and look at how we deregulate our economy, as it were. And that is important because you can’t postpone that and say you will do it after election, because the reality of the matter is, unemployment and youth unemployment is on the increase, inequality is deepening. So you can’t postpone these questions,” said Jonas.

As a result of all of this – State Capture, corruption and economic constraints as a result of regulations – Jonas agrees that if an objective observer would say we are are in a state of decline, they would not be absolutely incorrect in that assertion.

If you think about what has been happening in the country, particularly the last three years or so, and even beyond, we have been moving from one crisis to another, effectively. Our economy has not performed very well, public confidence in our institutions has declined, and the capability and credibility of many of our institutions has been completely undermined.”

He is glad that there has been a leadership transition within the ANC and understands the euphoria happening in the country as a result of the sacking of Jacob Zuma as ANC president and his consequent resignation as president of the country.

And from that perspective, the euphoria that is currently sweeping through the country is realistic in that sense, because it reflects that reality of a damaged country, and damaged communities.”

However, he is also cognisant of the road that lies ahead. And his reading of the situation, particularly at the State of the Nation Address, is that people are not depressed by the critical and difficult and concrete choices the country will have to make.

And therefore I think, out of the euphoria, beyond the euphoria you will see growth.

We needed some good news, we’ve got good news, but beyond the good news we need to face the hard questions,” said Jonas.

When asked on his take on the National Assembly’s decision to look into measures to expropriate land without compensation, Jonas warns that “we must avoid slogans and actually move towards talking (about) what is the exact programme, what is the package”.

As it stands, according to Jonas, the decision is only absent of a well thought-through programme to deal with the question of land.

You can’t escape the need for asset redistribution. It is an important part both of our policy and programme; social justice is important. But equally you must also grow the economy, you must attract investment, you must also do all sort of things. All of those are important,” said Jonas.

He is more interested in how policy and programmes of such a constitutional amendment will look like.

Most of the land and farms in south Africa are bonded, that is the reality of the market; you need to move beyond the slogan and say what does it mean practically and, from day to day, government must roll out,” said Jonas.

With the land market connected to agriculture, connected to infrastructure and ultimately the market, one wonders what such an amendment will look like and how it will affect the rest of the economy.

On the issue of land expropriation, Jonas keeps a level head and asks us to confront the difficult questions of implementation and the implications of it all. DM

Photo: Mcebisi Jonas (GCIS)

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