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A nation without direction, an education system in the doldrums and political parties that are serving their own narrow interests - this is the state of the country. But there is hope, according to former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.

Launching his book, After Dawn: Hope After State Capture, in Port Elizabeth at Nelson Mandela University’s south campus, Jonas unpacked how he tried to capture an “awkward space between economics and politics”.

The book launch was hosted by The Herald in partnership with Canrad.

Making it clear that the book was not an autobiography, Jonas said it was a reflection of the period in which SA found itself at present.

“We’re in a period where there is a scarcity of big ideas.

“It’s only populists who seem to have answers,” he said.

“South Africa is in a space where intellectual reflection is the casualty.

“But if we pause and think, there is hope.”

Jonas said the politics in the country had become overpersonalised.

“We either focus on [Jacob] Zuma who created the problem or [Cyril] Ramaphosa who is going to fix it.

“The reality is deeper than that,” he said.

The historic elite were frustrated by policy uncertainty and were thus withholding their wealth and not investing in the country.

The new black elite, too, were frustrated, Jonas said, by the limited space for them to participate in the economy.

“What is the agenda that we must collectively drive?

“Growth is a non-negotiable. Without it, we won’t be able to create the jobs we need to.

“We need to find new sources for growth, but it can only be propelled by investment.

“Public investment in the country has declined.

“We’ve got to grow private investment.

“The country does not have a national agenda that all are in agreement with.

“The National Development Plan has failed to make it as a national programme.

“Yes, it reads nicely, it’s good poetry.

“There is no single policy provision agreed to by all.

“It’s clear that we are stuck in the mud and no consensus as a nation agreeing on the way forward.”

Jonas proposes seven actions he believes would help to turn things around.

They are:

● The need to put jobs at the centre of economic policy;

● The need to become preoccupied with growth;

● The need to expand new technologies to transcend the economy to the 21st century;

● The need for higher productivity in the economy, particularly in the education system;

● The need for an increase in the black share of wealth in the economy;

● The need to build an effective state that is corruptionfree; and

● The need to change the nature of politics.

Speaking on what he said was a period all South Africans should be ashamed of, Jonas said the Guptas plundered all state institutions and it was the “liberators” who allowed it.

He said the system was set up to ensure the country’s mines were ready for the Guptas to take over.

University of Johannesburg political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana described the book as brave, and a sober analysis of the state of the country.

“State capture is not one individual. It’s more than that. It’s a structure.

“Leaders set the tone and show how others must work. It takes those leaders to transform an institution.”

Ndletyana said it was difficult to see how the revenue of the country would grow when the ANC’s rhetoric was antiprivate sector.

“You don’t have a leadership that’s willing to risk the real possibility of losing power,” Ndletyana said.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, of the SA Council of Churches, said Jonas was instrumental in a study done by churches around “unburdening”.

He said the unburdening process was triggered by Jonas when he dropped the bombshell about being offered R600m by the Guptas.

“When Mcebisi dropped the bombshell, many people also wanted to come forward but they were scared,” Mpumlwana said.

He said this had led to the start of the unburdening.

Mpumlwana urged churches in villages and cities to afford people such a space.

“The book should not be read but it should be engaged.”

NMU vice-chancellor Sibongile Muthwa described the book as timely in terms of the direction the country was headed.

“The book should be considered as an authoritative front-runner of the state of our country,” Muthwa said.

“He is a man who chooses hope.”

 LOOKING FORWARD: Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas speaks at the launch of his book in Port Elizabeth. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

This article appeared in The Herald of 30 August 2019 written by Rochelle de Kock and Siyamtanda Capa


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