Today, Thursday, “South Africans place too much emphasis on political parties and party barons aren’t good for democracy”, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said.
Jonas said politics plays an increasingly important role in the world in which we live. “If we have the right political environment, you can create certainty and ensure investor confidence,” Jonas said.
“Unfortunately bad politics aren’t good for the economy.”
Jonas responded to a question asking him to clarify utterances he made at a media conference on Wednesday ahead of the mini budget. The deputy minister said that “bad politics is bad for growth and we should manage politics better in South Africa”.
Jonas was also asked to elaborate on the prevalence of corruption in South Africa. He said: “Corruption is real. You can see it in most agencies. As a society we need to manage this and turn it around. That’s why National Treasury sometimes gets the flack. Our central procurement system picks up irregularities and tries to correct it.”
He added that corruption is not just an ethical problem, because individuals are weak. “Corruption is also a systemic problem. It starts from the employment of ministers, directors general and so forth. If you have a system that works according to the rules, you won’t have this problem.”
Jonas acknowledged South Africa was going through an extremely tough period economically. “But Treasury plays a central role in trying to manage things, so it’s natural that we attract attention.”
Asked to give his understanding of the term “state capture”, Jonas said it is when there’s a scenario in which certain individuals have more influence on policy in certain sectors of the economy. “It’s when they start capturing the policy formulation process, which in turn promotes marginalisation.
“If you look at many countries – you see individuals who gradually capture the state – not just sectors of it. Therefore they begin to steer it in a particular manner. I’m worried about the fact that it undermines democracy and effectiveness of government. We should protect the state and its independence as much as we can.”