President Jacob Zuma...fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan


Former Minister of education Mosibudi Mangena says reckless firing of Minister of Finance and corruption within state institutions has accentuated fears that the country is heading towards failed state status

SOUTH Africa is descending into kleptocracy amid growing unemployment levels, higher interest rates, slower economic growth, less tax revenue and less capacity on the part of the state to pay for education, health care, social grants, public security and other state obligations.

A few years back, a Justice Malala book title declared: “We have now begun our descent”. Indeed, most people in South Africa would agree that the descent is well underway and the landing is likely to be rough.

As a home of kleptocracy, we are likely to see less investment, higher inflation, weakening of our currency and reduced ability of the poor to buy food and other necessities of life. This in turn will lead to social strife and unrest.

Mosibudi Mangena...bemoans descent into kleptocracy
Mosibudi Mangena…bemoans descent into kleptocracy

The rich are better placed to cushion themselves against such economic shocks than the peasants, workers, pensioners and the unemployed. And as some have noted, most revolutions start with an empty stomach.

To be honest, things have been going in the wrong direction in South Africa for a long time. But the reckless firing of the Minister of Finance and his deputy accelerated our rush to the precipice.

No one should question the prerogative of the President to appoint and dismiss ministers. But did president Jacob Zuma have to do it in such a reckless and dramatic manner? Did he have to give them permission to go abroad to canvass investment for the country only to instruct them to come back home in the middle of their itinerary?

Was this calculated to cause maximum damage to the economy and the image of the ministers concerned? Did president Zuma have to fire other performing ministers and retain the glaringly non-performing ones? Was that not an indication that the idea is to increase levels of incompetence and mismanagement in the public sector in order to facilitate large-scale looting of state resources?

All this drama happened amid rumours that South Africa has either signed or is about to sign a surreptitious nuclear deal with the Russians. By all accounts, that deal will bankrupt South Africa and leave future generations with unbearable debts.

It would be the height of stupidity to expect the governing party, ANC, to do anything to halt and reverse this downward spiral. The party is so consumed by corruption and sleaze that it doesn’t seem to have the capacity within its ranks, to reverse the trend.

When exiled Zimbabweans were going back home after many years of armed struggle against the Ian Smith regime, the legendary ZANU-PF Secretary-General, Edgar Tekere, is said to have expressed his dread of facing a new enemy called corruption. He feared this enemy more than the Rhodesian security forces because it wasn’t a visible entity that one could aim and shoot at.

In the fight against corruption, you might not know who to shoot at. Your comrades and colleagues might be smiling with you whilst plotting to steal from the public purse.

In South Africa’s case, people in the ruling party are now using left-sounding rhetoric to camouflage their gluttonous feeding frenzy. Suddenly, there are shrill railings against white monopoly capital and a need for radical economic transformation. Where was this language in the past twenty-three years of democratic rule? And why didn’t the ANC take appropriate action to bring black people into the economy in any meaningful way?

Moreover, there has been no credible plan or programme for land reform and to support black people to enter the agricultural sector in a manner that would right the wrongs of South Africa’s colonial past. Even under the current constitution, a lot more could have been done towards increasing black ownership and control of the economy.

Given that a significant number of South Africa’s state institutions, such as SARS, NPA, Public Protector, various branches of the security service, parliament and the executive have been weakened by corruption, the fear that the country is tumbling down towards a failed state is not baseless.

Almost all of our State Owned Enterprises have become the main sites of looting and are floundering from one mess to another. Fortunately, other arms of state, such as the judiciary, continue to function admirably. We need to protect them as we try to restore others to proper functionality, before the country sinks to the failed state abyss such as Somalia and Libya are experiencing.

If this prospect does not spur us into action, nothing will.

A combination of an independent and effective judiciary, a vibrant civil society, a robust media, a relatively big private sector and our long history of struggle, should help us to stay out of the failed state abyss.