MTN chairman Mcebisi Jonas: Whistleblowing national hero on SA’s broken politics – and how to fix it

A grateful nation will always be indebted to South Africa’s former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, whose whistle-blowing proved the catalyst that turned the tide against the Gupta-plundering Zuma Administration. He started the Zupta collapse by rejecting the now-fugitive Indian family’s massive offer to join the dark side. Then, despite huge personal risk, he went public with the details. Currently chairman of the R250bn mobile phone business MTN, Jonas is at the WEF meeting in Davos. He shared his thoughts on how South Africa can be pulled out of its present quagmire and provided some clear insight into what is wrong with the political system and how to fix it. Jonas spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Mcbisi Jonas on whether he regrets resigning as ANC MP 

No regrets whatsoever. I think it was a good thing to do at that particular moment because there were a couple of events and issues happening before then. It was very clear in my mind the trend is only going in one direction. The blurring of lines between the political and criminal networks, the weakening of state institutions and, of course, the undermining of all laws in the Constitution. These are real foundations for state failure.

The nature of South Africa’s challenges 

South Africa is resilient. However, we have huge challenges. I guess you could call the nature of the crisis a chronic crisis. We are not about to implode and explode but I think we are on a steady decline, which has to be halted and redirected, so to speak. The political system itself has reached its sell-by date. It needs to be recalibrated in ways that many of the political players are not imagining. We need to change the electoral system and enforce accountability. We cannot rely on the wings of the parties for change. We have got to ensure citizens are more empowered and that the electorate has better optionality in terms of choices.  

Whether South Africa needs a different political system 

What we need is to recalibrate a national agenda. I mean, think about it, in ‘94 there was a whole discussion and a vision that everybody bought into. To be honest, whatever political party won the elections, it had an agenda that was visible to everybody. We are at the point where the country needs to ask: what is that broad vision that could take us out of where we are, what direction is it going to take us, and what are the elements and constituent elements? Once you have some of those elements being enshrined and agreed upon by everybody else, election becomes an important part of reinforcing that. However, everybody must buy into an agenda. Many people will tell you that if you want to take poor families out of poverty, ensure their kids get a better education and it’s not rocket science. Those are powerful and potentially inequality-reducing initiatives that we should lift.  

Discussions at WEF crucial for corporates

I come to Davos frequently. It is important that corporations understand where the world is going because sometimes we use the word ‘crisis’ to describe what is happening, but if you think about it, the last 15 years have been a series of multiple crises. In fact, crises have become permanent, not cyclical. How we rescript the geopolitical dynamics and the global economy is something that all corporates should be concerned with and understand. You need to look at the regulatory environment, understand what to do with poverty in the places where you operate, and deal with issues of growth, etc. So, the conversations held here are crucial in the sense that it highlights something which seldom happens in the boardroom.

Read more:

Visited 1,449 times, 5 visit(s) today