His legacy has left us with the biggest challenge yet since democracy and these challenges will arise in an ongoing way.
An extract from the full Trevor Manuel speech
September 2008, right in the middle of a global recession, Thabo Mbeki’s unceremonious removal from office led to a rapid change of South Africa’s fortunes. There was the change of personnel in state institutions, the breakdown of trust and the absence of visible, positive leadership. The ANC would become a mere shadow of what it once was.
I make no apologies for sharing my view that the Presidency of Jacob Zuma was a total disaster for South Africa. Many are aware that I served in his Cabinet until May 2014, charged with the responsibility to draft the National Development Plan. Granted, President Zuma did not interfere with the work of the Planning Commission, nor did he seek to amend any of the recommendations. He did not even attempt to soften our recommendations in a whole chapter devoted to “Fighting Corruption” or the very critical chapter on “Building a Capable and Developmental State”. Many would argue that he merely ignored the NDP, whilst paying lip service to having initiated the process. It’s clear his attention and priorities lie elsewhere.
His legacy has left us with the biggest challenge yet since democracy and these challenges will arise in an ongoing way. One only has to assess the extent of destruction of key state institutions, especially in the criminal justice and state security institutions. In addition, virtually all of the State-Owned Corporations have been bankrupted by the awful combination of corruption and mismanagement.
Given the vast sums of money that will be needed to support the SOC’s, the delivery of basic services to address inequality will be compromised. Already, we have seen that the spending available per capita in both education and healthcare have fallen quite rapidly. Hospitals are not functioning properly, school feeding programmes in many districts have been discontinued, and we still have children relieving themselves in the veld outside the school because there are no toilets. We have seen incompetent ministers appointed unqualified DG’s in many departments, happy that competent and dedicated professional public servants had been driven out.
So, even with a new and determined President, who is very committed to reverse the destruction of the state, and with a parliament that has found its voice after being in slumber for nearly a decade, the problems will not disappear. Rebuilding the capability of the state is going to prove much more difficult than what it was the first time, because the gift of patience granted by the people since 1994, has been withdrawn; and the state has been corroded by poor governance and maladministration.
It will take considerably longer to rebuild than it took to destroy its inner workings. The commitment to build and persevere is no longer there – the cadre elected to serve the public under the Mandela administration has been replaced by a pack of self-serving politicians focused mostly on their own political survival.
Amilcar Cabral said,, “You can’t cross the river on the back of a crocodile.” So why did we give the license to Jacob Zuma? And why did it take us so long to disrupt his mercenary and shameless venality? Unsurprisingly, we are seeing the signs that suggest that he will fight back against the present order. And he is definitely not the only one in the ANC wanting to continue to “eat” and pilfer our state coffers. “Eat”, a word made famous by some of our own comrades who believe they should be rewarded for their contribution to the struggle by stealing from the poor. The years ahead will be our greatest challenge.
Now, President Ramaphosa has an exceedingly difficult task. His victory was on a slender margin in December, and he has a compromised National Executive Committee made up of too many individuals who will try and throw concrete into the mechanisms to prevent the wheels of justice from turning. Why? Because they have much too fear and too much to lose in their quest for personal enrichment.
It is for this reason that we must all commit to supporting him in his endeavors for leadership against the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We need to understand the enormity of the challenge, if only to root out corruption. The Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, is committed to concluding the Commission on State Capture.
But we have to understand that even if he is able to interview the main actors from the State of Capture Report by the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, that will only be the tip of the iceberg. In addition, there has to be a series of other commissions to deal with the other spheres of government – the provinces and municipal government and those public servants and staffers of SOC’s who are not mentioned in Thuli Madonsela’s report. But all of that effort will be a necessary but costly exercise and might create the responsibility of consequences in society. The state might even have restored to it a few billion rand, but that will be insufficient to deal with the vast backlogs in service delivery.