By MICHELLE BANDA
Covid-19 has amplified disruption and accelerated corruption in South Africa, says politician and State Capture whistleblower Mcebisi Jonas.
“Realistically, things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
Jonas was speaking at the 6th Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Annual Lecture on Values Based Leadership. Since 2014, the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust in partnership with Rhodes Business School invites notable public figures who have demonstrated that quality to speak at the University. Due to Covid-19 this year’s lecture was delivered virtually.
Jonas said corruption had made people lose confidence in South Africa’s leaders, thus compromising the sustainability of future leaders. This was compounded by financial shocks. Activists, leaders, and citizens around the world had a duty to ensure we get through this transitionary period with our core values intact, by combating the politics of fear and destruction, Jonas said.
“We need value-based leaders to pivot and reverse the downward trajectory globally, continentally, and in South Africa,” said Jonas. He said in developing and choosing leadership, the following should be considered:
- Whether leadership can be effective without a solid moral and ethical foundation.
- What dangers present when leadership is devoid of such values.
- Whether other characteristics beyond values are necessary for effective leadership.
Jonas said democracies needed to put in place continuous and thorough processes for appointing leaders, along with sound policies and regulations that allow leadership to push forward in adversity.
Jonas outlined his vision for taking South Africa through this transition:
- Create jobs
- Social justice to deepen democracy in relation to constitutionality.
- Build leadership capacity.
- Pragmatic leadership.
Jonas believes that by looking at leadership in these ways, we promote equality and resolve macroeconomic risk.
Jonas said the Covid-19 pandemic had turned upside-down a world that was already upside-down. This was emphasised by the recent slew of arrests of high-profile people linked to corruption and the ongoing Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
He suggests that in the techno-economic era it is important to be inclusive of youth leadership, greener and anchored with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) related benefits of communication, energy and transport. Unfortunately, South Africa is not yet there.
A question and answer session chaired by head of the Rhodes Business School Professor Owen Skae included one about the Gupta saga in which Jonas was offered R600 million to take up the Minister of Finance position.
Jonas said, “It occurred to me they had no morals. I kept wondering, how did we get here? A deep introspection that prompted writing the book,” Jonas said. In his book, After Dawn: Hope After State Capture Jonas raises debates around the African National Congress. He also questions the current system that places politics at the centre of policy making and implementation, at the expense of growth.
Jonas links corruption in South Africa with the rise of the elite, along with populism amongst leaders. Instead, he argues, pragmatic leadership is needed. Jonas suggests that leaders and society in general should move beyond political party lines to mobilise for authenticity, ethics, vision, transformation, intellectual influence, practical, and workable solutions as well as accepting complexity.
The webinar event was opened with a prayer from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and a welcome message from Rhodes’s Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela.
Skae then announced the FNB Economics prize winners and the Responsible Leadership prize. The prizes for the best economics essays on social justice and equality went to John Rohlandt, Craig Chambers and a joint prize for Sean Thackeray and Surgeon Mthombeni. Matthew Shaw scooped a solo win on his assignment on responsible leadership.
About the Speaker
Mcebisi Hubert Jonas hails from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Sociology from Vista University and a Higher Diploma in Education from Rhodes University. Jonas played key political leadership roles in the Eastern Cape, serving as a Finance MEC, Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation of the Centre for Investment and Marketing, developing the investment promotion agenda for the province.
Jonas continues to share his value based leadership expertise in the province through his activism. These include the courageous push back against state capture and involvement in the Presidential Investment Envoys, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.