Ex-deputy finance chief’s memoir tells how to save South Africa

Former South African deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, who says he refused a R600 million ($39 million) bribe from wealthy businessmen, has written a memoir about his time in office and outlined his vision for how to kick-start the country’s economy.

Jonas, 59, who will join telecommunications company MTN as chairman in December, alleged three years ago that members of the Gupta family offered him the cash and the finance minister’s post if he followed their agenda. The Guptas were friends of then-President Jacob Zuma and have been linked to numerous cases of corruption at state-owned companies. They and Zuma deny wrongdoing.

“I felt a deep sense of loss and disorientation,” Jonas wrote in his book ‘After Dawn’, which was released in Johannesburg on Tuesday. “South Africa’s state-building project had fallen headlong into the hands of business interests.”

Now that Cyril Ramaphosa has replaced Zuma and pledged to clean up graft and rebuild the economy, Jonas urges him to confront what he calls “the single most important task that confronts South Africa today” — namely the financial crisis at utility Eskom and other state companies.

“Their combined debt is a threat to the national fiscus and our credit rating,” he wrote. “If Eskom defaulted on its loans, it would trigger a default on some government bonds, which will have serious fiscal repercussions, including triggering the World Bank and International Monetary Fund intervention.”

Jonas also appraised the poor standard of basic education, high unemployment, the need for better technology and “nurturing a corruption-free, high-performance state.”

Ramaphosa, who took office 18 months ago, described the book as a guide to making “the difficult trade-offs required to reach our dream.”

“We have a long history in South Africa of making tough choices in precarious moments,” the president wrote in the foreword. “Today, we are faced with such a moment. And it is our profound responsibility to live up to it.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Source: moneyweb.co.za