Deputy Finance Minister Mcebesi Jonas, who this week accused the Gupta family of offering him a ministerial role, urged vigilance against rogue elements that threaten the state’s sanctity.
“It’s up to society to speak out against those elements that will turn South Africa into a rogue state,” he said on Saturday at a post-budget breakfast hosted by accountancy firm Morar Inc in Pietermaritzburg.
Jonas this week said the Guptas, businessmen close to President Jacob Zuma, had offered him the job of finance minister before Nhlanhla Nene was sacked in December. He said he rejected their approach. Leaders of the ruling African National Congress are meeting this weekend in part to discuss the matter; while both Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing, the ANC said it’s taking the allegations very seriously.
Jonas declined to comment on the Guptas on Saturday.
The controversy comes just months before scheduled municipal elections that could see the ANC lose control of cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria. The government is also contending with a global slump in commodity prices that’s ravaged the economy of Africa’s most-industrialized country.
The economy is in crisis and urgent measures are needed for the government to deliver on its mandates, according to Jonas. “The fiscal space is narrowing, our debt-to-GDP ratio is rising, and we’re unable to find new sources of economic growth,” he said.
More efficiency and lower costs are needed at the country’s state-owned enterprises, he said. Among South Africa’s largest SOEs are power utility Eskom and ports and rail operator Transnet.
“The elephant in the room is the SOE scenario,” Jonas said. “They need to be more efficient, we need to reduce the transfers from the Treasury and also share the risk with the private sector on their borrowings.”