Riyaz Patel

South Africa needs a new electoral system to transform itself, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas believes.

Addressing an Ahmed Kathrada Foundation organised lecture under the theme ‘Defeating State Capture and Rebuilding State’ in Johannesburg Wednesday evening, Jonas said the the country’s many challenges, including corruption, was down to its electoral system and party politics.

“You don’t need to be a genius to realise that.” 

Jonas said there was something fundamentally flawed with our electoral system, and pointed to the process of how some chairpersons of parliament committees were appointed as an example.

“Effectively, our system says our role is to vote for parties and parties can decide what they do.”

“We need a national campaign to change the electoral system in this country, so we can enhance accountability,” Jonas said.

“In fact, if they decide that they can deploy criminals so be it. We must run that campaign and run it as a national campaign and drive discourse and debates around that.”  

Without mentioning names, Jonas said many people did not realise that a few years ago the country had “funny creatures” in positions of power. 

“The issue about the state assuming character is so fundamentally important… This is not only about ending the infestation of corruption, but about enduring and ensuring functionality of the state. The functionality of the state remains a problem. If we can’t devise means of dealing with this, we will actually be doomed.”

Jonas added that there was a need to build a more robust civil society that would shift from a short to long-term agenda.

“Civil society has the biggest potential to counter the politics of polarisation and the politics of fear.”

He also called for a new national strategic narrative.

“At the moment, if you think about it, we are a country with no national agenda. We are so fractious and there is no national agenda.”

The former deputy finance minister said a co-ordinated programme of civic education was vitally important too as citizens are always vulnerable to misinformation, with people “misinformed on a consistent basis.”

“We need to think how to run a national programme around civic education to educate people on the basis of what we stand for as a country and rebuild the concept of a South African nation that is actually being fragmented on a daily basis. In addition to this, we need to think about a couple of big campaigns,” said Jonas.

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