Nene warns SA: There is no true benefit to looting resources

Johannesburg – The National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s plan and all citizens should take up their respective roles to ensure its successful implementation, said former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

He was speaking during a panel discussion at the Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa 2017 conference on Monday, in his capacity as adviser for Thebe Investment Corporation.

Nene explained that the NDP is no different to other plans the government has introduced to address inequality, poverty and unemployment. The problem with these plans is that they all lacked a coordinated effort for their implementation. If the NDP is not implemented it will be another dream deferred, he said.

Themba Godi, chairperson of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), who was also on the panel, pointed out the importance of active citizenry where society is not just a spectator of events unfolding in the country.

Nene agreed that citizens should be the "eyes and ears" of the state to defend democracy. They should be active not only in protests but also when it comes to projects like the NDP.

“Corruption is a very well coordinated successful project because all players play their part, including the community,” said Nene. Being complacent makes society complicit to the corruption taking place in the country. “We should all take full responsibility and make a noise when we are supposed to.”

He explained that the delay of implementation of plans like the NDP often involves people positioning themselves to draw resources for themselves. “People position themselves where funds are flowing. Whether projects are implemented or not, funds continue to flow… They use the implementation challenge to siphon resources,” he said.

No benefit to looting

Nene said that South Africans must realise there is no true benefit to looting resources that could be better used elsewhere. "I will want to believe some of us still have the inner person, and some still have our consciousness… Going to bed with that benefit, in my view, is the worst nightmare you can live with.”

Godi added that active citizenship requires citizens to be conscious when voting, not on the basis of history but in terms of their aspirations and the way forward for their families and the country. This will impact how the political class behaves.

“The quality of leadership in a country reflects the choices we make. The choices we make are based on our consciousness and awareness,” he said. The rising awareness among South Africans is much better than it was 10 years ago, said Godi, who is hopeful that it would lead to sustainable change.

People want qualitative leadership which can bring about sustainable change and votes can no longer be won with food parcels, he added.

Complacent South Africans

Nene said that between 1994 and 2001 much more progress was made than the current period from 2001. He said South Africans need to take action because there is much to lose and account for.

The country mobilised behind events like the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but there has not been the required “embracing” of the NDP.

Where there is a lack of leadership, Nene said it should be seen as an opportunity for citizens to take charge of their lives. Nene said he knows of countries where citizens are running programmes successfully to improve their lives.

However, Godi said that the government is elected and is responsible for delivering on its responsibilities to the people.

Nene agreed with the point he raised, but emphasised the importance of citizens not sitting with their arms folded in the absence of good leadership. “A society of sheep begets a government or leadership of wolves,” he said. 

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