The audience was sent into a frenzy last night at the State Capture Seminar held at the auditorium at APK when UJ Student Activists challenged what they felt was bias from main speakers, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas.
The battle lines were drawn last night when UJ students Tshepo Goba and Palesa Medupe posed tough questions to the former finance minister and his deputy during the question and answer session of the Seminar.
“As the narrative has been unfolding here there has only been one side of the narrative that has been advanced,” Goba said. “We have a former finance minister [who] sat on top of all transactions in the South African government, [who] even failed to allocate proper funding to the very same students who are in this hall today.”
The Host of the Seminar, Prof Cheryl Hendricks, attempted to cut Goba’s speech short but the third-year university student was not phased. “Don’t police engagement this is a problem in South Africa,” he said.
— SiyandaCalvinNtenga (@Ntenga3ZN) July 26, 2017
Goba urged the Former finance minister to acknowledge the issue of ownership in the South African economy. “Mr Pravin you sit on these boards of these multinational companies. Who has the land today? Who controls the JSE today? Who is in charge of large asset management firms today?”
“You are not telling these students here the truth you are giving one side of the story,” he said.
Another student speaks Medupe, shared Goba’s sentiments and pointed out that it was suspicious that Gordhan only started speaking out after his dismissal in March this year. “Minister Pravin Gordhan, why now? Why now are you coming out? Why weren’t you coming out when it first happened?” she asked.
“The term white monopoly capital is [real] but increasingly it is used to deflect attention away from the real issues. Those include government mishandling corruption, poor infrastructure and the lack of skills.”
The former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas responded to the criticism and said that although the students’ concerns were warranted they did not take away from the economic issues the country is currently facing.
“Many of the things you have said are acknowledged but that cannot be a justification for accepting state capture and corruption. It is a real problem and if you think it’s not a problem you must think very hard and very fast,” Jonas said. “The reality of the matter is that state capacity is being eroded.”
Jonas explained that a weak economy and declining national revenue could soon make it impossible to rectify the underlying social issues raised by Medupe and Goba.
“Very soon most of the stuff that you’re talking about that we need to do will just be a pipe dream,” he said. “I would argue that we should strive for more pragmatic solutions rather than ideological solutions. But most of the arguments you have raised are probably very tired and very old.”
Pravin Gordhan poked fun at the young activists stating that the political dilemmas that they face are incomparable to those that he and Jonas faced under apartheid.
“When we were your age and students as well we had the vibrancy, in fact, greater vibrancy than you show,” he said. “We walked the streets we marched the marches. We took on the apartheid regime. Not imaginary one’s real ones.”
Gordhan did, however, acknowledge that the enemy is not colourless as Goba had mentioned.
“If you could remove the slogans for a bit. We all agree that the South African economy is a highly concentrated economy,” articulated Gordhan. He explained that the “key parts” of the economy such as land are “historically and currently controlled by the white part of our population.”
“We all agree that in restructuring this economy we need to have the demographics of this country represented in the ownership and management of this economy…The question is about how do you get there without destroying the economy in the process of getting there,” he said
Gordhan told The Open Journal that South Africans should critically engage the information that they receive from both the government and the media and look out for fake news and propaganda.