POLITICS

The Truth Will Prevail, Says Nhlanhla Nene

An ANN7 report alleged financial mismanagement of Treasury on the former finance minister's watch.

01/06/2017 06:35 SAST | Updated 01/06/2017 14:21 SAST

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has welcomed investigations into Treasury, saying if the probe is fair, the truth will prevail.

He said on Wednesday night that although there are so many lies, along with attempts to "destroy" a small group in Treasury, there is only one truth and that truth would triumph after a fair investigation.

In a statement by the current finance minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday, he said he is concerned about ANN7's report claiming that an internal Treasury audit into government's Integrated Financial Management System had revealed financial mismanagement. Gigaba said he, together with Treasury's leadership, are "looking into" the issues raised in the report.

Nene was one of the people implicated in the report.

He gave an exclusive interview to HuffPost SA and News24 after he spoke at the launch of the UCT Graduate School of Business' Johannesburg campus on Wednesday evening.

The attack on Treasury.

Nene said there are attempts to "destroy" an institution within Treasury.

"It's going to take a lot of work to destroy but I believe that when you are in the middle of destroying something good, you realise that what you are going to do, what you are just about to do, is break a windscreen because you are trying to kill a fly," Nene said.

'We are in turbulent times'

Speaking about the South Africa's current political situation, Nene -- who has now been appointed to the board of newly-formed Cape Town-based investment firm, Arise -- said these "turbulent times" present the country's leadership with an opportunity.

He said leadership gets tested in the sort of environment that the country is in now.

"Cast your eyes outside of our borders and see what has been happening and ask yourself how many countries are actually on auto-pilot. But, they are running because people have taken a decision that we are not going to wait for the leadership to do things for us, we are going to do things for us," Nene said.

"A successful democracy is that you must actually have a plan, you must be able to put that plan to the nation and explain it and you must implement that and, in some instances, the reasons why perhaps we actually haven't made progress, is because some of our policies have actually not been implemented."

He said South Africa needs to cast its eyes "beyond the fog" and see the opportunities presented by the "current situation"; but it is going to test our resilience.

'We need a selfless leader'

Nene said the country needs a selfless leader who has the interests of all South Africans at heart; a person who puts everything above him or her because South Africa, according to Nene, has reached a stage where it is not seeing those qualities in its leadership.

But, he warned of only focusing on the president, saying South Africans should be fixed on their entire leadership structure.

"When a person steals, others say 'no but the others also stole', 'but you know so and so is also involved in X and Y'. In doing so, we are saying is that it (stealing) is fine, that it's ok. Can we really say that? I don't think so," Nene said.

"We are not only failing ourselves, we are failing the next generation. What are we going to pass onto the next generation? It might be ok for us for now."

Radical Economic Transformation is a "politically correct" term.

Nene said South Africa's "real challenges" are inequality, unemployment, under-development and poverty.

He said the country needs an economy that grows sustainably but also one that is inclusive.

"The Gini coefficient is worsening instead of improving so we do have a challenge of how our economy is structured. We need a way to make sure that we actually lead our people out of poverty. But the fact of the matter is you will never be able to come out of a capitalist state into an egalitarian society," Nene said.

"You can address poverty, you can address inequality to a certain level, but it's never going to be an egalitarian society."

He said if Radical Economic Transformation means inclusive economic growth and development, then he is all for it.

Nene said he does "not subscribe" to the phrase, "white monopoly capital".

"At the end of the day, we as a country need a symbiotic relationship between the private and the public sector and you cannot build that relationship on name calling. You can only build that relationship on a level platform of trust, where everybody brings to the table what they have," Nene said.

Life after government

Nene was axed as finance minister by President Jacob Zuma in December 2015 with a promise of a position at the BRICS bank which never materialised.

Speaking about his time in the private sector, he said having to leave government "was a blessing in disguise".

"I think it was just a blessing in disguise that I stepped out the time that I did, it doesn't matter whether you get pushed or you step out on your own, but the fact of the matter is when your fate has been determined, you actually need to accept that it's a journey in life," Nene said.

"I didn't realise how much energy I have. I had a lot of energy with the work that I did (as finance minister); but I didn't realise how much inner energy I have until the time that I stepped out of what was becoming uncomfortable."