Former Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Ziyaad Douglas/ Gallo Images
- Former Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says poor governance and leadership failures have compounded SA’s economic crisis.
- During his term as finance minister, Mboweni said he had to “fight” to protect public resources from abuse and waste.
- Mboweni said that bad behaviour by leadership – across all spheres of society – should no longer be excusable.
Former finance minister Tito Mboweni has likened his time in office as being in a war – where he had to guard public resources from corruption.
Mboweni resigned from his position as finance minister in August. He is also the eighth governor of the South African Reserve Bank and a former labour minister. On Monday he delivered a lecture at Rhodes University on values-based leadership.
“… [V]alues-based leadership should be distinguished and distinguishable from the rats and mice that masquerade as leaders in the world and eat away our future. Global leadership must be believable and trusted by the people,” he said.
Mboweni spoke out against the harsh effects of corruption on economic growth, and the need for leaders to live “simple” lifestyles and being connected to the society they serve.
He said that leaders – across government, business, community organisations and religious groups – who used their position to steal contributed to the erosion of society.
“There is no ‘excusable’ corruption. Whatever the form of corruption, it is imperative that the perpetrators are pursued and face the full wrath of the law. It is only then that we can halt the pervasive rot in all sectors of our society,” he said.
Drawing on his own experience of guarding against corruption – Mboweni noted that it is not an easy responsibility to take on, but necessary given the demands of the country’s fiscus amid high unemployment and poverty levels.
“I have just exited from a position of heavy responsibility in the heart of government. I once again feel like a war veteran, having had to lead the fight to protect public resources from abuse and waste.”
He lamented that poor governance and leadership failures had compounded the economic crisis and has limited growth.
In South Africa and other parts of the world, corruption had also created a “credibility crisis” in all areas of government. This includes police and sections of the intelligence services which is to the detriment of national security. It is also evident in “broken and dysfunctional” municipalities and state-owned enterprises – which comes at the cost of economic growth, he explained.
Mboweni spoke out against leadership which pursued wealth, as opposed to serving the people. An example of this is evidence of the misuse of funds for the Covid-19 response – where efforts to save lives and support livelihoods were undermined by “shameful and exploitative” acts of corruption, Mboweni said.
“All the systems we have in place to protect much-needed resources and prevent looting can only go so far when there are people who seek to manipulate processes to steal public funds,” he said.
More so, at local government level, budgets meant for basic services like water, housing and infrastructure are looted, Mboweni said. The result is that people live in inhumane conditions.
Mboweni said that leaders need to “live simply”. He referred to Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Dr Patrick Ngugi Njoroge, who after being appointed in 2015 was offered a fleet of cars and a mansion to live in. He turned this down, to live in a communal house with fellow members of the Roman Catholic church – Opus Dei, BBC News reported.
“He has been exceptional at his job while living a simple and disciplined life,” Mboweni remarked.
“I am not at all professing today that good leadership requires us to live like monks but I do suggest that there is virtue in living simply and rejecting the temptation to consistently chase ill-gotten wealth, which clearly leads people to corruption and other forms of malfeasance.”
Mboweni said that “true leaders” can’t be shut off from their world – in fact they need to be more connected with people in their towns and villages. This is so that they understand the difficulties fellow citizens face.
“We cannot drive past garbage-strewn streets and overflowing sewers and not seek to resolve the governance failures that cause such problems,” he said.
Leadership needs to work on getting the basic things right – such as ensuring schools and hospitals are fit for purpose, streets and neighbourhoods are kept clean and criminal activity is exposed and uprooted from society, he explained.
Mboweni said it is essential for the country’s recovery is to stop excusing “bad behaviour”, from those in leadership positions. “Rebuilding our country requires that good leaders rise in all spheres of society.”