Explosive warnings at The Star dialogue

THUJA CAPITAL chief executive Mthunzi Mdwaba has painted a grim picture of the country’s economic outlook, saying former President Zuma had contributed to the sad state of affairs in the country. Picture: Itumeleng English

THUJA CAPITAL chief executive Mthunzi Mdwaba has painted a grim picture of the country’s economic outlook, saying former President Zuma had contributed to the sad state of affairs in the country. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Apr 6, 2024


Thuja Capital chief executive Mthunzi Mdwaba has painted a gloomy picture of South Africa’s 15- year developmental and economic trajectory, saying the country’s leaders, including former President Jacob Zuma, have contributed to the sad state of affairs the country finds itself in ahead of this year’s general elections.

Mdwaba, who is a leader of the UDM under General Bantu Holomisa, said the country’s economy had been in decline over the past 15 years, while the jobs plan announced this week by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi was a cheap rip off of his (Mdwaba’s) UIF jobs plan, which he had initiated with the department before it was canned.

Mdwaba was speaking during a political dialogue, hosted by The Star and Saturday Star, at the Joburg Theatre on Friday, at which issues of national importance were debated ahead of the elections.

Among members of the panel were uMkhonto weSizwe Party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela, Solly Msimang of the DA, Collen Makhubele of the SA Rainbow Alliance (SARA), ATM’s Nyaniso Jeku and former Joburg mayor Thapelo Amad.

On Wednesday, Nxesi announced a R23.8 billion employment plan designed to create 704 000 job opportunities across the country. Briefing the media the next day, he said the UIF–Labour Activation Programme would provide opportunities that run between 12 and 36 month.

“The UIF has proven that it is capable of employing strategic measures, such as the Covid-TERS benefits, and distributing R64bn to millions of laid-off workers and their families during the pandemic, while remaining financially sound,” he said.

Mdwaba fell out with Nxesi in December 2022, when the minister announced the termination of this project, which was launched under the Labour Activation Programme (LAP), run by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) together with Mdwaba’s Thuja Capital and other partners.

“I have since instructed the director general of the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) and the UIF commissioner to suspend this project, pending a full report on all the matters that are raised about it in media reports and related matters,” Nxesi announced.

Last year, Mdwaba accused Nxesi, alongside other ministers, of soliciting a bribe of R500 million from him in order to see the project through, in what has become a very personal matter before the courts.

Nxesi has denied allegations of corruption in the R5 billion UIF jobs deal.

When asked about this week’s announcement, Mdwaba said Nxesi does not know what he is doing, and suggested this could be an electioneering ploy to get the ANC more votes.

“To answer your question. This jobs plan by the minister is a mixture of my plan, which I am still suing them for. They speak about construction and property, financial services and pharmaceuticals, arts, culture and sports, and telecoms, fibre and media and broadcast. They took that and they mixed things up and they came up with something similar to the R5 billion contract that I had with them.

“They are trying to create 225 000 jobs, but they do not know how to do that because every year for the last five years they have created only 28 000 jobs out of a R3.1 billion budget. If you multiply 28 000 by the same number, it is 225 000 jobs. For R5 billion, I can create 700 000 jobs and for R23 billion, I can create more. These people do not know what they are doing,” he said.

On Zuma’s role in the country’s developmental agenda, Mdwaba said the former president should shoulder some of the blame, as the decline began while he was still in power over 15 years ago.

“We are currently number 61 on the Global Competitiveness list, and could be 63 if there was no war in Russia and Ukraine. So, to answer your question, Msholozi, as one of our elders, I would have more respect for him if he were to come out and say, I am sorry I messed up. As a leader, he too must take responsibility.”

Defending the party led by Zuma, MKP spokesperson Ndhlela said Zuma had contributed to a positive change by building infrastructure and ensuring the economy reflected the majority of the country.

“In his two terms, President Zuma brought change. He built two universities and invested in infrastructure. He was a proponent for free healthcare and had difficulties in trying to transform the economy and was blocked by his very own comrades,” Ndhlela said.

Saturday Star