Thabo Mbeki

Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki says there is a "lack of cohesion" in President Jacob Zuma's government, which he described as a "confederation of ministries".

The former president made his remarks on Power FM on Thursday night.  

Mbeki said the the country was "facing too many challenges for government not to act as a cohesive force". He outlined how government is run. 

Mbeki said the president, as head not only of state but also of government, should understand the role of chairing Cabinet meetings, where he deals with memoranda submitted by various ministers in order to take decisions that do no contradict each other. 

"So you must be able as chair to deal with all Cabinet memoranda, otherwise you don't have government because then you don't have a centre that can hold. So that what you come up with is a government Cabinet decision," explained Mbeki.

"If you don't do that, it then becomes individual ministerial decisions. So instead of having a Cabinet, you will have what I once called a federation of ministries, and Trevor [Manuel] here corrected me and said a 'confederation of ministries'. We need to work on that so that we have a necessary cohesion in government."

As an example of how the current Cabinet was fragmented, Mbeki cited a recent contradiction between the ministries of home affairs and tourism over the visa application issues. The contradiction was resolved by reversing the decision.

Mbeki said he was surprised Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's announced a "14-point inclusive growth economic action plan" to tackle South Africa's economic malaise.

"You had the minister of finance today making a speech on what needs to be done and I was surprised that it was the minister of finance who's going to make a plan about how to regenerate this economy ... it has nothing to do with the minister of finance. I would have expected the minister of economic affairs or trade and industry to do so," Mbeki said. 

Mbeki also put the National Development Plan (NDP) under the spotlight. 

"The National Development Plan is not a plan, it's a vision. We need to take the NDP and elaborate a plan to achieve these objectives outlined in the NDP. I don't sense that there is any work being done to implement it. Let's elaborate an implementation plan out the NDP and that might get us somewhere," Mbeki said. 

The former president also dismissed suggestions that white monopoly capital was South Africa's enemy. 

"So when somebody comes to you to say the principal enemy of the national democratic revolution is white monopoly capital and things like that. I know the role of monopoly capital," Mbeki said.

"Who is this enemy? You're obliged to say the Rupert's and others," he added.

Mbeki was being interviewed by Power FM's Given Mkhari in front of an audience that included political figures and heads of state-owned enterprises. Among them was former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leadership and Telkom chief executive Sipho Maseko.