Makhura was among prominent speakers at the inaugural Inclusive Growth Conference organised by the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.
Among key issues discussed at the three-day event were state capture, the land issue, as well as the state of governance and that of the economy.
On Sunday, Makhura praised civil society organisations that mobilised against state capture and pressured the ANC to take steps against the looting of state coffers, centred on former president Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family.
"As the leader of the ANC, I can tell you if it wasn’t for civil society's mobilisation and activism, we would have not emerged from this nightmare that we are just emerging from.
"Sometimes we give too much credence and we invest too much in thinking that the political parties will resolve the problems,” Makhura said.
He also praised civil society for pressuring the provincial administration into addressing its own problems, including the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
“If we don’t shift from demonising civil society some of the problems we have had, including Life Esidimeni, if the attitude of the government was different in how it saw civil society, we would not have got where we are,” he said.
Following an alternative dispute resolution and arbitration process set up by the government, retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke ordered the government to pay R1.2 million in compensation to each family of the Life Esidimeni victims.
Makhura also stressed that South Africans were justified to doubt the new dawn pronounced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, especially as the country was plunged into a major crisis under Zuma’s tenure.
“We have gone through that Perhaps we still have to understand the full implications of it That is why sometimes we are not quite sure if we are emerging from the crisis, because of the scale of the crisis.
"Sometimes when you hear people speaking, you think they are not sure of what they are seeing (with Ramaphosa). They think we are still in the same space we were probably a year or so ago or even a few months.
“Is it not correct to celebrate doubt that we are emerging from yesteryear? Part of celebrating doubt is to doubt the new dawn. Is it not the right thing to do, because we have come from a difficult period and we don’t want to go back there?” Makhura asked.
But he said the country was not out of the woods yet, adding that ethics, integrity and clean governance should be at the centre of the public service and business to avoid a return to what he termed "a disastrous past".
“Anyone who thinks what we have gone through in that realm of governance is insignificant and small Who else wants to experience what we have experienced twice?
“Just last week we had to terminate all dealings with McKinsey and KPMG, as the Gauteng government, and we said to (IT firm) SAP, ‘we give you a yellow card, we are coming for you’, because they are a monopoly, and if you give them a red card tomorrow, you will have no systems to operate from,” Makhura added.
All three companies were implicated in the allegations of Gupta-linked state capture.
Speakers at the conference, including former statistician- general Pali Lehohla, slammed what they called poor planning and incompetent public servants.
Professor Ben Turok, a former anti-apartheid activist, said the ANC had failed to create a new system after the end of apartheid. "We claimed to be a revolutionary movement and that we wanted to establish a new South Africa," he said.