Manuel speaks out

2013-12-28 00:00

IN a rare breaking of party ranks National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel has slated a fellow ANC leader.

Manuel heavily criticised Western Cape ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile in the columns of yesterday’s Cape Times.

It’s not the first time Manuel has “stood his ground”, according to political commentator Somadoda Fikeni, citing Manuel’s 2011 attack on Jimmy Manyi, which many saw as the precursor to Manyi being dropped as cabinet spokesperson.

Mjongile drew fire from Manuel thanks to an article published on Monday on the topic of transformation in which he praised “recent changes at the Cape Times”. These changes related to the dismissal of the editor Alide Dasnois following the publication of a story deemed unacceptable by the newspaper’s owners, Sekunjalo Holdings chaired by Iqbal Survé, adding that the newspaper had “traditionally been a mouthpiece for neo-liberal fascists”.

Manuel took issue with this description, first questioning the use of such labels “for the purpose of mere name-calling” then pointing out that they were “devoid” of truth.

Manuel then proceeded to give Mjongile a history lesson, referring to the role of one of the paper’s current senior staff members.

“I really don’t know where Mr Mjongile was when Mr Tony Weaver broke remarkable stories that exposed the barbarism of the apartheid regime against our MK cadres. Mr Weaver was criminally charged for his part in breaking the story of the Gugulethu 7, but he stood his ground.”

Manuel also cited former editor of the Cape Times, Tony Heard, who published a “lengthy interview” with ANC president Oliver Tambo “while the ANC was a banned organisation. This brave journalism, in the face of the repressive laws of the time and angry media owners, is what some of us still refer to as high-quality, informative and transformational journalism. But, seemingly these are the efforts of ‘neo-liberal fascists’ according to Mr Mjongile.”

Regarding transformation, Manuel responded to Mjongile’s invoking of the late Nelson Mandela, as someone who “epitomised transformation”, by quoting Mandela’s “expansive definition of transformation” embodied in Mandela’s words: “Among the multitude of those who … committed themselves to the struggle for justice in all its implications … [their] aim was to remove the gap between the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, the healthy and those afflicted by preventable disease.”

Manuel concluded by criticising Mjongile for “dragging” the ANC into the Cape Times controversy “in so unseemly a manner” and also called on Survé to respond to the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) request to clarify the issues around Dasnois’s dismissal.

Fikeni said Manuel has often spoken independently of the ANC. “Manuel doesn’t look very interested in the politics of the ANC anymore,” he said. “Since he was minister of finance he has been detached and quite often stated an independent position.”

Manuel’s column could also be seen as emerging from the “frustration” among ANC members at the lack of any “clear direction” from the party when it came to the scandals surrounding the party and its leader, President Jacob Zuma.

“Some leaders are beginning to wither under the relentless allegations of scandal,” said Fikeni, “some of which touch on the president.”

“There is a disproportionate amount of energy and resources being used to defend the leader but very little said in terms of policies and principles.”

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