Trevor Manuel has distanced himself from a comment attributed to him in which he is quoted as having referred to the ANC’s period in office since 1994 as “almost three decades that were wasted”.
Manuel, a former ANC national executive committee member and longest-serving minister of finance after apartheid, said he was never contacted for comment and was grossly misrepresented in the dramatised headline.
The former finance minister is quoted by News24 as having referred to the ANC’s period in office since 1994 as “almost three decades that were wasted”.
He is said to have made these remarks on Thursday during a webinar discussion hosted by Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office and the Hanns Siedel Foundation.
This led to the ANC through its spokesperson Pule Mabe releasing a statement on Monday morning saying the party was deeply saddened by the remarks.
“While we respect Manuel’s right to freedom of speech, we believe that there is absolutely no basis to portray a doom-laden picture of the country to the media and to the outside world. We are painfully aware of an ongoing onslaught against our movement being desperately choreographed on various social media platforms and urge Manuel not to fall into this trap.
“Taken at face value Manuel’s utterances could loosely imply that the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality started in 1994. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) as well as other economic interventions were precisely aimed at placing our economy and society on a sustained developmental trajectory.
“Since the democratic breakthrough of 1994, the people of South Africa have entrusted the ANC government with the responsibility to transform the economy and to create a better life for all,” said Mabe.
Manuel has since responded through his own statement saying: “I have observed that Mr Pule Mabe issued a statement condemning me for certain alleged utterances. Neither Mr Mabe, nor any other person in the ANC checked with me, or my hosts of a panel discussion, for verification on the statements attributed to me.
“Subsequently, I have found an article by Ms Lameez Omerjee published on News 24 under the rubric ‘Manuel, What do we do now, with almost 3 decades wasted’. Ms Omerjee did not request comment from me at any stage and I expect that a correction will be made in this regard,” said Manuel.
The former finance minister added that the headline did not reflect the body of the article in which he claims to have been correctly quoted.
“I spoke of reasonably high growth, with employment creation in the years between 2000 and 2007. I reflected that it took a few years after 1994 to get the systems of governance in place.
“I also responded to a question about the National Development Plan of the National Planning Commission which I chaired from 2009 to 2014) and explained that there was a structural problem with the [commission] being outside of government and thus not responsible for the implementation of its recommendations. I expressed my view that the ‘Zuma years’ were for South Africa a decade of retrogression,” said Manuel.
Manuel reiterated that he did “not speak of three wasted decades”.
“In the context of the discussions on the webinar, which was about he German model of ‘the social market economy’, I spoke of how (initially) the Federal Republic of Germany used the trauma of the almost first fifty years of the 20th Century to develop a social compact that they’ve called the social market economy. The conditions in South Africa are different,” said Manuel.
He had asked for a retraction of the statement credited to him saying they tainted his history and credibility in the ANC.
News24 editor in chief Adriaan Basson said the publication stood by its report and would not correct the story.
“Mr Manuel’s quotes from the webinar are very clear. If he wanted to say ‘one wasted decade’, why did he say ‘three’? We have submitted his complaint to our public editor and will abide by his ruling.”
- This article was amended on August 25 2020 to include the comments from News24 editor in chief Adriaan Basson.