Unchecked Trevor Manuel

2016-03-07 07:38

Mmusi Maimane was whisked in lightning speed through affirmative action to be a DA leader only four years after joining politics. He now speaks against affirmative action and want other blacks to wait and race to be “ignored”. Trevor Manuel became our second democratic finance minister, without any relevant academic or formal experience in finance management issues, he became a former Bretton Wood Institutions darling with his style of toeing their line on how South Africa managed it's financial affairs. The local business community simply loved him. He recently said Des Van Rooyen was not known to him thus not qualified to be finance minister in South Africa. Van Rooyen has two masters degrees and was a finance committee whip in parliament. Did he mean a finance minister ought to be known to him first?

Both Maimane and Manuel, affirmative action poster boys, exhibit being conspicuously pro-black but obnoxiously anti-black progress. Herman Mashaba joins them on the hip. Yet, Manuel is not of the same right wing ideology Maimane and Mashaba clearly are making the Manuel factor more peculiar and interesting.

Manuel clearly had a direct line to Nhlanhla Nene having had Nene as his deputy minister as such his understudy. Access to power is one special commodity to trade and losing it or having it threatened is an important matter.

Both Mbeki and Zuma have been criticized for promoting “unknowns” into the cabinet. There was often a rumour mill on why Mbeki promoted women from back benches who were not in the ANC NEC. Many said Mbeki was collecting yes man. Others made unprintable allegations. Shockwaves were felt when Mbeki made Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka the country’s deputy president. Zuma is going through the same with just different rumour mill.

In 1993, an unshaven Trevor Manuel went to The Felicia Mabuza-Suttle Show on SABC and proclaimed that he will be a minister in the cabinet of Nelson Mandela and he did. Manuel is bold, lifted and self-assured with great charisma and smarts. When given the crowd, Manuel knows just the right things to say with an amazing ability to explain complicated policy architecture in simple terms.

In each budget since he left the Treasury, Manuel has sought to make himself a chief authority on all matters finance. This has been noticed by media, which has immediately sought his sound bite after each budget speech often taking over and overshadowing his successors. Of course this is extra ordinary behavior as it would be for president Mandela availing himself for elaborate commentary with critique of Mbeki's SONAs or Mbeki rushing to microphones to be heard on Zuma's SONAs. It will be grossly inappropriate and very selfish.

Manuel, a former UDF leader at times has come out to appropriate for himself spokesmanship for colored people in South Africa. We recall the dressing down he offered to Mzwanele "Jimmy" Manyi over the debate of employment equity and coloreds. Besides boasting that he unlike Manyi had been in the struggle forefront during apartheid, he did not offer much in the debate but to just trump all over Manyi, suggesting it's Manyi's fault that he was not of age during Manuel's struggle days.

As we write history, we must not forget that Manuel, a self professed socialist progressive, oversaw laws that enabled financial outflows and head office export of key South African companies from South African Breweries to Anglo American and so on. These laws saw their ugly twin, "privatization" of state owned companies like Telkom, Iscor and so on. We will recall the "I didn't struggle to be poor" statements. All this was happening as fiscal consolidation and austerity was happening making Credit Rating Agencies and financial capitalists happiest as they got better returns on their loans to government whilst keeping the poor uncovered on HIV meds and Eskom squeezed out of budget allocations, Transnet crumbling. There were more SOE scandals during Manuel's tenure then both Gordhan and Nene combined. From the Energy Cooperation to SAA to Diamond Board and so on.

As the DA marched to Mbeki's private home in 2006 ala Nkandla, or as Mrs Mbeki was awarded rights to buy a government mansion in the Eastern Cape far below market price in the 1990's, Manuel was there. The arms deal, there too.

Indeed, Manuel granted the authority to have ABSA shares be sold to Barclays, his then Director General now his wife later became the CEO of the very bank they both created. The demutualization and authorities he gave to Old Mutual have also benefitted him well at a personal level.

Manuel could have been a voice of reason to calm markets during the euphoria over Nene sacking, but he played the opposite role fueling market instability and sharing racist dinner table views that “where you see a black man you see likely corruption”. Indeed Rothschild owned global media echoed their new man’s views on Zuma during the short lived Nene crisis.

What South Africa and the ANC should answer is whether Manuel has this special right to appropriate constitutional powers of a president to appoint his cabinet and effectively rule government’s treasury from his Rothschild loft or not.

There may be reason for the ANC Secretary General to be petitioned to conduct an internal inquiry into the events that took place after the badly choreographed Nene removal announcement. Who has captured the ANC?

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