South Africa

Post ConCourt Nkandla ruling bombshell: Trevor Manuel joins the calls for Zuma’s resignation

By Stephen Grootes 5 April 2016

The list of people calling on President Jacob Zuma to step down is growing, and the names of the people on it are getting closer and closer to home. On Tuesday former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel threw his hat into the ring, saying, “I think it’s in all of our interest that the President step aside”. His comments brings the fire closer to Zuma; it also possibly hints at an element of co-ordination in the campaign against the president. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

“...I think it’s in all our interest that the president actually steps aside.”

Trevor Manuel made the comment in an interview with Soweto TV on Tuesday afternoon. It’s a huge coup for a station that is making a splash in the community it serves, but is not generally known for setting the political agenda. Still, the interview was conducted by veteran broadcaster Tim Modise. It may well have been he who convinced Manuel to come on the programme. But the timing of the interview could not have been more interesting. Most of our political commentariat was munching popcorn and watching the Parliamentary Channel and the demise of the National Assembly during the impeachment vote. But the Twitterati were consumed by the short clip of Manuel tweeted by Soweto TV. No doubt, some watched it over and over and over again.

One wonders if Manuel knew exactly when his comments would go public or not. And whether it was timed to happen during the impeachment vote. There you had ANC MPs, who have all sworn their personal oath to uphold the Constitution, trampling over that sacred duty to defend Number One, while a man who until recently was one of their number was patiently explaining that Zuma should actually go. The “political contrast” dial was turned all the way up to “stark”.

Of course, it is important to remember Manuel’s back-story. For most, he was the Finance Minister during the economic boom of the Mbeki years. Legend has it that Cabinet meetings were conversations between Manuel and Mbeki. He was the person who led from the front on the Gear economic policy. (And is still unloved by the Left as a result.) And, more important, he was the person who set the tone for the National Treasury. He was able to gain the trust of the local and global markets, to set almost in stone the prudent nature in which our financial heads would behave. And he gained respect and appreciation from the nation while doing it.

When Mbeki left office, there was a moment when half of the Cabinet resigned. Such was the importance of Manuel, and the concern over the impact of the rand (back when it was about R7 to the dollar, oh such halcyon days) that he made it clear he would stay on, if asked.

And when President Jacob Zuma took over in 2009, much of the speculation was about whether Manuel would stay or go. In the end, he became the Minister of Planning, in the Presidency.

Which means that the man who is asking for Zuma’s resignation is not just some Mbeki-tie minister, but someone who also created the National Development Plan that was the cornerstone of Zuma’s opening address at Mangaung (before it was adopted by acclamation at that conference, and then left to rot by the government, as so many other plans have, unable to deliver either because of competence or lack of will).

One of the questions that must come to mind with Manuel’s comment is whether this is part of a much bigger, orchestrated, plan. Manuel was with Pravin Gordhan, the current Finance Minister, when his spat with SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane officially went nuclear. It was at a breakfast just after the budget in February that Manuel was asked what he would do if he were finance minister again for a day. His answer was that he would “take 20 seconds to draft a letter of dismissal for Tom Moyane”.

A few hours later Gwede Mantashe released a statement, in both his name and in the name of the ANC, condemning in the strongest possible terms the decision of the Hawks to demand that Gordhan answer 27 questions about the creation of the SARS unit the Sunday Times has now admitted it reported on incorrectly. Later that same day, Gordhan released a statement condemning the actions of the Hawks as well.

It is almost certain that all of that action was co-ordinated. Is the steady drip of senior figures denouncing Zuma part of a much bigger action plan? And if so, who else is involved?

I know this has been written before on Daily Maverick, but it bears repeating (Stephen, just to clarify, you are not paid by the word – Ed) that it now seems clear Mcebisi Jonas told Mantashe about the Gupta offer of the position of Finance Minister. Which means Mantashe was not surprised when Nhlanhla Nene was fired, which means the reaction of the ANC was not spontaneous. Which could also pose certain questions as to why Nene refused the offer of a reappointment.

The point here is that perhaps what is happening is part of a much bigger campaign that may well have the removal of Zuma as its goal. If that is true, then we need to ask who is involved. Mantashe, Gordhan, Manuel (of course). Jonas is surely on-side. Perhaps the MK generals who demanded a special ANC conference. But who else is involved? This is a game where the stakes cannot be higher. Surely you wouldn’t play it unless you knew you had a chance of winning? DM


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