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Trevor Manuel fingers human resources, financial management as ‘greatest weaknesses’ in SA at present

Trevor Manuel fingers human resources, financial management as ‘greatest weaknesses’ in SA at present
Trevor Manuel at the Gathering Twenty Twenty Four Election Edition addresses the crowd at CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre). 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

‘My generation stands accused of walking away from an incomplete transition. Perhaps we considered that the adoption of the Constitution was an end-point, not fully realising that rules needed to be scribed and institutions built… Whatever the reason, we should have an honest discussion about the aspects that remain undone. My contention is that it will never be too late for that discussion.’ - Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in his keynote address at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four.

Anti-apartheid activist and former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel identified the greatest weaknesses in the state at present to be human resources management and financial management, with an emphasis on supply chain management, during his keynote address at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four on Thursday. The event took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town.

He went on to say that while various attempts had been made to “reorder” these matters, they always tended to come up against the “imperatives of the electoral cycle and its marauding caucuses”.

“Early in democracy, we applied our best endeavours of statecraft to how a democratic state could exercise its control over the organs of state. We were convinced that such control would be best established by allowing managers control over their key resources, being people and finance. We passed the Public Service Act in 1994 and the Public Finance Management Act in 1999. The approach was on the disassembling of the highly centralised organs that had hitherto existed for the purpose of advancing the Broederbond agenda,” he said.

Manuel acknowledged that his generation had been accused of walking away from an “incomplete transition”, adding that there was a need for an honest discussion about those aspects that remained “undone”. In particular, he drew attention to the vast range of presidential prerogatives in South Africa — including the unfettered power to appoint Cabinet and deputy ministers; premiers; heads of all of security and intelligence services; and foreign representatives — that could be carried out “without query or oversight”.

“It has often been stated that we created a Constitution in the naïve hope that all of our heads of state would act like Nelson Mandela,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gathering 2024

Issues of crime and corruption

Honing in on issues of crime and corruption in SA, Manuel referenced the seven-point plan to strengthen the criminal justice system that was included in the drafting of the National Development Plan 12 years ago. The plan was to:

  • “Adopt a single vision and mission, including performance-measurement targets for the criminal justice system;
  • “Establish, through legislation or by protocol, a new and realigned single coordinating and management structure for the system;
  • “Make substantial changes to the present court process in criminal matters ;
  • “Put into operation priorities identified for the component parts of the system;
  • “Establish an integrated and seamless information and technology database for the national criminal justice system;
  • “Modernise, in an integrated and holistic way, all aspects of systems and equipment; and
  • “Involve the public in the fight against crime by introducing changes to the community police forums.”

“None of these have been taken up,” he said.

“Since the NDP was drafted, there have been significant advances in artificial intelligence and technology platforms. Yet, the SAPS has still not been able to introduce a digital biometric system — other departments, including the notoriously challenged Department of Home Affairs, have done so,” he continued. “So, with the SAPS, for a task as uncomplicated as getting fingerprints, they continue to use ink, rollers and pads just as they did a century ago.

“The proposal to have digitised dockets transferred seamlessly between the local and regional police, the prosecutorial service, the courts and correctional services remains far too modern, if that is what you wish to believe, or more than likely the reality is that digital dockets leave an electronic footprint that cannot easily be sold.”

Manuel added that for a budget of R109.4-billion, South Africa employs 188,000 SAPS personnel, yet the general public “have no idea what they do every day”. There are 39,801 detectives, according to estimates of national expenditure, yet each investigator carries about 100 case dockets at any point in time.

“What is the success rate of investigations and prosecutions? Something does not add up,” said Manuel.

Trevor Manuel

Trevor Manuel at the Gathering Twenty Twenty Four Election Edition addresses the crowd at CTICC on 14 March, 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“We need a minister [of police] who will collaborate closely with active managers to ensure that the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the South African Police Service Act is applied.”

The National Prosecuting Authority, he continued, was “hollowed out” during the tenure of individuals like Shaun Abrahams (former deputy national director of public prosecutions), Nomgcobo Jiba (former deputy national director of public prosecutions) and Lawrence Mrwebi (former special director of public prosecutions). He stressed that skills within the NPA needed to be speedily rebuilt.

Turning his focus to the issues of South Africa’s courts, Manuel highlighted that these institutions couldn’t “perform miracles if the institutions upstream are incapable”. He also criticised the massive drain on resources commonly seen in SA’s high-profile cases.

“We now know that the costs of impeaching John Hlophe were approximately R10-million and that the former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane notched up legal costs of R30-million. I cannot even calculate what the legal costs, on both sides — his and those of the state — Jacob Zuma [has incurred for] the taxpayers,” he said.

“…there are too many cases that do not make the roll because the system is snarled up. South Africa is in desperate need of a fresh approach to rebuild trust in the legal system.”

Manuel concluded with the sentiment that the “rupture” of the years in which former president Jacob Zuma and current president Cyril Ramaphosa held the top office should not cause South Africans to give up on the “very fine values” that bind the nation and are articulated in the Constitution.

“Part of the message here is that we identify what is wrong and convene across political lines to seek remedies. With the best will in the world, these matters will not be addressed in a new Parliament, however constituted, from June. We need to debate with, but also beyond the political parties.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • A.K.A. Fred says:

    Seemingly frank articulation of the current state of affairs and the lapses that exist in government performance. However, where was Manuel 10-12 years ago. I will not absolve him of his dereliction then, now that his conscience is pushing him to reflect. We all saw the writing on the wall a long time ago when Manuel chose to remain silent and he should be called out for that rather than taking credit for his current statements.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      Unless we end racist BEE policies nothing will change …we will continue with under performing human resources and financial mismanagement until there is nothing left for anyone.

      • Citizen X says:

        Then tell white companies who proposed it in the first place to use it as a lobbyist tool for post apartheid government benefits. Go read up on Codesa and identify the fault lines properly. It takes 2 to Tango and while the ANC government is responsible for massive failures because of cronyism and cadre employment. It is not solely responsible for the so called racist BBBEE policies that dominates every discussion. Your comments undermine black professionals at the benefit of white professionals that are not necessarily better at the same jobs.

        • Steve Davidson says:

          How racist of you!

          The answer is to get rid off the ANC thieves and bring in the DA. And maybe you should get off your high horse, get to the Western Cape and see – apart from Knysna – how a province and its cities should be run, NO MATTER WHAT THE COLOUR OF THE ‘PROFESSIONALS’!!

        • Pieter van de Venter says:

          No, BEE and AA undermines black professionalism. Why are there still Black Business Forum, Black Layers, Black Investment Association, etc.

          With just about every public service manager appointed towrds the BEE score card, why is it still required for businesses to have x% black shareholders, black directors, black employees, etc if the people awarding tenders going to award it to a black firm (and pay 25% MORE) in any event???

  • Brian Dutlow says:

    We have a government bound by internal corruption. It seems that self enrichment is the priority and not economic preservation. Cadre deployment supercedes qualified human resources. Trevor Manuel should be fully aware of the ANC status quo.

    • Citizen X says:

      Couldn’t agree more, what has he done abour this other than also benefitting himself and wife Maria Ramos. Why did they not become activists within their own party when they saw the rot formation rearing its ugly head in the ANC?Suppose Absa and Rothschild roles etc. were more important to secure and the party was far more important at the time than its citizens.
      No point telling us what we already know and feel the consequences of everyday while you live in your ivory tower.
      UDF was a truly multiracial body of persons and institutions and should have never allowed itself to be usurped by the ANC but then again hindsight is wonderful.
      Is it time for a comeback as the ANC has not lived up to the freedom charter?

  • virginia crawford says:

    Human resources, financial management and, I would add, technical skills are all lacking at every level of government, national, provincial and local. The total lack of conscience or scruples at the top level allows this. Not a story that ends well.

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    Here is one of the biggest issues of this post NP South Africa. Everything is propaganda. To say 27 April 1994 was the start of democracy in SA is one of the massive lies that are told on a very regular basis.

    The first election in South Africa was held, as The Union, on 15 September 1910. SA was one of the first countries in the world to give voting rights to women in 1930.

    So describe the 1994 elections correctly – First Fully Inclusive election.

    I have not seen that other countries denies the election their status before women could vote or the American democracy did not start in the 1960’s when the last state allowed African Americans to vote.

    So stop the Goebels theory – Tell a massive lie often enough, and it will become the truth.

    • Skinyela Skinyela says:

      Can you have democracy without universal suffrage?

      They don’t deny those elections, but what they are saying is that the said elections were not inclusive and hence don’t qualify to be called democracy.

      You can have elections without being democratic.

      • ST ST says:

        Yes! One must read a bit from social and political science scholars about the concept of democracy so that one knows what one means by it!

    • Erney Breytenbach says:

      Remember the ANC did not give us democracy – democracy gave us the ANC.

  • Bianca Albesco says:

    Sickening platitudes by one of the architects of our demise.

    The “incomplete transition” is indeed complete – from an efficient government handed to him and his cadres on a silver platter – to a dysfunctional banana republic where absolutely nothing works.

    And he has the temerity to blame it on the largely mythical Broederbond!

    • Michael Petersen says:

      The government handed over was not ‘an efficient’ one. It was a corrupt and bankrupt government on the verge of collapse.

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