Trevor Manuel
Cape Town - In a wide-ranging Saturday lecture that both repeatedly denounced President Jacob Zuma and gave a potted lesson in constitutional law, former finance minister Trevor Manuel said South Africa has lost its attachment to the values of Kader Asmal and the constitution and called for the ANC, the nation and its leaders to return to these values.

“The honour of being sworn in as member of the ANC, I don’t believe it’s something that remains,” Manuel said. “I think people join not for the values that once existed.”

The lecture was held in a packed University of Cape Town room in memory of Kader Asmal, and Manuel returned repeatedly to Asmal’s life and views, including his view on Zuma.

Manuel recalled at the 52nd ANC congress in 2007, at the start of Zuma’s rise, Asmal nominated now Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa because he feared Zuma, who had already been embroiled in corruption charges, would set the country back.

When Ramaphosa declined the nomination, Asmal said: “Cyril Ramaphosa has no balls. Asmal has been proven correct time without number, about the failures of leadership and characteristics of Jacob Zuma,” Manuel said.

Manuel’s speech comes days after he echoed Ramaphosa’s own call for an independent inquiry into state capture.

At a World Economic Forum Africa panel in Durban, he told a crowd that included chair of Eskom Baldwin Ngubane, South Africa’s “public enterprises are a nest of corruption”.

Asked after his speech whether this meant Ramaphosa had obtained balls, Manuel said he “never pretended to be a urologist”.

Once a friend of Zuma, Manuel has positioned himself as a leading critic of Zuma’s government in recent months. At the end of March, Manuel called Zuma hypocritical and devoid of a “moral compass” because of how he handled the Marikana massacre, the ANC Youth League and the distribution of social grants.

“Moral compass” was an Asmal term and Manuel returned to it Saturday. He said Asmal had a fallout with other factions of the ANC in 2009 over the debates about the militarisation that culminated with the current Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula saying “shoot the bastards. Hard-nut to crack, incorrigible bastards".

In response, Asmal said he deplored the “tainted political atmosphere in which the moral compass that points to the core issues of our movement has lost its sense of direction.”

“Now, we shoot people”, Manuel said.

He then turned to the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, the most recent controversial legislation that Parliament has passed. After initially sending the bill, which strengthens anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism funding rules, back to Parliament over constitutional concerns, Zuma signed the bill last Friday.

The signing, however, brought a backlash from several pro-ANC groups, including Progressive Professional Forum head Jimmy Manyi, who said last week that the bill was designed specifically to choke funding from the ANC and make them lose the 2019 election.

Manuel pointed out that anti-money laundering efforts were premised on the idea that money being laundered was for the proceeds of crime.

“We must say to Jimmy Manyi”, Manuel said, “if the ANC ever depends on proceeds of crime to be elected, it is better that is not elected.

“The ANC must be able to go to the people to fund their campaigns.”

Manuel said the core values for the ANC and South Africa, and a blueprint for governing South Africa were held in the constitution, but the constitution is being ignored.

The principles of that constitution were first drafted in Asmal’s kitchen, but the leaders of the ANC, including Asmal, failed to commit to promoting the constitution as they became immersed in the daily work of governing the country.

In the months after the constitution’s signing on May 8, 1996, anyone could find a copy in all the 11 languages, Manuel said. Today, he said, it would be hard to find a copy in anything but English or Afrikaans.

“Our constitution is held by jurists and constitutional attorneys around the world as the finest and most progressive constitution in the world, a break from the traditional constitution associated with the US,” Manuel said.

“But this constitution is largely neither known or owned by the vast majority of South Africans.”

Manuel said the bill of rights calls for the country’s leaders to actively promote the people's rights, a call which leaders for the last 20 years have ignored.

He pointed out that if leaders had followed the education demands in the constitution, the #FeesMustFall movement may not have happened.

Manuel said populists were always calling for constitutional amendments to expropriate land, but in reality the constitution had clear provisions for compensated land reforms.

The problem is Parliament never passed the expropriation bill that the constitution demanded, he said.

“What must you do once you amend the constitution (to take land) to prevent tyranny Many of us in this room have experienced the tyranny of removal under apartheid.”

Weekend Argus