Finance fiasco: Trevor Manuel speaks

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel

Published Dec 21, 2015


Cape Town - Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has broken his silence about the debacle surrounding his former ministry .

In an open letter addressed to Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Manuel said reckless statements made by Zulu “compel me to break my silence”.

Last week the Mail & Guardian reported Zulu saying that businesses were plotting against President Jacob Zuma.

"Business wrote off President Jacob Zuma a long time ago. They long decided that this is the person they don't want," she was quoted as saying.

Later, however, Zulu said her comments were taken out of context.

In his letter published in the City Press on Sunday, Manuel said: “I want to put it to you that you are plainly wrong in your assumptions about the roles, responsibilities and attitudes of business.”

Manuel said the issue “of contention and disbelief” was never about the appointment of little-known David (Des) van Rooyen as minister of finance. Rather, “it was about the summary dismissal of Mr Nene”.

"What is also clear from comments by Cabinet colleagues in the wake of Mr Nene’s dismissal was that when Cabinet adjourned at about 6pm on Wednesday, December 9, neither he nor Cabinet had any inkling of what was to follow that evening,” he said.

“The suggestion by the president that Mr Nene was destined for some undefined post in the New Development Bank just does not wash. In fact, that assignment is unlikely to be even 15% of the size of that which he so ably performed as minister of finance...

Manuel added: “This announcement for the New Development Bank was not time bound either, so why the haste? No attempt has been made to explain any of this.”

He also questioned how “where there is so much information available.... the removal of Mr Nene from his position both as minister of finance and as a Cabinet minister came as a complete shock to too many.”

“Yet it was not a shock to Des van Rooyen, whose soul mate, Gaddafi Rabotapi, knew about this for more than a month (according to Mr Rabotapi himself, as quoted in the Saturday Star of December 12.” 

Manuel said the “ultimate shocker” was when Van Rooyen arrived at the Treasury with two advisers.

“How did he appoint these advisers?”

Manuel wrote: ”The picture I am sketching for you is that the saga of dismissing a competent minister and replacing him without warning or explanation led to a complete breakdown in trust.

“It cannot be correct that there is an outside hand (and not the ruling party) that knows more than Cabinet does about unfolding events,” he added.

Manuel concluded by saying: “In my limited view, it is possible for autocrats to rule, but not for democrats to govern without the vital ingredient of trust.”