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Reshuffle rumours rife for Zuma’s cabinet

Minister in the Presidency, Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel. Photo: Phill Magakoe

Minister in the Presidency, Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel. Photo: Phill Magakoe

Published Oct 24, 2010

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In a week that could turn out to be a watershed moment for South Africa, the cabinet is set to adopt a New Growth Path strategy – aimed at setting the stage for the creation of a developmental state and conditions that will allow the ANC to make good on its promises of jobs and closing the equality gap.

It is understood that President Jacob Zuma is poised to reshuffle his cabinet, despite emphatic denials from the Presidency.

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Sources say Minister in the Presidency for Planning Trevor Manuel “threw a tantrum” when the cabinet committee on economic affairs was finalising the draft policy on Wednesday for adoption at a special cabinet meeting tomorrow.

He apparently suggested the new strategy would ensure that South Africa’s economic resilience and stability would “go down the drain”. The plan is understood to include the extent to which macro-economic policy should be amended.

Manuel as finance minister presided over the years when Gear ruled, fuelling resentment in the labour movement and the left due to jobless economic growth.

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The cabinet’s adoption of the new policy could see the “left shift” demanded at the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

Manuel is rumoured to be planning an exit from the government, with sources variously indicating he could take up a position at the World Bank in the long term, or be involved in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) in the short term.

He is steering the National Planning Commission, which has until next November to produce a long-term strategic plan for the country. Yesterday, Manuel – through chief government spokesman Themba Maseko – said reports about his departure were “nothing but a fishing expedition”.

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“There is no truth to any rumour that he has resigned or intends to resign,” Maseko said.

Manuel would not respond to queries about losing his temper during discussions on the New Economic Growth Path strategy.

A week ago, before his state visit to Egypt, and last week on his return, he was engaged in meeting ministers one on one to discuss delivery agreements.

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These meetings involved checking to see that corresponding agreements had been signed between ministers and top department officials, and to find out what was needed to get the job done.

Zuma hinted during his Egypt state visit last week at a potential reshuffle – and also that Manuel was up for a Nepad job.

It is understood this involves setting up an agency to co-ordinate Africa’s infrastructure investments, and does not mean he would have to relinquish his duties as minister for planning.

However, there were also strong suggestions last week that a top post at the World Bank looms in Manuel’s future.

Before he made way for Pravin Gordhan last year, Manuel was the world’s longest reigning finance minister, having held the position for 13 years from 1996. He is highly respected in international finance and banking circles.

Some suggested an announcement as soon as last week, but Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is due to make a major budget policy announcement when he delivers his medium term budget policy statement in Parliament on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Zizi Kodwa said yesterday he was not aware of any minister bowing out.

He reiterated that Zuma’s consultations with ministers on delivery agreements – the targets and outputs that need to be reached in key areas such as housing, health, and education – had “nothing to do with a cabinet reshuffle”.

“Reshuffling (the cabinet) is occasioned by specific reasons, and it is not on the cards or plans of the president,” Kodwa said.

There was talk that if Manuel were to leave, his planning position would go to National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, who was less than enthusiastic about being deployed to the legislature in the first place.

Sisulu, who is on a week-long official visit to China, has headed the ruling party’s national executive committee’s subcommittee on economic transformation for a decade.

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