Cape Town-Trevor Manuel, national Minister in the Presidency, briefs the National Planning Commission on the national Development Plan. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Shanti Aboobaker

ANC HEAVYWEIGHT and Planning Minister Trevor Manuel says his decision to decline nomination for the party’s national executive committee (NEC) is not because he is angry with the ANC.

He downplayed speculation that his rejection of the nomination was due to growing frustration and concern within the party among senior leaders.

“What is very important in understanding this (is that) I am not angry with the ANC. I have had no fall out. I am not going anywhere,” Manuel said.

He declined to confirm whether he would be exiting the government as well, saying: “This is a conference of the ANC. Whatever happens in government is quite separate.”

He insisted he had “not been jettisoned” – “It is choice, not fate”, he said – echoing the title of his biography by Pippa Green.

Manuel has served on the NEC – the party’s highest decision-making body between national conferences – for 21 years.

His departure will represent a significant loss of institutional memory and capacity – but Manuel told The Sunday Independent he believed in passing on skills and leadership to a younger generation.

Manuel said he would continue to “assist” the ANC without being an NEC member.

Asked about the implications of his exiting the NEC for the National Development Plan, which has been adopted by the cabinet, and who would drive its implementation politically, Manuel replied he would, with the support of his National Planning Commission deputy chairman Cyril Ramaphosa and commissioner Joel Netshitenzhe.

Ramaphosa has been nominated for election as Zuma’s deputy at the ANC’s 53rd national conference that started today in Mangaung.

At the ANC’s 51st national conference in Stellenbosch in 2002, Manuel topped the NEC list, receiving more votes than anyone else.

But his ranking plummeted at the 2007 Polokwane conference where he was punished along with other supporters of former president Thabo Mbeki when he lost to President Jacob Zuma.

A former close aide and confidante of Mbeki, Manuel was among a small number of leaders who survived the post-Polokwane purge.

His tenuous relationship with labour federation Cosatu, which felt he was not consultative enough, and SACP leader Blade Nzimande, who derided Mbeki’s growth, employment, and redistribution programme (Gear) as the “1996 class project”, made his survival particularly significant.

Manuel was central to Gear’s implementation as finance minister, turning the National Treasury into one of the government’s most efficient departments.

Yesterday Manuel said he wanted to continue helping the ANC.

He referred to a speech at the launch of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 bright young South Africans in June, where he spoke of his firm belief in inter-generational transfer of skills and leadership.

“I believe it is imperative that young people are represented properly; in other words, a political handover to sensible young people is not only advisable but also necessary,” he said earlier this year.

“One of the big responsibilities that your generation has to win back is to return the honour to the responsibility of governing.”

“I would also like you to agree with me that those who fill the employment square on forms with the word ‘politician’ have done nothing to inspire the next generation to consider political office.

“Yet, in politics, as in life, there has to be handover. And as with all handovers, the more orderly they are, the better.”

Last week Manuel called on the ANC to hold on to leaders who could best contribute to the continuity of values and history rather than purge those who appear not to “toe a particular line”.

If the ANC did not do this, it would weaken itself. He said it would be a “profound tragedy” if the skills of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe were no longer available as part of the skills set that the national leadership of the ANC collectively possessed, but he would not express outright support for him, saying he would not be drawn into discussing camps or slates or his preference.