Just days after South Africa’s former state presidents agreed that the country had plunged into a deep crisis, former finance minister Trevor Manuel came out with a timely reminder that underscored the same view.
Manuel, who delivered the annual Kader Asmal memorial lecture in Cape Town at the weekend, said that, ahead of the 2007 ANC elective conference, the late Asmal had nominated current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to lead the ruling party.
Manuel said the human rights activist had never been private about the fact that he backed Ramaphosa.
“He never made it a secret that the election of Jacob Zuma would set back both the ANC and the country, and that we needed to exercise extreme caution.
“Now a decade has passed. And the succession debate is again very topical.
“And when, in Polokwane, Cyril declined the nomination, Kader had no compunction about telling the world that Ramaphosa has no balls,” Manuel said.
“He took a view not about an individual, but about what was in the best interest of the movement,” said Manuel.
Commenting further on the concerns raised by Asmal a decade ago, Manuel said it was important for the nation to sit down and discuss how best to take the country forward. He stressed that it was important to consider the characteristics of individuals [for leadership positions].
He said Asmal contributed immensely to the drafting of the country’s executive ethics code, a law that governs the conduct of ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentarians.
Manuel said: “When somebody in a position of leadership says I don’t give a damn about clever blacks, then that person is saying we don’t actually want to engage intellectually with people…”
He described this as a break with the traditions of the ANC. Meanwhile, speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete used the funeral of the 16 pupils killed in an a minibus taxi accident to hit out at those calling for Zuma to step down.
“Let us teach our children about solving issues internally and not make noise outside,” Mbete said.
Despite Zuma being booed at a May Day rally in Bloemfontein last week, Mbete said the tripartite alliance was not divided.