Nowhere to hide for Thabo Mbeki allies
HOW long will Trevor Manuel survive in the Zuma government, is the question on many lips these days.
The short answer is not for long – odds are it’s only a matter of time before he is frustrated and follows other ANC figures associated with Thabo Mbeki and leaves government to “pursue other interests”.
This week’s resignation of Joel Netshitenzhe, the director-general of policy co-ordination and advisory services in the presidency and a former Mbeki aide, leaves Manuel the last man standing of the brains trust that worked closely with the former president.
It’s common cause that Cosatu and the communists, influential bosom buddies of president Zuma, can’t wait to see the backs of individuals who had links with Mbeki. Manuel is arguably the most prominent such individual still in government.
No one seems to be safe – competency at one’s job and even long-standing membership of the ruling party are not good enough protection; mere association with Mbeki makes one a sitting duck. And Manuel, a staunch defender of the Mbeki government’s Gear economic policy, a strategy long derided by the unions and communists, is perceived by an influential coterie as an unwelcome remnant of the old regime.
His widely acknowledged prudent stewardship of our finances over more than 10 years at Treasury, which some experts contend mitigated the worst effects of the economic downturn on the country, won’t save him from being sidelined.
They simply won’t have him playing any meaningful role in the one area where he has the requisite expertise and experience, managing our economy.
Instead, they want economic policy to be the sole preserve of their man in the cabinet, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, a former trade union leader.
They got their way this week when Zuma excluded Manuel, who is the minister in the presidency responsible for the planning commission, from the economics cluster.
Amazing decision this, since Manuel is the cabinet minister with the most experience and proven ability in this field. Moreover, he is the only minister with an international profile, able to effortlessly, and with understanding of the markets, hold an intelligent discussion with the finance ministers of our major trading partners and chiefs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
With this background, you might have thought he would be a shoo-in for the economics cluster.
Netshitenzhe’s resignation two years before the expiry of his contract and after telling the media he would serve his full term is a clear indication there is no room for Mbeki allies, real or imagined, in the Zuma administration.
Those in the know say he felt he was being sidelined and decided it was time to go, which he has denied. It’s revealing that the Young Communist League rejoiced at his resignation, describing him “as the personification of co-option of our cadres by capital”.
Keen observers of the ruling party believe the big prize, Manuel, is next to go. The day of his departure will no doubt be cause for much celebration by the Left. But it will be a sad day for the country.
Yours truly was one of the naysayers who believed, and still does, that there was no need for Durban to build a new stadium for the World Cup when a perfectly good one exists. Like many others, I felt the money could be better spent fixing our crumbling infrastructure. I felt it was a vanity project, conceived with the sole aim of lining the pockets of a politically connected few who stood to benefit from govenment contracts.
Truth is, Durban will host only eight World Cup games next year and it seemed an extravagant waste to spend so much on a stadium when there were so many other, more pressing priorities.
But the stadium is now a fact of life and, reservations about its cost notwithstanding, it’s a beautiful sight. Durban ratepayers might be tempted to take perverse pleasure when, as seems certain after the soccer tournament, it fails to support itself.
But it’s their money that made the facility possible. So it’s their stadium and not the property of the politicians who pushed for its erection.
A solution will have to be found to make it viable, even if only to protect taxpayers’ investment.