Trevor Manuel urged South Africans to look beyond the African National Congress (ANC) and take responsibility for their national project, otherwise the country might be headed for a Trump-like future.
Listen to his speech here:
The former minister of finance and member of the ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) berated South Africans at the launch of The Huffington Post South Africa on Sunday for not being "out on the streets" protesting against a wayward president.
"The ANC coursed through my veins, but it's not the ANC I see now. A young society like ours cannot afford to abdicate responsibilities to the organisation that used to lead us. We [the ANC] can't continue to live on past glories because we can't offer South Africans a future."
"The ANC coursed through my veins, but it's not the ANC I see now. A young society like ours cannot afford to abdicate responsibilities to the organisation that used to lead us. Trevor Manuel
Manuel was a popular member of the NEC for more than a decade and served as finance minister under three presidents. President Jacob Zuma moved him out of the finance portfolio in 2009 and he left Cabinet and Parliament after the 2014 general elections. He currently works as senior advisor to the Rothschild Group, a financial services company, and has become increasingly vocal about the ANC and Zuma's failings.
He was joined by Jared Grusd, CEO of The Huffington Post Media Group and Esmaré Weideman, CEO of Media24. HuffPost SA is the 17th international edition of the publication, and went live on November 21, in partnership with Media24.
Manuel said he cannot understand why South Koreans are in their fifth week of protest against a seemingly errant president, while nothing is happening here.
"Seoul is a city of around 10-million people, and this weekend around 1,3-million people were on the streets protesting against her. She gave some documents to somebody her daughter knows. In this country we sell Cabinet documents!
"We know what our president has been doing here is much worse than what's happened there, why aren't we on the streets? Their issues are nowhere near ours. Why are people so tolerant of lies?"
Manuel is concerned that people tend to retreat into their laagers, that many South Africans think that 1994 has come and gone and that things can just stay the same as it was. "I'm worried that the president, whenever he is under pressure, retreats to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga... it's almost his man-cave."
"I'm worried that the president, whenever he is under pressure, retreats to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga . . . it's almost his man-cave."Manuel
He added that leadership is missing from the body politic. "Look at the public protector [PP] and the state capture report. People identified the PP with an individual and invested in her. Now institutions are being undermined, people are losing faith. They can't distinguish between the individual and the institution."
He urged South Africans to engage in the debate about where the country is headed in the same way people engaged during the transition period.
"At that stage we came through the challenges of violence, of Diepkloof, the Natal Midlands, the train massacres, we came survived all of it and it's because we had leadership that allowed us to transcend it all, that allowed us to talk.
"The enactment of the Constitution on 8 May 1996 was a reflection of that. Now we seem to think we don't have to talk anymore, we can become [reclusive] again."
Manuel said South Africans needed to engage with the issues facing the country and that the Constitutional Court's Nkandla judgment in March this year was "profound".
Manuel said South Africans need to engage with the issues facing the country and that the Constitutional Court's Nkandla judgment in March this year was "profound".
"The court expanded on the oath of office enshrined in the Constitution... that the president is a constitutional being by design, our pathfinder, the commander in chief, the personification of our national constitutional project.
"This judgment did not only highlight the failings of parliament, that failed to live up to its responsibilities. It called into question who leads our national project."
South Africans need to understand what the Nkandla judgment means, he said, adding that it allowed people to engage with issues differently. "It leads us back to the question of what country are we trying to build, what country do we want our children to grow up in? It is a question that remains as important today as when Mandela and Tambo asked it."
The Constitution is words in a document and active citizenship and engagement is needed to bring it to life, he added. "We won't have democracy merely because we farm responsibilities out to 399 MP's, and Mbuyeseni Ndlozi."
Manuel said the Constitution was designed as if Nelson Mandela would always have been president, "like a divine being". "We thought we won't have a president that will abuse power, appoint bad ambassadors or try to manipulate the public protector. We need to talk about it."