Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Lecture 2018: Trevor Manuel On The Persistence of Poverty and the Importance of Leadership
Trevor Manuel believes that former President Jacob Zuma’s term in office was a “total disaster” for South Africa,
Mr Manuel, who was a minister in the administration of four post-apartheid presidents starting with Nelson Mandela, was speaking at the University of the Western Cape on Wednesday night (16 May) where he delivered the 2018 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Public Lecture.
Speaking at the Main Hall, the former finance minister used his lecture’s main theme – the persistence of poverty, inequality and unemployment – to talk about the values of former President Nelson Mandela and the damage that President Zuma did to the country.
The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust aims to have a greater social impact by addressing these social economic challenges. It aims to provide educational opportunities, skills and entrepreneurial development as well as promote health awareness.
“I make no apologies for sharing my view that the presidency of Jacob Zuma was a total disaster for South Africa,” Mr Manuel said. “His legacy has left us with the biggest challenge yet since democracy, and these challenges will arise in an ongoing way.”
He said Mr Zuma’s successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, had a difficult task ahead to rebuild the country.
“President Ramaphosa has an exceedingly difficult task. His victory was on a slender margin in December, and he has a compromised National Executive Committee.”
Mr Manuel said he believed that President Thabo’s removal in October 2008 had led to a very swift change in South Africa’s fortunes.
“There was the change of personnel in state institutions, the breakdown of trust and the absence of visible, positive leadership. The ANC would become a mere shadow of what it once was.”
Mr Manuel gave examples of key areas that had been neglected by the Zuma administration, and said the South African government had failed its people.
“We have seen that the spending available per capita in both education and healthcare have fallen quite rapidly. Hospitals are not functioning properly, school feeding programmes in many districts have been discontinued, and we still have children relieving themselves in the veld outside the school because there are no toilets.”
Mr Manuel was critical of the current crop of senior government officials, and said that even though there were several inquiries into state capture, getting rid of corrupt officials would be a difficult task.
He also believed that incompetent ministers had deliberately appointed incompetent DGs after they had driven out competent professional public officials.
He also warned that South Africans were no longer patient with government delivery, saying that the “gift of patience granted by the people since 1994 has been withdrawn”.
“What the indicators suggest is that if one is poor, and born of poor parents, all of the elements of poverty, inequality and unemployment are likely to be visited upon such a person.”
Mr Manuel called on South Africans to become active citizens and call out wrongdoing.
“The public representatives should be seen to hold public servants to account, and the communities must, in turn, hold their public representatives to account. It is the accountability chain that must be a permanent feature, and not merely something raised on the eve of an election.”
A present and conscious leadership, Mr Manuel said, must accompany this.
“In the spirit of Madiba,” he concluded, “let us lead the people towards finding solutions.”