Manuel slams ‘reckless’ court move on Gordhan

Trevor Manuel  Picture: JAMES OATWAY/Sunday Times
Trevor Manuel
Picture: JAMES OATWAY/Sunday Times

Constitutional principles being eroded, says ex-finance minister

Fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan are reckless‚ with South Africa facing leadership deficiencies across sectors that are leading to a descent in the national conversation and a move away from constitutional principles‚ former finance minister Trevor Manuel said yesterday.

At the same time, many sections of the country were failing to adequately face the question of national identity‚ with those on either side of the debate increasingly intolerant‚ Manuel said in an address to a Business Day/Financial Mail relaunch event in Johannesburg.

South Africa was facing a steady erosion of constitutional principles and those incapable of understanding this should step aside‚ Manuel said.

In a dismal year for the political economy‚ the March 31 judgment reaffirming the powers of the public protector stood out.

President Jacob Zuma had failed to respect the powers of a Chapter 9 institution‚ while parliament‚ in not exercising oversight‚ continued to fail to reflect on this deficiency‚ Manuel said.

“We have not yet fully digested the import of the constitutional court judgment finding significant failure in the other two tiers of government. “When you have one arm of government saying the two other arms have failed, that is a deep crisis‚” he said.

This extended more generally to areas such as the roles and responsibilities of state officials‚ including ministers.

“If the Minister of Mineral Resources wants to lead a team to look at the banking‚ that needs be published in the government gazette‚” Manuel said.

“What we have seen is a flagrant disregard for the constitution.” However, he appealed against placing the problems on one person.

“Many of our problems are far more systemic than a focus on a single individual,” he said.

Manuel appealed for a reinvigorated national conversation‚ with one of the first questions being how far the country had fallen.

South Africa was a constitutional democracy‚ but the constitution was only meant to serve as an incomplete bridge between the country’s past‚ and future development.

“The national project is both complex and exceedingly incomplete‚ and the struggle at the centre is for national identity‚” Manuel said.

“The fees must fall campaign is one of the starkest reminders of the incompleteness of that bridge.”

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