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Trevor Manuel has got COPE story all wrong

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel says his reputation is on the line after claims by JJ Tabane that he was involved in the formation of Cope while serving as an ANC NEC member.
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel says his reputation is on the line after claims by JJ Tabane that he was involved in the formation of Cope while serving as an ANC NEC member.
Image: James Oatway

One of the greatest dangers of living through a time of perverted reality, a time when things that are right are branded as wrong by the powers that be, is that good men and women may also begin to lose grasp of their own ethical compass.

At such times, when evil is called good and wrong is perverted to right, the lines blur and the good people begin to doubt themselves.

Our country was under siege for so long and our reality was so thoroughly perverted in the period from 2008 to 2017 that many among us can no longer tell what is wrong and what is right, what is evil and what is good.

Criminals were in ministerial positions while upstanding citizens were cowering in fear.

The good Scorpions were disbanded while corruption-accused walked free.

It comes as no surprise that some of our best people are showing signs of classic post traumatic stress disorder — the abuser’s lies during the time of perversion are beginning to seem like truth to the victims.

In these victims’ eyes, the correct ethical stances they took now seem to have been wrong.

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, the man who oversaw the longest run of economic growth and transformation in democratic SA’s history, is a case in point.

Manuel has threatened legal action against political commentator Onkgopotse JJ Tabane after the latter said in an interview that ANC leaders — including Manuel, Tito Mboweni, Thabo Mbeki, and Enoch Godongwana — were responsible for the formation of the Congress of the People in the lead-up to the 2009 elections.

Manuel says Tabane’s “wrongful and unlawful conduct has caused me and continues to cause me great harm”.

Manuel should drop the lawsuit. There is no defamation here.

You see, the decision to form COPE by the likes of Mosiuoa Lekota, Mbhazima Shilowa and others was a laudable act of patriotism and bravery.

Everything that those men and women warned us about and stood against back then has been vindicated by the Zondo Commission’s findings.

They were trying to stop the looming kleptocracy.

They should all get medals.

The tragedy and scandal here is not that COPE was formed.

It is that more ANC leaders did not stand up and be counted when COPE was formed.

The likes of Gwede Mantashe and many others took COPE to court and threw mud at its leaders.

Society may blame the ANC for the rot we are in now, but the real failure is that SA did not take up the opportunity presented by COPE to split the ANC vote and build a truly representative multiparty democracy in SA.

If a more vigorous COPE, openly supported by Manuel and others, had been formed and sustained we would not be here today.

We would have had a maturing alternative to the Zuma ANC — or an entirely different political configuration or ruling party!

Imagine the bullet we would have missed.

Manuel’s threatened lawsuit fails on two counts.

First, if Manuel did not help form COPE, then he is complaining and confessing that he was not brave.

A man who was brave enough to stand against the apartheid regime did nothing to stop the rise of a corrupt Zuma and the theft of the democracy he had given his life to build.

Sadder still is the line that Manuel is taking — that there was something wrong, something that tarnishes the reputation, about leaving the ANC at that time.

Manuel has written extensively and persuasively about the breakdown of the state, the corruption, the reversal of our fortunes after 2008.

How can a man who knows exactly where the problem started and where the problem lies be so blind as to even attempt to say being associated with those who were warning about exactly this breakdown is to be brought into disrepute?

The problem here is that our ethical compass has been turned topsy-turvy by the Zuma brigade.

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu has asked Ramaphosa to investigate Tabane’s allegations.

Sisulu, a key cog in the Zuma campaign in 2007, says that forming COPE was treachery and the “bold revelations by Dr Tabane must not be taken lightly”.

What poppycock.

Sisulu and the many others who sang and danced as the Nkandla crooner waltzed to power should be brought to account for what they did and what they witnessed while the state was handed over to criminals by Zuma.

Sisulu’s demand for a witch-hunt against those who stood up for what is right shows that, in her mind, wrong is right and evil is good.

Ramaphosa should ask her what she did when the Guptas were appointing ministers.

He should also pour Mbeki, Manuel, Mboweni, Godongwana, Shilowa, Lekota and everyone else who stood up and helped form COPE a double shot of Bell’s.

The good deserve praise, not shame.

It was a good and honourable thing to stand against the looming theft of our state.

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