President Jacob Zuma was not the only person to blame for the current state of affairs in South Africa as the ruling African National Congress’ national executive committee (NEC) elected in 2012 “does what it is told”, former finance minister Trevor Manuel said.
“I wish that I could attribute all of this destruction to the person of the president, but he doesn’t act alone. And in fact, mainly gets others to act on his behalf,” Manuel said, speaking at the Eric Molobi Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Thursday night.
Discussing leadership, ethics, and change, Manuel predicted the ANC’s December elective conference could collapse during the credential stage, citing the possible manipulation of ANC branch numbers.
Manuel highlighted the increase in membership leading up to the 2012 elective conference in Mangaung and how in 2015 it declined again.
“My hunch is that there are prospects of fresh manipulation of numbers … and if this is so, the likelihood of the conference collapsing into a heap at the point of credential stage on days one and two are actually incredibly high,” he said.
“If the conference does proceed, the same awful situation will play out – big strong slates with much higher stakes.”
He said South Africa needed the governing party to go into the elective conference having done a “few rational things”, including evaluating its performance since the last elective conference.
He said that the ANC needed a leadership shift for the better.
“We need an ANC that wishes a leadership change for the better; we need an ANC that will place a premium on ethics and hold its leadership to account; we need an ANC that will recognise that it has lost its way; moreover we need an ANC that is capable of developing and articulating a vision for the future for all South Africans as directed by its own and the South African Constitution.”
Speaking of past ANC leaders, Manuel said they represented sacrifice, ethics and change that compelled members to action.
He said it was hope that lifted spirits in the dark days of apartheid, and he said it was hope coupled with the cause that held the ANC together and inspired them.
“But all of that is wiped out due to those who occupy offices begin self-serving and as venial as they are. That hope is vanquished by letting into the inner sancter of our movement those whose only attributes appears to be the obsequence. For leadership, ethics and change we must make a new beginning,” Manuel said.
“The many issues that present at this time, speak to that new beginning …”
He said the conduct of Molobi as an activist, the consciousness of his leadership and the way in which he served was a call to action.
“We must build a new future, we cannot walk away from our collective responsibilities.”
Molobi died on June 4, 2006, aged 58 after a battle with cancer.