“I make no apologies, Archbishop, for my view that the presidency of Jacob Zuma was a total disaster for South Africa”.
These are the words of former finance minister Trevor Manuel who was speaking at the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Public Lecture at the University of the Western Cape last night.
“Many are aware that I served in his cabinet and until May 2014, charged with the responsibility to draft the National Development Plan [NDP]. Granted, president Zuma did not interfere with the work of the planning commission, nor did he seek to amend any of its recommendations and go and look at what we were able to produce. It [Zuma’s presidency] did not even attempt to soften the recommendations in a whole chapter devoted to fighting corruption or the very critical chapter on building a capable and developmental state. He left it, saying we have the National Development Plan, but I think Winnie would say he merely ignored the ending,” Manuel said.
The former finance minister added that six years after the NDP was handed to former president Jacob Zuma in parliament very little has been achieved.
“His [Zuma’s] legacy has left us with the biggest challenge yet since democracy,” Manuel said.
News24 reports that Manuel further said that under Zuma’s tenure the governing party became a shadow of its former self and that the former president paid lip for pioneering the NDP while many are of the view that he overlooked the plan.
“It’s clear his attention and priorities lie elsewhere,” Manuel is quoted as saying.
Zuma’s ascension to the presidency following Thabo Mbeki’s ousting led to poor governance, the former finance minister reportedly said.
“One only has to assess the extent of destruction of key state institutions, especially in the criminal justice and state security institutions.
“In addition, virtually all of the state-owned corporations (SOCs) have been bankrupted by the awful combination of corruption and mismanagement. Given the vast sums of money that will be needed to support the SOCs, the delivery of basic services to address inequality will be compromised..
“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.
“We have seen incompetent ministers appoint unqualified DGs (directors-general) in many departments, happy that competent and dedicated professional public servants had been driven out,” Manuel is quoted as saying.
The former finance minister reportedly added that president Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’ – committed to remedying the mayhem wrought during Zuma’s presidency – would face a difficult task.
“His victory [Ramaphosa’s] was on a slender margin in December, and he has a compromised national executive committee made up of too many individuals who will try and throw concrete into the mechanisms to prevent the wheels of justice from turning.
“Why? Because they have much to fear and too much to lose in their quest for personal enrichment. It is for this reason that we must all commit to supporting him in his endeavours for leadership against the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We need to understand the enormity of the challenge if only to root out corruption,” Manuel was quoted as saying.