The man deployed as one of the African Union’s special envoys to raise funds for Africa’s fight against Covid-19 has come out guns blazing with a criticism of his own country’s economic measures as dictated by the current state of lockdown.
Speaking during an interview on SAFM on Monday morning, a day after publishing an op-ed in City Press, the chairman of the Old Mutual Group and senior adviser to the Rothschild Group, Trevor Manuel, began by comparing the behaviour of local security forces under the current state of disaster to that of the apartheid military.
He also contrasted their behaviour with that of law enforcement around the world.
This came against the backdrop of the court confirmation that the soldiers that killed Alexandra resident Collins Khosa on April 10 while enforcing lockdown regulations had not yet been suspended and were still on duty.
“I don’t believe that there is a trade-off between lives and livelihood, I don’t believe there’s a trade-off between constitutional rights and the lockdown,” said Manuel on SAFM.
“I think that it’s very important that the security services, who have a particularly important role to play during the lockdown, are an asset and that they help people. I have seen this elsewhere in the world. Members of the police go about, they help people. In this country, it’s all about the use of force. It’s about the abuse of law…”
Additionally, Manuel compared the actions of law enforcement officers during the lockdown to those of officers during apartheid and said that if such conduct was unacceptable then, then it is unacceptable now.
The former finance minister believed that members of the executive needed to take responsibility in this regard.
Not dealing with these problems could give rise to a “coup state”. He said we needed to ask government to be a lot more considered and rational in its decision-making process from here on out.
When asked about his opinion on a way forward and whether it was right to move forward with the lockdown in its current form, Manuel said he saw a three-part approach to this that could be managed through firstly controlling the infection rates and, secondly, ensuring that the economic decisions made from now onwards were rational.
In Manuel’s opinion, a lot of the decisions that had been made to date had “not passed the test of rationality”.
“What you can and can’t buy and so on doesn’t work. Also, the idea that you can exercise only in a three-hour period. None of these pass the test of rationality,” said Manuel.
“We need voices to speak to the [government’s interministerial Covid-19] National Command Council and ask that rationality be the order of the day.”
The third part of his approach would involve an appeal to the conduct of both law enforcement and citizens with the main aim of beating the disease.
These appeals are similar to those he made in his op-ed, which he concluded with a plea to the country’s political decision-makers to make their voices be heard “so that we continue to hold up Madiba’s words and face the future together. We cannot give up on the values of our Constitution because of the lockdown”.
(Compiled by Kaunda Selisho)