“RUN‚ run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me; I’m the gingerbread man! Now that is a nice story‚ but it’s not so good if you are the president”.
These were the words of former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Tuesday in an interview with Tim Modise on Soweto TV.
Mr Manuel was asked to comment on several issues including the call for President Jacob Zuma to step down following a Constitutional Court judgment last week, which found that he had failed to uphold the Constitution.
“It’s not about your ability to evade other people deciding what you should do. It’s about your ability to lead … which is very different‚ which is not the gingerbread man. It’s a leader of a people of a nation. It’s living out an oath that you took … an oath that sadly a court had to remind you that you had taken. I think it’s a deep tragedy‚” Mr Manuel said.
He said the country faced a deep moment of crisis‚ “but we must be thankful that we have a system of courts that is as resolute as it is”.
The call from African National Congress (ANC)) veteran Ahmed Kathrada for Mr Zuma to resign was a “humble message from a strong voice of thinking people across the country‚ which recognises the strength of the Constitution and the value of the decision of the Constitutional Court”‚ Mr Manuel said.
Speaking about the dismissal of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene‚ Mr Manuel said: “I cannot understand why you’d take a decent‚ hard-working‚ committed‚ smart‚ efficient and capable minister like Nene and drop him without reason and then conjure up some reason like he would be required to sit in the regional office of a bank to be developed which may utilise 10%-15% of his responsible time he had demonstrated in the finance ministry.”
When asked to compare the call from the ANC for former president Thabo Mbeki to resign in 2008 to that of Mr Zuma to step down‚ he said: “Now the situation is not comparable. There is much broader and resonant voice to which you have added the highest court in the land that actually suggests that it’s not a minor political infringement but a violation of the key oath of office of the head of state‚ which I think is a deep crisis. I think it’s in all of our interests that the president actually steps aside.”
Mr Manuel denied being part of a meeting to discuss Cabinet appointments with businessman Johann Rupert in December following Mr Nene’s firing.