Trevor Manual, South Africa’s Minister of Finance for the last fourteen years, is an excellent speaker, and began by welcoming us in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. You can read more about him in Wikipedia.
The main theme of the Sunday event, with 220 South Africans attending – even though there was only three days notice – and a good rugby game on the “box” – was that the South African courts have now decreed that South Africans abroad are now entitled to vote. Trevor explained the procedures which were quite simple. A form needed to be downloaded from the Internet, printed out and filled in, and then it had to be taken around to the South African Embassy. He emphasised, throughout the meeting how important it was for South Africans to register and vote in case they lose the facility in the future.
Trevor said it was his duty to speak about everyone voting for the ANC. But then, as an ANC senior member, he had to! He said that, in politics, all politicians of any party were friends, except in the actual parliament and, of course, at election time!
He asks for the ANC to be trusted and to give them more time after explaining that SA has only been a democracy for 15 years. Naturally he declined to mention the good structure the country was in when they took it over. He said that people look to the ANC for the excellent economy (but I say this is due to the excellent stewardship of Trevor Manual rather than due to the ANC in general). South Africans are affected by economic issues but not as much as many people thought they would be. He made a comment about the world having to dance until the music stops and, in this case, the music was the banks!
He then spoke about the present economic conditions and singled out Platinum. Apart from expensive jewellery, this was used to make catalytic converters for the motor industry and that the problem the industrial West was having in that area was not good for Platinum production.
He also said that South Africans don’t suffer the same gloom and doom as many other peoples do. South Africans not having the trillions of debt that the USA and UK (and many other industrial nations) are generating.
Trevor then spoke about crime – he said that although there are more burglaries per capita in London than Johannesburg, in London the burglars tend to burgle when the house owner is away, whereas in South Africa they don’t care and use violence to get their way. This, he said, has to stop as South Africa must produce a society where it is safe for our women and children.
Also, we must look into the activities of our local police a little more thoroughly. We should take an interest in them more. After all: “If they think you don’t care, they won’t.“
Trevor couldn’t stress this enough. We would all become more safe if we took more of an interest in the police in our areas than just rely on private security companies.
All the South African pollsters are now saying the ANC will win the next election and our slogan for this election is “Working together we can do more.”
But, he stressed, freedom to take part in democracy means you have the responsibility to make it work. We have to fight for democracy, it is our responsibility.
He then quoted Paul Kruger saying “Alles sal regt kom”. The literal translation is “all shall come right”, but what the speaker was saying is that we all need to be more active in our democracy.
He spoke about the ANC and said that once a job becomes all about just earning an income we would have already lost the battle.
Having an active state and a passive electorate is not democracy! It will not appeal to people who prefer leisure over work. I am not sure now about South Africa, but this is very common in London!
Trevor is, of course, very knowledgeable about the world financial situation and also the British political situation. He made a joke about Polish plumbers and SA security guards, and what he was attempting to say was that in times of economic stress people become insular and parochial.
He was then asked how the next financial minister would perform. Trevor replied that there were too many international issues to be able to give a satisfactory reply, but said he had developed a great civil service team behind him that the new minister could rely upon.
He was asked about why the Skorpions were disbanded. Here, Mr Manual had to be careful how he answered and had to take the ANC line and could be forgiven for this! What he did say was that it was wrong that the Skorpions were allowed to choose their own cases. Another specialised crime unit will be formed who won’t be able to cherry pick crimes they investigate. However, to the listening public what was disturbing was that we learnt that cases would be chosen by the government. (So I guess they won’t pick on Zuma any more?)
South African financial institutions are well capitalised and should be able to ride out what the world throw at us. He then told a joke about an Italian minister who said that Italian banks are safe. He said that this was because the directors don’t have computers and they don’t speak English!
Exchange controls have protected SA and in relative terms SA is safe. He stressed that the government will not relax their restriction for SA companies to subsidise their overseas subsidiaries with South African currency as they are not going to risk local pension funds.
When asked about progress we learned that 90% of South Africans now have electricity in their homes and that progress is continuing but it is an expensive and long job.
With regards to greener issues, we were told that a carbon tax fund was set up to help change lighting in buildings. Also that they were introducing a heavier tax for cars that were “gas guzzlers” so people now have a choice, pay more if they don’t want to be green.’ South Africa is also very proud of its own designed and produced electric car.
My verdict? Mr Manual is an honest and sincere man, but has to toe the ANC line, especially since the South African ambassadress was by his side. By this I am not intimating anything detrimental to the ANC but, as in any country, a politician has to toe the party line and no one person can ever agree to everything that his party says or decrees. It is also apparent that he was held in high esteem by most all of the 220 South Africans at the meeting.
I would go further. Tomorrow I am covering a new party in Britain called Jury Team which is setting up shop to support any independent MP to stand for Parliament should Jury Team feel he or she has a chance. They can be left wing or right wing, it doesn’t matter. The objective is to break the hold on MPs honesty that the whip system destroys.
Should Mr Manual think of moving to the UK, I would certainly point him in the right direction. Britain needs at least one honest MP. However, I must warn him that he’ll be very lonely there!