Motlanthe and Manuel seem to have had enough and are likely to join others in leaving government.
Government officials told the Mail & Guardian that Manuel, planning minister in the presidency, could be heading overseas to one of the world’s multilateral financial institutions or companies.
Manuel chaired the International Monetary Fund’s governance reform committee at its inception in 2008 and has kept up close relationships with top officials there as well as at the World Bank.
Talk of Manuel’s imminent departure from the Cabinet comes just a few days after his decision to decline nomination for a position in the ANC national executive committee. Those close to him believe his decision to decline the party’s top post was the clearest indication yet that he was preparing his exit from Cabinet.
Manuel this week poured cold water on speculations that he was planning to leave. Addressing a national planning commission breakfast, he was guarded when speaking to journalists about his future. “At the moment I have no place to go. Nobody wants me, so I guess South Africa is stuck with me,” said Manuel.
Senior government officials said this week that Manuel believed it was time for him to go after he had delivered the comprehensive national development plan, which diagnosed the country’s socioeconomic conditions in the past 18 years and outlined plans to reverse the dire situation.
Manuel has 'had enough'
Manuel is one of the last remaining Cabinet ministers who served under former president Thabo Mbeki.
Although some of his colleagues resigned after Mbeki was recalled, Manuel chose to remain in government. But senior officials said he had had enough.
“What frustrates him the most is the disregard of the Public Finance Management Act by senior ANC politicians serving in government. He is finding it very difficult to associate with some of the controversial decisions in government, which includes the funding of Zuma’s Nkandla complex,” said an official.
At an unveiling of a bench and a tree-planting ceremony in honour of former ANC stalwart Kader Asmal two weeks ago, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu told Manuel he did not belong in “this government”.
“What has happened to us? I mean, what has happened to us that we can just go on going on? Who in their right minds could have approved the expenditure of more than R200-million? And to do it in that area – where you have this nice place ... and just around there the squalor and poverty. What is the matter with us?” Tutu was quoted as saying.
Until recently, Zuma had not firmly acknowledged the importance of the national development plan, despite it being welcomed by many in society.
Manuel is likely not to be the only key Cabinet minister to be lost to the Zuma administration. Motlanthe, the deputy president, is also contemplating leaving office before the end of his term in 2014.
Motlanthe may step down
Some of Motlanthe’s close allies believe that he might step down from his position as early as January to make way for the new ANC deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
Like Manuel, Motlanthe also declined nomination for a place in the national executive committee after being defeated by Zuma. According to government and ANC insiders, Motlanthe is likely to suggest that he be released from his responsibilities to allow the new leadership to impose its authority.
His associates believe he would not want to be a lame duck deputy who is passed over by his juniors aware of his impotency. They added that it would be awkward for him to implement decisions with which he disagreed.
His relationship with Zuma has also deteriorated over the past few months, which would make it a hard for them to work together.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe commented this week that Motlanthe would be allowed to finish his term, saying the situation was different from that of Mbeki, who was recalled with a few months left before his term ended.
But Mantashe’s comment in Business Day this week that Ramaphosa would be a de facto prime minister fuelled speculation that Motlanthe was dispensable and no longer needed.
Others likely to follow
Other ministers likely to exit the Cabinet before 2014 are Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.
Also in the firing line are Limpopo and North West premiers Cassel Mathale and Thandi Modise, and Tshwane and Johannesburg executive mayors Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and Parks Tau. They all campaigned for change in the ANC leadership in Mangaung.
Speaking to the M&G this week, Modise, who lost the contest for the position of national chairperson to Baleka Mbete, said she was aware of moves to remove her as premier. She claimed this was because of her commitment to fight rampant corruption in the province.
The Mangaung victors fired the first salvo when they pushed for the dissolution of the ANC Youth League national executive committee. Following fierce debates at the plenary on Wednesday night after Mpumalanga tabled a motion to disband the league, the conference decided to refer the matter to the new national executive committee.