Cosatu calls for Manuel's head

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) wants ANC president Jacob Zuma’s new administration to axe Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, saying his recent budget allocation was not in line with the ruling party’s new policies.

Cosatu’s call came after Manuel made a strong showing on the ANC’s parliamentary list, coming in at number four.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini lambasted Manuel for failing to act decisively in addressing the current financial crisis, which has resulted in thousands of job losses.

He said it was “irresponsible” of Manuel to refuse help to struggling sectors, particularly the motor industry, which has requested about R10-billion from the Treasury to save 25 000 jobs.

“His [Manuel] argument is that South Africa’s economy depended on those countries that iroduced cars and therefore he does not see any point of bailing them out. That’s an irresponsible argument. If the United State can make interventions known to be socialist, why can’t we do the same in South Africa.
It is now an open secret that our country is not immune to what is happening around the world. It is wrong for Treasury to say South Africa is not ready for the interventions.”

Dlamini also criticised Manuel’s management of the country’s macroeconomic policies, which he said had largely benefited big businesses.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Thursday told a press briefing in Johannesburg the government’s fiscal policies, including Manuel’s budget, did not adequately respond to the challenges at hand.

“The budget will not sufficiently cushion workers and the poor from the job losses and resultant poverty disaster,” said Vavi.

“Further fiscal measures will need to be considered,” he added.

Vavi also took a swipe at Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni, saying his conservative monetary policy committee was to blame for the massive decline in economic growth.

“At the time when all industrialised economies were aggressively cutting rates in response to the global economic crises, the Reserve Bank bucked the trend and maintained extraordinary high levels of interest rates and a holier-than-thou attitude to price stability.

“They dismissed our concerns and our calls for aggressive cutting of interest rates, but now today workers are paying the price for their short-sightedness. The toxic chickens of job losses have now come home to roost indeed,” said Vavi.

Cedric Gina, president of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said that there was a high level of unhappiness within the federation regarding Manuel’s management style.

He said Cosatu was particularly disappointed with Manuel’s budget allocation, arguing that it was not enough to address the country’s economic crisis.

Gina said Manuel’s R1,6-billion allocation for the new industrial strategy was too little to change the structure of the country’s economy.

The ANC’s leftist partners—Cosatu and the South African Communist Party—want the government to put more resources into industrial strategy as they believe this would create more jobs.

“If you don’t allocate enough money in manufacturing, it means you are not going to be able to change the structure of the economy. One of the things that we want to see is to have more beneficiations, but if there is no enough money, many countries will continue to import more raw materials from South Africa.

Gina said Cosatu did not want to tell the ANC who should replace Manuel but he believed the party had many cadres who were capable of doing the job.

Gina said Manuel had already told senior ANC members that he did not want to continue as finance minister after the elections.

Manuel’s spokesperson Thoraya Pandy said Cosatu’s criticism of Manuel did not warrant any comment.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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