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Lindiwe Zulu tackles fall-out with Manuel after business comments

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has denied former finance minister Trevor Manuel’s claim that trust has been lost in the Cabinet and between the government and the market, following President Jacob Zuma’s decision to remove Nhlanhla Nene from his position as finance minister. 

“I don’t agree. I completely don’t agree. I don’t even think trust has been broken in my view, because I don’t think it can be broken by one unfortunate event. Trust is something we must all build on collectively. One makes mistakes, but the mistake was corrected,” City Press reported Zulu as saying.

In an interview with Talk Radio 702, Zulu said the ANC has been generally viewed as a party that is not willing to talk to big business. She said that to prevent a repeat of incidents such as the fallout from Nene’s dismissal, business needed to communicate more with the governing party.

“Big business, talk to the president as much as you possibly can. Let it not be the president that keeps on calling big business. Big business must also have this interest at heart,” Zulu said. 

“There mustn’t be a gap where between a decision that’s taken and the impact of that decision that’s going to be taken. We need to find better ways and means of ensuring that what has happened this time doesn’t repeat itself. That’s just the bottom line.” 

Zulu’s statement followed a report in the Mail & Guardian, where she was quoted as saying that if business had rallied behind Zuma’s decision to appoint Des van Rooyen as finance minister, the economic effect would not have been so dire. 

On 702, however, she said she did not believe big business is obligated to support Zuma’s decisions and claimed the M&G had taken her comment out of context.  

“I mean, how do they have an obligation to support a decision that was taken by the president? And if they had an obligation, by the way, I don’t think that the president would have reversed the decision. He reversed the decision because he listened to business,” Zulu said. 

Following the M&G’s report, Manuel wrote a letter to Zulu, which was published in City Press on Sunday. Manuel said Van Rooyen’s childhood friend, Gaddafi Rabotapi, had known for a month about his appointment as finance minister — before members of Cabinet knew about it. In addition, Van Rooyen’s brother had been aware that a big change might be happening the week of the announcement, Manuel wrote. 

“The picture I am sketching for you is that the saga of dismissing a competent minister and replacing him without warning or explanation led to a complete breakdown in trust,” Manuel wrote. “It cannot be correct that there is an outside hand (and not the ruling party) that knows more than Cabinet does about unfolding events.” 

“If the views expressed by ministers in the post-Cabinet briefing are correct — and I have no reason to doubt this — the events of the previous day shook the trust of the Cabinet collective at its roots.”

Manuel went on to say that trust had been broken between the government and the markets, too. 

Zulu said although she had no knowledge that Nene was going to be sacked, Zuma has the prerogative to remove ministers from the Cabinet, as stipulated in the Constitution. 

She went on to say that big business must talk to the president before a crisis erupts, rather than only contact the government when there is a problem. 

“After making the decision, he [Zuma] still thought it important to call relevant businesses and engage with them. That shows he has trust in them,” Zulu said. 

“My view is that the ANC almost all the time tries to engage with business, but business engages only when they see a threat to their world. My point is they should make sure they always engage; not only now that there is a problem must they say we must rally around now that we are going to lose our money.” 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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