Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has slammed President Jacob Zuma for having no moral compass, adding that the president’s statement that a massacre like Sharpeville never be repeated was hypocritical because he had never apologised for the Marikana massacre.
The massacre, which happened on Zuma’s watch, followed a protracted mineworkers strike in 2012 in which at least 34 lives were lost.
Zuma’s most recent comments came on the commemoration of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, during a Human Rights Day address in Ginsberg, Eastern Cape.
“[On] Human Rights Day, the president was speaking in Ginsberg. Read the story of Sharpeville, look at history. And, I don’t know. Who was the president during the shooting in Marikana?” Manuel said in an interview.
“And he expects Verwoerd to apologise for Sharpeville? The words are lost on him. He has no concept of responsibility, everything goes on automatic pilot.”
Manuel said the lack of accountability shown by the government as a collective during the uproar over the Sassa grants fracas pointed to a general malaise that set in as Zuma began his ascent to power in 2007.
A similar example that highlighted the failure to be accountable included the Constitutional Court’s judgment in March last year that the president had violated his oath of office.
Manuel was speaking in the context of late stalwart Ahmed Kathrada’s letter calling for Zuma’s immediate resignation, following “widespread criticism, condemnation and demand” for this to happen.
In the letter, Kathrada said that while he had not spoken out publicly against the wasteful public monies spent on Nkandla, nor accusations of Zuma being “under the influence of the Guptas”, the inaction of the ANC’s collective leadership had forced him to break his silence.
Manuel said the president’s failure to rein in the ANC Youth League under Julius Malema in the run-up to the ANC’s 52nd Polokwane conference was just a precursor to what was now the norm among the senior cadreship of leaders surrounding Zuma.
“The problem began when Jacob Zuma empowered that youth league to behave as badly as they did. Their conduct at Polokwane in 2007 was quite unforgivable – it was disrespectful, it was crass.
“And they were gonna drive this agenda that everybody associated with Thabo Mbeki be removed …
“In Polokwane, they (Zuma acolytes, including Julius Malema’s ANCYL) would not allow Mosioua Lekota, the chairperson, to open the meeting,” he said.
“And because of that, these people saw that they had immense power. And a little while later, I forget what the circumstances were, but Julius had misbehaved, and then there was a disciplinary inquiry. And he was found guilty and it was agreed that he should go under political education; but it didn’t happen.
“And I think one of the reasons it didn’t happen was (Malema) believed he was above everybody, because he experienced this crude, raw power.”
Lack of repercussions was now the norm in government, Manuel said, leading to Cabinet ministers, such as Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, to behave with impunity – even when oversight bodies, including the judiciary and legislature found them to be overstepping the laws that governed them.
“The charges (against Malema) were quite spurious, but the leadership was too weak to handle the charges. I think what you’re dealing with now is the same lack of leadership seen with Bathabile [Dlamini] and Faith Muthambi. But that talking doesn’t happen.”
“There’s nothing, there’s no moral compass. And so in the big political spiel, if you speak of Sharpeville Day and you don’t speak of Marikana … When the Constitutional Court says you have violated your oath of office and you say you’re not afraid of jail.”
This, he said, was not the spirit of consensus and nation-building of the ANC’s stalwarts like Kathrada.