Fikile, do you remember the tears you shed over the Guptas – Trevor Manuel

Trevor ManuelI have tried, unsuccessfully, to understand the purpose of the article that was first published in your name in the Daily Maverick. You clearly did not understand what I said in the recent panel discussion about Nelson Mandela’s economic legacy.

Dear Fikile,

The drafters of your letter to me try, unsuccessfully, to weave a story that drifts from Andre Odendaal, Moeletsi Mbeki, Anton Lembede and Martin Luther King, to lies about our household income. The only result is absolute confusion.

I stand by what I said at the Nelson Mandela Foundation: the term “White Monopoly Capital” was conjured up by Bell Pottinger on behalf of the Guptas, and filtered into the political discourse to serve their agenda. Since then I have become aware of the specificity of the facts. As Ranjeni Munusamy reminds us, the term was developed by Bell Pottinger’s Victoria Geoghegan, who in an email to Duduzane Zuma styled “White Monopoly Capital” as a narrative and filtered it into the discourse via Collen Maine, Andile Mngxitama and Mzwanele Manyi.

The idea of ‘White Monopoly Capital’ (WMC) is a ruse to draw attention away from our pressing policy priorities. It is for this reason that I asked what the alternative is:

Accounting Services: Tax, Company Registrations and BBBEE Services

“Is it Indian Monopoly Capture out of Saxonwold?”

In case you haven’t understood my initial statement, this is a specific reference to the wheeling and dealing of the Guptas. It goes without saying that the scandalous conduct of this particular family must be separated from the significant contributions to the liberation struggle of many thousands of people of Indian origin.

To recast for your benefit, WMC is an instrument of propaganda that draws attention to one issue in a manner that ignores the realities confronting us. I must assume from your implacable belief in its existence that you have consumed the idea – hook, line and sinker.

I agree with the views of the SACP, as expressed in their recent statement following the Central Committee meeting of 2-4 June, that one of the “features of the Gupta parasitic-patronage network” is “a diversionary populist ideological platform”. Amongst other insightful points the SACP makes, which you would do well to read carefully, it says:

“In the face of growing public exposure of their misdeeds, there have been a number of ideological interventions from the parasitic-patronage faction.”

If you also took the trouble to read the Economics Resolutions of each ANC Conference since the 49th in 1994, you will not find the language of ‘White Monopoly Capital’ in any of them. This is because WMC is not part of the lexicon of terms used in ANC policy. It was conjured up as a red herring to obscure the misdeeds of the Guptas and those who benefit from their patronage network.

Words are important, and in the political economy terms such as monopoly have a distinct meaning. The tasks at hand remain enormous. I would welcome a rational policy discussion with you but that depends on your getting facts right. To use terms such as “neoliberal sleeper” to describe me obfuscates the real issues. Extensive research, including by international economists, has established that South Africa has the most redistributive income tax system in the world, and that its social expenditure is largely progressive. But our ongoing challenge is of course economic growth to sustain this, the creation of jobs to improve the standards of living for our people, and the dramatic reduction of inequality by improving public education, and changing the apartheid landscape of our cities.

The National Development Plan placed its central focus on how to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. These remain cornerstone challenges. They will not disappear simply because some new nefarious slogan has been dreamt up by Bell Pottinger and the Guptas. Our problem is that too many people are left behind, excluded from access to good quality education, better quality public service and an investment in skills. Of course, 23 years on, the exclusion of so many still bears all of the dimensions of race, class, gender and geography. These challenges are not wished away; we need action, measurement and communication with all South Africans.

You would recall that the ANC’s 53rd national conference in 2012 adopted the National Development Plan as a policy of the governing party. The NDP also makes a series of recommendations about policing to deal with the realities of poverty, and I would advise you to scrupulously examine these. Unfortunately, it is as though the NDP has been abandoned as people who occupy senior positions of State appear more focused on demonstrating that it is their turn to eat.

It is odd, Fikile, that a mere five years ago you described President Zuma as a “politically bankrupt” leader who married “every week”. Odd, because I have a clear memory of an incident that may be at the heart of why you have responded to me in the manner you have. That memory goes back to an ANC NEC meeting in August 2011. There, the Fikile Mbalula we once knew wept as he spoke. He explained he’d been called to Saxonwold by the Guptas in May 2009 and was told that he was being promoted from the position of Deputy Minister of Police to Minister of Sport. A few days later the President confirmed this change. The weeping was about the fact that he, Fikile, was happy that he’d made it into Cabinet but that it was wrong to have learnt this from Atul Gupta. That weeping was then, and this is now. Perhaps there are still a few debts to be called in by Saxonwold.

On the questions of service to our country and people, I will leave history to judge my contribution.


Trevor Manuel


3 thoughts on “Fikile, do you remember the tears you shed over the Guptas – Trevor Manuel”

  1. This response by Trevor Manual sets out recorded incidents in a way which cuts through the obfuscation and manipulated rhetoric that has become entrenched in the ANC vocabulary. It gives the lie to the inaccuracies and misrepresentation spotted in virtually every political discourse taking place. It really seems to indicate that there is a lexicon of standard sound bites that ANC politicians draw on ad nauseum whenever they make comment. Tell a lie big enough and often enough and the unthinking believe them as fact.


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