Manuel says is not all powerful over policy


South Africa’s national planning minister Trevor Manuel says he is not all-powerful in setting economic policy.

Manuel, a former finance minister under ex-President Thabo Mbeki, is loathed by powerful unions who see him as a champion of business-friendly economic policies and fear he still wields undue influence over policy.


“For once in my deployment, I don’t hold the big stick,” Manuel said during a public lecture in Johannesburg.


Manuel was excluded from the cabinet’s economic planning and decision making clusters last week, Reuters reports.


That, and the resignation of key government policy advisor Joel Netshitenzhe, fuelled investor concern that President Jacob Zuma’s allies may be pressuring him to change policies.


The country’s powerful COSATU trade union federation has condemned Zuma’s choice of Manuel to lead a key economic planning commission which aims to guide the country out of its first recession in 17 years.


In his lecture, Manuel said he was not solely responsible for setting economic policy.


“In many respects, the responsibility of (other) government departments and agencies will be to advise on the long term plan and vision to detail the policies to attain the vision and to intermediate between the long term and the immediate,” he said.


COSATU has demanded that its nominee in government, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, set the country’s growth strategy and not Manuel.


“Don’t believe what you read in papers, there is more coherence,” Manuel said dispelling concerns of a rift in the cabinet.