An open letter to Cde Trevor Manuel

An open letter to Cde Trevor ManuelNdifuna Ukwazi – DARE TO KNOW

By Tony Weaver


DEAR Comrade Trevor: I was in Parliament on Tuesday for the voting on the second readingTrevor Manuel of the Protection of State Information Bill. I was sitting in the visitors’ gallery, dressed in black, along with a host of other editors and senior journalists from around the country. We had a perfect bird’s eye view of the ANC front benches, and of your bench in particular.


You walked in just as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Lindiwe Mazibuko, was in mid-speech, explaining in impassioned terms why the Democratic Alliance opposed the bill. Pointing to the ANC benches, she asked “what will you, the members on that side of the House, tell your grandchildren one day? I know that you will tell them that you fought for freedom. But will you also tell them you helped to destroy it?”


I couldn’t quite catch what you yelled as you stood, ready to take your seat, but your body language said it all – you adopted the pose of the aggro street fighter I remember from the 1980s, stuck your finger out and waggled it at her, and shouted what sounded like “what do you know about the struggle?”


It’s a fair enough question. It is also a question that should equally be asked of Julius Malema and all his cohorts in the ANC Youth League, but that is a fight for another day.

My response to that retort, Comrade Trevor, is: “When did you forget about the struggle? When did you lose sight of what it was that we fought for?”


Yesterday I picked up a copy of Pippa Green’s biography of you, Choice, Not Fate, to help jog my memory about our recent history and she reminded me about some of the history that I had almost forgotten, about the Fattis and Monis, and later the Red Meat Boycotts, and about the birth of the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (Cahac). I remembered then interviewing you about Cahac, and writing about it in the Cape Times. I remember well the coverage given to the boycotts by the Cape Times and other newspapers when I was a student activist at UCT and was on the boycott committees with Oscar Mpetha and others.


I was reminded of the funeral of Hennie Ferrus, that you and Zackie at and other young activists helped turn into an ANC event, and I remember how it was covered by the so-called “liberal” media.


But I also remember driving up to Beaufort West to cover the inquest into the murder by police of UDF activist Mandlenkosi Kratshi, and in my boot was a suitcase of UDF T-shirts given to me by you and Cheryl Carolus for distribution to the comrades there. I remember that the Cape Times was the only newspaper to cover the disgrace that passed itself off as an inquest (Mandlenkosi was shot dead in “self-defence” because he attacked a policeman with a breakfast fork.)


I remember reporting on your detention by the security police on October 23, 1985, and several times subsequent to that. I remember how, at the height of the first State of Emergency, the apartheid regime had detained over 10 000 activists and ordinary people nationwide. I remember how brave parliamentarians like Tiaan van der Merwe and others, in collaboration with the editors of the Cape Times and other newspapers, read out in Parliament lists of detainees we had compiled so we could legally report them in the newspaper in defiance of the emergency laws.


I remember the Trojan Horse shootings on October 15, 1985. I remember in May and June of 1986 how the witdoek vigilantes, led into battle by police Casspirs, systematically destroyed sections of Crossroads, New Crossroads, KTC and Nyanga, leaving 80 000 people homeless. I remember the murder by police of the Gugulethu Seven in March of 1986, the murders in detention of comrades like Neil Aggett, the murder by the CCB of scores of activists, the beatings, the torture, the friends who were broken, or went into exile.

I remember day after day, night after night, our phones ringing and someone saying at the other end that “so-and-so is dead, they killed him,” or “Trevor has been detained again, please do something.”


I remember reporting on it all. And I remember the heady days when Nelson Mandela was released, I remember the Codesa days, I remember the joy of liberation.


They were days filled with promise, filled with hope.

And then on Tuesday I watched from the visitor’s gallery as you triumphally stabbed the green button to vote yes for the passage of the Protection of State Information Bill.

And I wondered where it all went wrong.

  1. This just makes me infinitely sad.

  2. Where did it all go wrong? Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely…

  3. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely… the incumbent ANC government is closing down the democratic space in SA by embarking on and passing legislation such as the Secrecy bill…

  4. Briliant, well done! This deserves a follow-up letter with more pointed questions, but maybe it is politic to see what response you get first… Thank you for your eye on justice for the rest of us for all these years. What are they scared of? What are they hiding? What decision do they want to hide in Feb 2012? What money is changing hands? Because surely you wouldnt make a decision to miss-spend billions of your country’s money to poison your country forever with nuclear waste, unless you were being paid a LOT? What sane person would endorse this and what other incentive could there possibly be other than money?

  5. Brilliant letter, lets hope he reads it and reflects on his actions!

  6. Tony, if that does not get Trevor thinking, or maybe even into tears, then I am afraid it is to late and we must dispose of the idea that Trevor is the only logical thinking member of the ANC cabinet left standing.
    Sad days man, truley sad!

  7. I can’t agree with u mor mr weaver…our parents/elders fought so hard 4 our democracy,but yet our govermnt(ANC) is fighting even harder 2 destroy it…4 the 1st tym I can truly say ,I’m not proud 2b a south african..

  8. Nothing went wrong. It is not as bad as the media puts it. Drink a ‘CHILL’ pill.

    • @ KP: You have got to be kidding – do you really believe that. I’ll bet that is what the Zimbabwians said and look at where they are now!

      Seriously, wake up!

  9. Hello trevor! (note the small “t”)
    I once had enormous respect for you. I saw you as a shining light of sanity and high principles when others were starting to lay waste to those high principles – the principles we believed in, worked and fought for, of fairness, of honesty, of incorruptibility – in short, of the basic principles of democratic government.
    I now need to react to your behaviour in Parliament last Tuesday. You have betrayed the faith and respect that so many of us had for you and have shown yourself to be just another political prostitute. You have earned our contempt. This may mean very little, or even nothing to you, but the contempt of a few will build into the contempt of many and your disgrace and political downfall will happen. History does repeat itself.
    When you betray the principles you have represented, you betray yourself. Rest easy with it. I’m sure that you can, because that is as good as you have shown you can be

  10. I’m so confused by the ANC’s refusal to hear the obvious discontent with this bill, a discontent coming from people who seem to know what they’re talking about. I witnessed a short moment during a news broadcast, where an ANC member accused the protestors of not having read the bill properly. The protestor’s response to this comment made it clear to me that they had read it in great detail, and that it is perhaps the ANC members who voted for it, that have not read it properly. When members of your own party chose to bunk and walk out of the vote, I would say there’s something worth paying closer attention to… disappointed and worried.

  11. politics…what do you expect. nothing changes the world over…doesn’t matter what country, what year or what century. Power goes to the head and those who have it abuse it and will wield the big stick until someone else comes along with a bigger stick and bliksams them! It is sad because we thought we had the perfect “make right” situation in SA…we all felt the love and the rainbow nation was glowing for a while…well back to reality and the big stick… with it or go somewhere else. We still have an awesome country…even though the secrecy bill is bullshit!

  12. There must be something afoot that requires muzzling the media. It may have something to do with the planned ESKOM and Transnet expenditures. The sums involved are staggering and will no doubt include a hefty percentage for the ANC and it’s cronies. Follow the money and you will find the answers, but report on it at your own risk.

  13. As with most struggles – we now need to be Liberated from our “Liberators”.

  14. Politicians, Lawyers and Accountants are the only people who legislate their own existence and use. I wonder why they have to do that??

  15. A brilliant letter the gets to the heart of what really has us doubting what the future of this magnificent country is all about. Like many others, Trevor, we really admired you – not only for your strength of character but for proving to all those that doubted your abilities, that you were an astute leader of men and an astute manager of an economy that was fraught with dogma and personal agendas. You did this so well in fact, that you were touted for your brilliance on a global scale – and respected for your profound achievements. What went wrong?

    Fortunately Wikileaks has created a culture of access to whatever information the public requires. The more you hide, the greater the probability of an “African Spring”. What then are we doing as citizens to ensure that people rise from the absolute pits of poverty to one where a hope is created. Yes, we become involved in building future leaders, at a young age, black, white, yellow, “coloured” – what will their view be of your “green button” – vote.

    Remember Trevor – like the green button that you pressed; so to will be the “African Spring” be green as we turn this country on a new course away from those that have struggled to enrich themselves and not the poor souls in those appalling conditions in shanty towns. Not that I think you enriched yourself, but your colleagues did and continue to.

    Trevor – stop and think again about that decision you took – Please!!!

  16. Democracy needs a free press; we all know the pressures and temptations of power, and we all know that we need checks and balances that keep us honourable. When we are not in power we want the media to report on government and business: the good and the bad; when we are in power we want secrecy and freedom only for us to be able to be greedy.
    Trevor Manuel, you know you stood for those checks and balances when you were in the Struggle….have you sold your soul?

  17. Politics is about power.Politicians will do anything to stay in power,even if they know it is wrong.Trevor proves that he is just another power hungry politician.This act and JUJU is an eye opener for a lot of ANC supporters to find another political party.

  18. The ANC government has enacted another piece of legislation called PAIA. Basically it opens up all companies documents to outsiders with certain commercial and statutory limitations. They say its to promote transparency and allow the public freedom of information (that is information held by the business sector)

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic …..this is done at the same time as they close their doors to the public with the threat of prison if the dare publish things the government doesn’t like.
    Wake up South Africa

  19. What a gift to the conscience of the previous regime!

    “We should feel guilty/apologetic/remorseful…..for what we did? Why? they prove the Maxim of Real Polotik – The Means Justifies the End!”

  20. I remember sitting on the steps of St. George’s Cathedral, being chased inside by the SAP and the chemical sting of the teargas thrown into the cathedral, and becoming aware of what it really was all about, and being proud of people coming together to fight a cause – should we not unite and fight back?

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