Trevor Manuel says the recall and subsequent resignation of former president Jacob Zuma was a watershed moment in the country’s history.
The former finance minister was a guest speaker at a meeting of Athlone’s University of the Third Age, commonly known as the U3A, at the Belthorn Recreation Centre, on Thursday February 15.
The U3A is an international movement which aims to educate and stimulate mainly retired members of the community – those in their “third age” of life.
Jacki Lange said U3A Athlone is an organisation providing social and educational opportunities for senior citizens.
Mr Manuel was asked to speak about what he thinks this year holds for South Africa.
This is the second time he was invited to speak at this forum, having been there in October 2016.
“One of the issues that binds us together is our commitment to believe in humanity,” Mr Manuel said, as he pondered the question of whether South Africa would seize the opportunity to “reboot” in 2018.
“On Sunday February 11, I was on the Grand Parade, just like I was 28 years ago. I listened to (now president) Cyril Ramaphosa, and his speech was so incredibly uplifting. It touched on all the points of what we are as South Africans and what our responsibilities are.
“The challenge that confronts us is that there is so much happening out there that we can’t form a common view.
“The U3A is important. It allows us to listen to one another and to shape our views,” Mr Manuel said.
He added that most people had expected a vote of no confidence against Mr Zuma on Thursday February 15, as people had generally thought he would not resign.
Mr Manuel said the “distraction” so common to previous State of the Nation Addresses (SONA), “which included a pope-like-driven president, half-clad women on the red carpet and the antics of opposition parties” seemed to be a thing of the past.
“We will finally be able to focus on the content of the Sona. This is very exciting.”
He also spoke about how the ANC has changed over the years.
“The ANC that we grew up in and aspire to be a part of – driven by values and principles of service – that ANC is not the ANC today.
“The last decade was the lowest point. How do you take this movement and bring it back to its values? South Africa belongs to all – black and white.
“The problem is so many people in the organisation were doing so many wrong things. There’s no sense of unity of purpose.
“What happens if political parties no longer represent our interests? And how do we get involved in problem-solving? How do we order our affairs? It’s more than just where we have been, but where we are going to and who will journey along with us.
“We need to deal with issues by driving them into the open. Apartheid fell because we were present in the lives of people. We must not be absent in democracy. That absence allows individuals to get away with what they have.
“We need to find a solution and I am reminded of that Carole King song, where she sings about wanting to believe in humanity. Every day we need to do something different to inspire hope in people’s lives.
“We’ve got to seize this moment and not outsource it to political parties, and we need to ask difficult questions,” Mr Manuel said.
Ms Lange described Mr Manuel as “one of the most respected and intelligent voices in politics and business in the country and beyond”.