Manuel puts humanity first in budget

There are times - very few and far between nowadays - when I wish I was a member of the ANC. At these times, I wish I could attend the national conference of the party in Limpopo in December as a delegate.

There are times - very few and far between nowadays - when I wish I was a member of the ANC. At these times, I wish I could attend the national conference of the party in Limpopo in December as a delegate.

I would raise my hand in that congress and nominate Finance Minister Trevor Manuel for president. Why?

Well, for the fact that he has out-performed all the ministers in cabinet today. Why?

Because he manages to remind us why we are here today and why we need to preserve this precious democracy.

I will not write much about him except to reflect on the theme of his budget speech on Wednesday.

At the end, he left me with tears in my eyes and a deep yearning to do something to make this beautiful country of ours a better, safer, more prosperous place to live in.

Manuel started with these words: "In the introduction to his book on China and globalisation, Will Hutton reminds us that 'The foundation of human association is the idea that human life has equal worth and human beings are equally entitled to political, economic and social rights which allow them to choose a life they have reason to live'.

"Human life has equal worth. Motho ke motho, ga ana bosehlana, a human being is a human being, there is no lesser human being."

The phrase Motho ke motho, ga ana bosehlana reverberates throughout Manuel's speech.

He pulled at the phrase, insinuated it into taxation and spending, and tried to pull us along with him in trying to explain why he was standing on that podium.

He wanted us to once again remember that budgets are not just about numbers.

He wanted us to remember a time when governance was not just about leadership battles. He wanted to put people, humanity, at the centre of what we do.

He spoke of the triumphs of the new South Africa and how soundly public finances had been handled, meaning that poverty-alleviation initiatives could be undertaken.

"Yet," he said, "the idea that human life has equal worth demands more of us".

Then he unveiled his budget. It is not a perfect budget, but, as Manuel has pointed out in the past, budgeting is about making choices. He could have made a few better choices. But here is what is true: He made his choices on the basis of a pure and noble understanding of why South Africa is what it is and what it is that the people of our country have hungered for. That elusive thing is humanity, ubuntu, botho, call it what you will.

He reminded us: "In 1994, when we stood in line and voted as equals in our first democratic elections, we could feel the mood, and the mood said, 'Human life has equal worth'."

This is the South Africa I want. It is a South Africa we all want.

So why not elect Manuel to help us bring it about?

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