Parliament bids farewell to Motlanthe, Manuel

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pretoria - Parliament on Tuesday said goodbye to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel in an emotional session in the National Assembly.

The two are retiring from government and Parliament this year.

Motlanthe retires after serving as the Republic’s Deputy President from 2009. He was promoted to President of the country in 2008, just months after being appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Presidency.

Manuel was appointed Trade and Industry Minister after the first democratic elections in the country in 1994. Two years later, he was appointed Finance Minister on April 4, 1996, a position he held until the April 2009 general election, making him one of the world's longest serving finance ministers.
On May 11, 2009, President Jacob Zuma appointed Manuel Minister in the Presidency responsible for the National Planning Commission.

He has been instrumental in the development of the National Development Plan.

During the session, MPs took a trip down memory lane, as they hailed the two for their dedication to serve the public.

In his response, Deputy President Motlanthe expressed his gratitude.

“After six years of history, I am running the whole gamut of human emotions… from melancholy to elation. Humanity is conditioned to experience emotions attuned to the peculiarities of the moment,” he told MPs.

“Yet for me right now, this is a moment laden with mixed emotions. For one thing, I am disconsolate for parting ways with members of the party I come from, the African National Congress (ANC). You will know that my presence in this House is attributable to the ANC, which has, for all this time, been my extended family.”

He reflected on his journey in the high office, when he took over after the recalling of former President Thabo Mbeki.

“No sooner had we disarmed Afro-pessimists with a smooth transition to democracy, than this difficult historical period emerged - seen in some quarters as sounding a death knell to our nation. Those less given to hyperbole saw our country as being on the cusp of a new era, the contours of which, though, were as yet indistinct.  In the event, we proved the doomsayers wrong.”  

Turning to his experience in the National Assembly, Deputy President Motlanthe said he was leaving the chamber with a clear understanding of political liberalism, conservatism, nationalism and socialism.

“While bare-knuckle engagements were par for the course, with bruising exchanges that went beyond the pale not uncommon, I have found this House to be an epicentre of rational and level-headed discourse that left many bloodied but unbowed. I dare say, at the end, we are all the richer for it.

“Our system of democracy is ultimately about creating a multi-vocal society, thriving on irreconcilable ideological differences, none of which, paradoxically, can survive without the other,” he said.

While he was sad to be leaving Parliament and government, Motlanthe said it was time to hand over the reins to younger hands and minds.

“The truth is our nation is replete with luminous talent. Not only that, at some point serving leadership must give way, so that new blood, fired up with life-changing ideas, can take society to a higher level of development,” said Motlanthe who is tipped to head up the political school of the ANC.

Going forward, he said the country needed to consolidate the principle of social dialogue as a central building block of nationhood.

“Right now, South Africa [needs] bold visionaries, whose sights transcend the frontiers of time. The imperatives of our time enjoin this august House to rise above beguiling but small-minded discourse adorned with rhetorical embroidery to think realistically about the future of our nation.

“We have a duty to this nation and a responsibility to posterity. That responsibility has just begun.”

For his part, Manuel said his journey in government and Parliament had left him wiser.

“Twenty years has been a journey of discovery and learning, of getting to know myself, my colleagues and comrades, understanding our country and the world. There were discoveries of the many possibilities and of where the boundaries were and of how to push back those boundaries. Through all of those experiences, I leave here wiser and richer.”

He said his time in government and Parliament had brought with it many lessons in many different forms.

"I have had the privilege to be part of that first Parliament that included people in this House still who served with me, inspired me, supported me, reprimanded when required and enriched my experience,” said Manuel.

Parliament will take a recess on Thursday, ending its five-year-term, and will reconvene after the general election in May. -

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