South Africa’s biggest challenge was trying to forge unity, togetherness and purpose in the new dispensation, said former minister and Old Mutual Group chairperson Trevor Manuel.
Manuel said the country had an identity issue that stemmed from the apartheid era. He said South Africa’s context of identity was espoused in the South African constitution and the Freedom Charter that went beyond race, tribalism, and ethnicity.
“If you understand identity within the context of non-racialism, you can understand why both the Employment Equity Act and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment are important to the development of everyone in this country,” said Manuel.
He added that once you discovered the real identity, the next step was to identify what one would like to achieve.
“As an achievement, most people will tell you they want lots of money. However, money is not an achievement but a means to what you would like to achieve. Mere accumulation of wealth cannot be an objective. There are a series of things that we have to do, and it involves ploughing back,” said Manuel.
“In order to meet one’s objectives, it was important to have a team. It is in building teams that we divide responsibilities and create accountabilities for what we want to do. Without a team, you will not achieve those things you want.”
Manuel said that how people related to one another in a team determined the respect each had for the other adding that it was not about how much money or authority one had over the other individual, but that it was about respect and that the essence of respect was “ubuntu”.
“If someone disrespects him, then they will have a fundamental disagreement. However, the difference of opinion should not allow them to disrespect one another.”
Manuel said he recalled that during the time he served as a minister of trade and industry and later as finance minister, there was always a formidable team around him that was strong-willed and committed to working together.
“That’s what made us capable of doing what we were able to do for the country,” said Manuel.
He said that the ability to subject oneself to the accountability of those around you even if you might not be at the same level was actually a strength that they should multiply because it was so true to what defines South Africans.