The Presidential Years

In about August 1995 he called again. While I was waiting to see him Thabo arrived from upstairs and we were taken into his office together.

We sat down and he said, ‘Now you remember that we had to call Chris out of retirement but he told me in those discussions that by the time of the second budget he wants to leave. The second budget is in March next year and I must be loyal to my commitment to Chris, so I have thought about this issue.’ Then he says, ‘Trevor, I would like you to become minister of finance. Are you prepared to do it?’ I told him, ‘I would be honoured.’ He asked Thabo, ‘Do you have a difficulty with this position?’ Thabo replied, ‘No, no, no, I think he’s doing well in trade and industry.’

Madiba added, ‘Now, you are going to be the first black minister of finance and people are going to find fault with you but Chris won’t leave until March. I want you to be prepared. There must be no gap between what he’s doing and what you are doing and in addition to your job as minister of trade and industry you will have to learn about what the finance ministry does and you have the responsibility to ensure that not a word of this gets out. I think that you are skilled enough to shadow Chris Liebenberg without anybody knowing what’s going on.’

Part of what was done was to set up a committee of ministers on the budget, it’s still there as MinComBud in whatever form. If we were all there and talking about the budget quietly then my involvement would not be remarkable.

Trevor Manuel