Former finance minister Trevor Manuel testifies at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on February 28 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel testifies at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on February 28 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has said that state capture was an endeavour to remove the controls enshrined in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Testifying at the Zondo inquiry into state capture on Thursday, Manuel said that when these controls were removed and reckless spending occurred, the poor were directly affected.  

“When we drafted the PFMA, there was a fundamental shift from the old norms. The focus was on outputs and responsibilities ... It requires people to act in the best interests of the public. That shift is fundamentally important,” he said.

“When there is reckless spending, almost inevitably, people who are dependent on public services, the poor, are denied access. In the context of state capture, it is actually an endeavour to remove those kind of controls.”  

Manuel began his testimony by outlining the importance of the president’s oath of office.

“My understanding of our constitution is that it vests responsibility, executive authority, in the president. There’s no higher authority.

“In respect of the appointment of ministers, the constitution doesn’t give anybody else the authority to do so. In the oath of office of the president, there’s a commitment to act within the interests to advance the republic and oppose that which weakens it,” he said.  

His comments relate directly to one of the commission’s terms of reference: to investigate the extent to which the Gupta family had influence over the president in appointing and axing cabinet ministers.

Manuel’s testimony continues.