Party candidates face off in Jameson Hall

13 April 2009

It didn't take much to get the Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel splashed across the city's press after the pre-election debate, hosted by the Faculty of Humanities, the Students' Representative Council and other student bodies, in the Jameson Hall on 26 March.

The Dalai Lama was all it took.

Manuel's response, citing the government's reasons for not granting the Nobel Peace Laureate a visa for the (now scratched) peace conference, was met by derision from the student audience that had packed the hall, in the full glare of TV cameras.

Refusing the "feudal" Dalai Lama had been a tough decision, the "equivalent of trying to shoot Bambi", Manuel said.

The Congress of the People's (COPE) Phillip Dexter was quick off the mark, a neat parry to Manuel's earlier barb about COPE not being in government.

"This shows the government's foreign policy is determined by the highest bidder."

To which the Democratic Alliance's (DA) Ryan Coetzee added: "South Africa's foreign policy seems to be made in Beijing."

The Independent Democrats' (ID) Lance Greyling suggested the government had at least been consistent; there was that inaugural vote against the UN Security Council on Myanmar, and the Robert Mugabe affair.

Trevor Manuel Phillip Dexter
Trevor Manuel - ANC Phillip Dexter - COPE
Lance Greyling Ryan Coetzee
Lance Greyling - ID Ryan Coetzee - DA

There was a spat between the Minister and Coetzee over whether Manuel had blue flashing lights on his car, in addition to his two bodyguards.

"I have been a Minister for 15 years and I have never had blue lights," shot back Manuel.

Manuel demanded to know from Coetzee why, despite the DA's two-state stance on Israel and Palestine, he had "not ever heard a statement for the people of Palestine".

Not one chair took flight - it was a pre-election debate - but most of the heat was onstage with host Professor Paula Ensor, Dean of Humanities, and question-master Zwele Jolobe settled between the candidates.

For a longer version of this story click here.

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