Trevor Manuel 

Minister of Finance since 1996

Trevor Manuel was appointed on 4 April 1996 as Minister of Finance. The first non-white to hold this position. Manuel honed his economic views and beliefs away from socialism to a indigenous brand of social democracy. He has been the architect of government's Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy (Gear). The fiscal conservatism of this policy and it's strict deficit targets have come under fire from labour and the left in his own party, the African National Congress. But Manuel stuck to this policy, making only minor tweaks and changes to take account of the unstable international economy.
This earned him great respect from international business and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The South African economy has subsequently weathered the storm better than most other emerging markets, though joblessness is still a growing problem.
With the help of Andrew Donaldson (one of his own appointees) he's restructured the budgeting policy completely. The unpredictable year to year budgets by the National Party has made way for a three year budget which makes for better development planning and spending. In his role as Finance Minister, he displayed his confidence by delivering the previous two annual budget speeches in several languages.
According to Manuel a big problem is that civil servants do not spend efficiently enough. Non-government organisations and trade unions believe he is too tight with the state's purse strings. Health and housing, amongst many other departments are feeling the strain of fiscal constraints. Manuels key challenge ahead of the 1999 elections was to keep the budget within the targeted 3.9% of gross domestic product and to cut government spending on civil servant salaries so that the money could be diverted to delivering on ANC promises made in 1994.
Manuel sits on the national working commitee of the ANC.

Prior to the 1994 elections Manuel worked as a technician (he studied civil and structural engineering at the Peninsula Technikon) and later at Mobil, but his early life was consumed by the struggle. Using the terrible conditions the people lived under on the Cape Flats, he quickly built a solid reputation. He became regional secretary of the United Democratic Front in  the Western Cape. Between 1985 and 1990 he spent a total of 35 months in detention due to the active role he played in the struggle.
1992 saw him become the head of the ANC's department of economy policy planning and he was the natural choice for the first Minister of Trade and Industry to be elected by the new government in 1994. That turned out to be a holding position for the big job which became his in 1996 when Derek Keys quit.

He was born on 31 January 1956.

Source: Mail & Guardian A-Z of South Arican politics 1999