Trevor Manuel became South Africa's first black finance minister in 1996, a time when the economy threatened to spiral into a debt trap. It took five years before Manuel could present his first 'good news' Budget in Parliament. He described that Budget as a tale of 'irrevocable and powerful transformation', a tale of 'patience and obstinacy ... of determination and hope ... Of choice, not fate.' He could have been telling the tale of his own life. Born into a working-class family on the Cape Flats, his family's story embodied the fate that befell thousands of people classified coloured under apartheid. Homes lived in and lost under the cruel Group Areas Act, a mother who struggled to bring up her children on a garment worker's wages, clashes with gangsters who roamed the streets of the Flats, a truncated education. Manuel stared down fate - and internecine Western Cape politics - to become one of the most prominent anti-apartheid leaders in the internal resistance movement of the 1980s. He confronted apartheid's police and prisons with a boldness that sometimes bordered on recklessness. After Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Manuel rose quickly through the ranks of the African National Congress becoming a member of Mandela's first cabinet. When Mandela appointed him minister of finance in 1996, business leaders sneered at his lack of qualifications and experience. When he drove through a tough macroeconomic plan in a post-apartheid South Africa, some of his own constituency turned on him. 'Obstinate and patient', he saw out the worst until the economy began to turn. Under his stewardship, South Africa entered its longest growth period ever. By 2007, he was the world's longest serving minister of finance and, across the world, the most respected African finance minister.