In one sense, Jimmy Manyi is very unlucky. He landed the government spokesman job just as the centrifugal forces within the ANC hit their strides again. As a man never shy to espouse some of the more extreme views within the party, he was always going to have it rough. Now, with the help of one irate Trevor Manuel, the ANC Youth League and the DA, Manyi is in for a very bumpy ride. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
Minister in the Presidency and the head of the National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel is a frightening spectacle when he draws himself up to his full height to unleash hell on some unfortunate’s head. He doesn’t do it often, at least not in public, but when he does, everyone takes notice. He has the political capital, gravitas and authority to make his rants as weighty as Muhammad Ali’s right hook.
“Let us drop titles for the purpose of a necessary exchange,” Manuel wrote in an open letter to Manyi. “So let us forget for now that I am a cabinet minister and that you are a director-general equivalent, in the same government.” Don’t forget where you are in the pecking order, Jimmy.
Manuel then delivers a series of blows, slamming Manyi for being unfamiliar with the history and constitution of the Black Management Forum as well as the Constitution of South Africa, for not apologising adequately, for using the GCIS to apologise when the statements he made were not made as an official of the GCIS, for not apologising directly, but deputising Vusi Mona to do it for him, for not having been there during the struggle against apartheid, for not accepting the term “black” and for being “a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd”.
Watch: Jimmy Manyi on Coloureds in Western Cape.
The cause of the controversy was a comment made by Manyi on the TV programme “Kyknet” back in March 2010, when he said coloured people were too concentrated in Western Cape. While discussing amendments to the Employment Equity Act, he said, “Let me just make some few comments here on the last discussion on coloured people. I think it’s very important for coloured people in this country to understand that South Africa belongs to them in totality, not just the Western Cape.
“So this over-concentration of coloureds in the Western Cape is not working for them. They should spread in the rest of the country. So they must stop this over-concentration situation because they are in over-supply where they are, so you must look into the country and see where you can meet the supply. This Employment Equity Act is a very good act in this country,” Manyi said.
The clip was posted on YouTube by trade union Solidarity, in the wake of the criticism it faced for suggesting that the amendments to the Employment Equity Act (which aimed to implement national and not provincial figures) would result in 80% of employed coloured people losing their jobs in Western Cape. After being castigated by the ANC and Cosatu, Solidarity had evidence of the former director-general of the labour department saying coloured people should move out of Western Cape.
The DA have now unearthed a recording of Manyi speaking at the Durban Chamber of Commerce, about a month before the coloureds comment, saying Indians were overrepresented in management positions in KwaZulu-Natal.
This series of events goes beyond race friction, or cheap electioneering (we are in an election year after all, where many South Africans suddenly discover their inner racist), and may in fact be part of the greater campaign to undermine ANC president Jacob Zuma’s authority. The Sunday Times ran a piece where it reported several senior figures in the ANC were starting to voice their disapproval of Zuma’s closeness to the Gupta family, the tipping point being the apparent influence the Guptas have on the president and his government.
The powerful forces are squaring up across the battlefield on this Manyi controversy. First, there was the statement issued by the ANC, distancing itself from Manyi’s comments. Then the BMF came out swinging in support of its president, warning Solidarity, the DA and the Freedom Front Plus to “keep their hands off our president”.
On Wednesday morning, Trevor Manuel, the man who had spearheaded and championed the so-called “96 class project” economic cabal and who had, under the Zuma administration, been relegated to compiling reports, delivered a massive broadside to Manyi, to which the government spokesman cannot retort.
But the BMF’s trusty supporter, the ANC Youth League, was at hand. They were “disturbed” by Manuel’s letter. Not “disgusted”, which seems to be their stock response to any and every situation, but disturbed. “The Youth League is disturbed because as far as we are concerned, Jimmy Manyi publicly apologised for those remarks and the ANC and most of society have accepted the apology,” the statement said. “Typically, Trevor Manuel defines himself outside the ANC and subjectively attacks Jimmy Manyi, accuses him of racism as if Jimmy Manyi is an outcast.
“The ANC Youth League wonders why Trevor Manuel is doing this because the ANC has spoken and provided guidance on this issue. We now do not know who Trevor Manuel represents, because his remarks falls[sic] squarely into the political agenda of right-wing political forces opposed to the African National Congress,” the ANCYL’s statement said.
According to three rather grumpy people manning the telephones at GCIS, Manyi does not intend to make a statement about Manuel’s letter anytime soon. You have to feel for him, a bit. He is probably genuinely baffled as to why his statement offended. Manyi is the sort of character who creates a reality in his head by virtue of having said it. To him, there is nothing wrong with saying there are too many coloureds in Western Cape, and they should jolly well move out and stop messing up his employment equity graphs.
Unfortunately for him, his inability to apply some sort of a filter to his words has led him into a very tight spot. On the one hand, he is battling people who don’t want the Employment Equity Act meddled with like the DA and Solidarity (some might say they would prefer not to have an Employment Equity Act at all).
This little spat is working to the favour of those within the ANC who would very much like to see a weakening of the ANC Youth League president and his friend Fikile Mbalula.
Manyi has barely had time to settle into his new position as government’s official mouthpiece and he’s forced the ANC to distance itself from his comments. And has now drawn a stinging rebuke from his senior. The government urged the media to trust Manyi when it installed him as spokesman – that’s out the window now. Is Zuma secretly wishing he had not redeployed the less-controversial Themba Maseko, we wonder?
Manyi, who has at times been very useful to the likes of Mbalula and Malema, will have to pray no other recordings of his silly statements are unearthed before the politicians he champions decide he has become too much of a liability and ditch him. DM
- Trevor Manuel’s open letter to Jimmy Manyi in IOL News.
- Manyi on Western Cape transformation matter in GCIS press statement.
- Manyi has no comment on Manuel’s letter, SAPA via the City Press.
Photo: Reuters and Mail & Guardian.