South Africa


Mzwanele Manyi: Valuable addition to Parliament’s back benches – or a Gupta stooge in the house?

Mzwanele ‘Jimmy’ Manyi during an interview about his ownership of The New Age (TNA) newspaper and Africa News Network ANN7 TV news channel on August 24, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Manyi’s acquisition of the two media entities has been scrutinized in so many ways, with many saying the deal is nothing but fronting. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

Mzwanele Manyi has quit the ANC and announced that he has joined the newly minted African Transformation Movement party. The party will contest the elections nationally and while Manyi is not its leader, he is its most visible and well-known face. The party was started in October 2018 and it is clearly well-heeled if its T-shirts, caps and media platform strategies are a symbol of a well-stocked election kitty.

There are two ways to view the possibility of Mzwanele Manyi becoming an MP.

A valuable addition to Parliament

One thing Mzwanele Manyi has going for him is the gift of the gab. A second thing is that he knows his stuff – he researches assiduously and has been a director-general and a corporate executive, though not without glitches in both of those roles.

He is an eloquent spokesperson for empowerment and, as the policy is being placed on a back burner by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Manyi will be an important voice to ensure that a vital policy is not downgraded in the political imagination.

Manyi is an architect of modern empowerment laws and knows all the different components very well, from equity stakes to employment equity and procurement. Each driver is important. In addition, Parliament has very few good debaters and Manyi would add to the quality of discussion in the House.

In addition, he is extremely well-networked and would benefit Parliament, which can sometimes feel like an outmoded part of the body politic that is not sufficiently tied to the places that move South Africa.

Manyi is good-natured and can take a punch as well as deliver it. The high number of journalists who turned up on Wednesday for his announcement that he will join the African Transformation Movement party illustrates another asset: he has media nous and that matters in modern politics.

A Gupta stooge in the House

If Manyi gets into Parliament, it will put on stark display the following trend: the forces of capture have money and they are fighting back by trying to divide the ANC vote ahead of the party’s national general council in 2020.

By this reading, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s party, called Content, is another example of a spoiler party being funded and floated by the State Capture faction of the ANC which has lots of money but whose star has waned after President Cyril Ramaphosa became party president in December 2017.

If this faction’s spoiler tactics succeed, and the ANC fares badly in the 2019 election, then Ramaphosa will face a showdown come the national general council.

There is a plan to try to challenge him then and the current actions and campaigns of former President Jacob Zuma are seen to be aligned to this: Zuma is the most well-known face (still) of the capture faction and remains a popular political leader outside of the sophisticated metropolitan areas. This is why he featured front and centre the ANC’s pre-election festivities in Durban this week.

Manyi is clearly a Gupta lieutenant or stooge: he was often seen at their home; he bought their media assets in a mysterious vendor financing deal and then shuttered them once the family left the country. He remains a marketer for the Dubai-based oligarchs.

The family has made billions in South Africa and has used this money in black ops to fight its political enemies: the Bell Pottinger campaign to paint themselves and Zuma as key agents of black empowerment against “white monopoly capital” is only one example.

They are also said to have funded sham organisations fighting a coal lobby (their biggest asset were the coal mines in Tegeta) and there is every reason to see a Gupta hand in Manyi’s new political ambitions.

Having an articulate Gupta lieutenant aligned to the Zuma faction in Parliament is a very bad idea for the fight against corruption and capture, but it is a powerful asset for a faction that wants a way back in. DM