Jay Naidoo poses Manyi challenge
Paddy Harper, City Press
Johannesburg - Social activist and former cabinet member Jay Naidoo has challenged the ANC and government to act on Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi's racist outbursts to prove to the country that the ruling party has not abandoned non-racialism.
Naidoo’s comments come amid a furore over remarks Manyi made while he was still director-general of the labour department.
Manyi made remarks about the “oversupply’’ of coloured people in the Western Cape and about Indians “negotiating’’ their way into over-representation in management positions.
His comments sparked an outcry from various sections of society, with Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel issuing an open letter calling Manyi a “worst-order’’ racist.
Naidoo told City Press that while President Jacob Zuma was a “committed advocate of non-racialism’’ it was cause for concern that somebody with “the kind of thinking Manyi has shown’’ was spokesperson for both the presidency and government.
“Do Manyi’s remarks reflect a shift away from non-racialism? The only the Presidency can answer that, and our political parties, especially the ANC.
"Silence on this regrettable matter may be misunderstood to the contrary,” Naidoo said.
He said Manyi would be required to make an “unqualified apology to the nation or face disciplinary procedures if we had a government that believed in the Constitution and was intolerant of racism in all its forms”.
“Manyi does not represent the majority of the jobless, marginalised poor of the country but a ‘creamy layer’ of elites who have so far been the only ones who have benefited from black economic empowerment and who represent sectional class interests.
"Narrow Africanism and nationalism are really a luxury only for those who want their turn to feed from the trough,’’ he added. Naidoo said South Africans had to “constantly” fight for non-racialism.
“Non-racialism is only dead the day we all agree to allow ourselves to be defined as racists and act as racists, and we have not done that,” he said.
Naidoo said Manyi’s words “remind us just how easy it is to allow the basics of our democracy to slip away”.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said he believed Manyi was a “loose cannon at work” and that his views did not represent a shift in government or ANC policy.
Vavi, who has backed Manuel for his broadside against Manyi, said Manyi’s comments were “downright racist and cannot be explained in any other way”.
“We can’t all of a sudden say that the ANC thinks this way.
On the basis of the ANC and government policies that are there, he is clearly way out of line and I hope that there will be some form of censure.
“He apologised, but equally a clear message has to be sent out to everyone that the movement and government can’t allow this to happen,” Vavi said.
He said Manyi’s thinking had been “contaminated” by his inability to differentiate between Black Management Forum (BMF) positions and government positions.
“His is a way of speaking in a voice which was contaminated by his BMF view, a view which will put him at loggerheads with government,” said Vavi.
“The problem now is that ordinary people do not know whether he is speaking for government or the BMF.”
While the ANC has slammed Manyi’s comments, members of its national executive committee (NEC) have refused to be drawn into the battle.
Party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the matter was “of national interest” and likely to be discussed at the next national executive committee meeting.
He said NEC members were bound by the decision of the party’s national general council last year not to fight their internal battles in public.
However, the party’s youth league has thrown its weight behind Manyi and attacked Manuel.
So has Zuma ally Paul Ngobeni, one of the lawyers involved in the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust, who has slammed Manuel in an open letter backing Manyi.
Ngobeni said he was “appalled” by Manuel’s “cowardly, unwarranted and racist” attacks on Manyi and accused Manuel of targeting him because he is the Black Management Forum’s president.
“In gangster-like fashion, some of you have deliberately targeted Manyi and have relentlessly pursued an agenda of driving him out of any position where his views may be heard.
“You have deliberately exploited your position as a Cabinet minister and a senior member of the ANC and have written your letter with full knowledge that it would be given wide-spread publicity and would have the tendency to inflict maximum reputational damage on Manyi,” he said.
Ngobeni also called on Zuma, who has called for restraint over the matter, to fire Manuel for “unconstitutional actions and political grandstanding”.