I represent change, says Manyi

2012-10-06 13:50

Recently ‘retired’ BMF president speaks about his six years at the helm

Some have called him “too radical and divisive” and others “racist”, but former Black Management Forum (BMF) president Jimmy Manyi believes his detractors are wary of his outspokenness about the slow rate of transformation in the country’s corporate sector.

“I represent change and transformation and all those who are anti-transformation will find it painful to interact with me,” said Manyi.

After six years at the helm of the BMF, Manyi handed over the baton this week to his successor Bonang Mohale, who was elected, unopposed, as the new BMF president.

Throughout his tenure as president, which comprised two three-year terms, Manyi has often clashed with big business over its resistance to change and allegedly blocking blacks from either securing top corporate jobs or owning a significant slice of the economy.

In July last year, Manyi led a group of disgruntled black business and professional groups out of Business Unity SA (Busa) after the BMF complained that Busa was representing the interests of white organised business at
the expense of black business.

There had already been tensions between the two, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the bickering over the appointment of a new Busa chief executive to replace Jerry Vilakazi.

The BMF felt that the black bodies should have a say over the appointment of the new chief executive instead of big corporates.

The lobby group complained that there were about 50 organisations making up Busa, but only 10 votes went to black business.

Eventually, 18 black business lobby organisations broke away from Busa to form the Black Business Council (BBC). Today, the BBC, comprising 22 black organisations, has a seat on the National Economic Development and Labour Council, which serves as a policy consultative forum where business, labour, government and civil society deliberate on economic policies.

“They thought it was a Jimmy Manyi tantrum, but we wanted our voice to be heard because it was being submerged. We championed the exit of black business from Busa because we believe in real transformation, not window-dressing,” said Manyi in an interview with City Press.

He said Busa had failed to express the aspirations of blacks, especially when it came to employment equity and preferential procurement, two of the critical transformation policies that have the ability to put more wealth in the hands of black people.

“We wanted a complete overhaul of this legislation (procurement policy) because it was not assisting black business and Busa was not representing our views despite us making formal submissions.

“We felt staying in there was tantamount to selling our souls,” he said.

He said the BBC and Busa may reunite again and speak with one voice. BBC merged with white business formations in 2003 to form Busa in the first instance.

“The next piece of work will be to create a new apex body that will unite the BBC and Busa. The new body must be named United Business South Africa,” said Manyi.

He said that under his tenure the BMF tightened up on corporate governance and the 15 000-member black professional body, whose core business is developing black managers, has had clean audits.

He said the BMF will be moving from its leased head office in Sandton to a building it recently bought in Rivonia,
north of Joburg.

While Manyi lists these as some of his achievements as the BMF president, there have been lowlights too. He singles out an incident that happened in October 2010, when three former BMF presidents called for him to step down, arguing he was “unfit”.

Lot Ndlovu, Nolitha Fakude, and Bheki Sibiya were incensed by reported moves by Manyi to change the BMF constitution to allow for the extension of his term in office from three to five years.

Manyi said reports of his plans to extend his term were false and the matter was never discussed at the organisation’s annual general meeting in 2010.

“One of my lowlights was when three former presidents and a former managing director (Mthunzi Mncane) used unconstitutional means to raise their grievances and tried to unseat me. That exercise did not succeed. I give credit to the BMF board, which stood firm by following the constitution of the BMF,” said Manyi.

He said he has since the buried the hatchet with his former adversaries. He will retire from “leadership in organised formations”.

He said: “I am going to take a back seat and be a normal South African citizen. Right now I am on time out. I am energising myself for new challenges.”

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