Manuel would have consulted ANC top brass first, says analyst

2011-03-02 15:09

Cabinet member Trevor Manuel probably consulted ANC bigwigs before writing his scathing open letter to government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi, a political analyst said today.

“They knew it would create a stir,” said analyst Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg.

“Strategic calculations are being made about the Western Cape.

I cannot imagine that he has not consulted widely on this matter.

I think there would have been a strategic calculation made.”

However, Habib said he believed at the same time that Manuel was “really angry” about comments Manyi made in an interview broadcast on KykNet last year, in which he said there was an “over-supply” and “over-calculation” of coloureds in Western Cape.

“Read the letter, the tone of the letter, the fact that he [Manuel] has gone back in history, touching on what he [Manyi] has done in the struggle,” said Habib.

“The scale of it, the articulation of it, the harshness of it suggests that he [Manuel] is really angry and he feels violated in some personal sense.”

In the letter published in The Star newspaper today, Manuel called Manyi a “worst-order racist”.

Last week, Solidarity trade union posted a clip on YouTube of the KykNet interview from last year.

Manuel pointed out to Manyi that the “coloureds” were the sons and daughters of those who had fought anti-colonial battles and who had made huge sacrifices in the struggle against apartheid.

“By the way, what did you do in the war, Jimmy?” asked Manuel, who was the head of an ANC task team in the Democratic Alliance-dominated Western Cape aimed at repairing party divisions ahead of local government elections later this year.

Habib said it was clear that Manyi had become an “embarrassment” for the government.

“The question is can they facilitate a quiet exit, because this could become even bigger than it is now.

It could galvanise the racially chauvinist wing and I don’t think the ANC wants to do that.

They don’t want to open up a fight in the ANC about non-racialism versus Africanism.”

Habib said the government should be asked why it appointed Manyi in the first place.

“I understand a deployment, but in government communications? It was foolhardy in the most extreme sense.

The government must bear some responsibility. What was going through their heads in the first place? Were they stupid?”

In an unexpected move, Manyi was appointed government spokesperson last month, succeeding the widely respected Themba Maseko.

At the time, opposition parties and political analysts cried foul, questioning the wisdom of having a government spokesperson who also held the position of Black Management Forum (BMF) president.

Manyi was the director-general of the labour department but was suspended in June last year by the previous labour minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, following a complaint by the Norwegian ambassador who accused Manyi of using an official meeting to promote his private interests.

Manyi appealed to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to be reinstated in his post after Mdladlana was replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle last October, but was instead placed on special leave.

His special leave ended when his new appointment as government spokesperson was announced.

Habib said he believed the only way for Manyi to survive this would be to make a public apology.

“The best-case scenario for government is if Jimmy goes nationally and says, I am really sorry.

The question is, does he have the humility for this?” said Habib.

Manyi’s comments about coloureds were released amid growing controversy over proposed amendments to labour laws.

One of the key criticisms against one of the amendments has come from Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann.

He said the proposed amendments could amount to “a massive and unfeasible social-engineering programme” with nearly one million economically active coloured South Africans in the Western Cape having to earn a living in another province if they were signed into law.

This was denied by Oliphant, who said claims by Solidarity that 80% of coloureds would lose their jobs in the Western Cape were “unfounded, misleading and mischievous”.

Manyi said in the controversial KykNet interview: “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,” said Manyi.

In his open letter, Manuel said: “I want to draw your attention to the fact that your statements about ‘an over-concentration of coloureds’ are against the letter and spirit of the South African Constitution, as well as being against the values espoused by the Black Management Forum since its inception.

“Mr Manyi, you may be black, or perhaps you aren’t, because you do not accept that label and would prefer to be ‘only a Xhosa’, whatever the label you choose, I want to put it to you that your behaviour is the worst-order racist.”

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