Manyi: ‘Failure is not an option’

2011-02-05 18:11

Black Management Forum (BMF) president Jimmy Manyi was appointed head of government communications this week. City Press asked him:

How does it feel to be out of limbo?

I spent a lot of time working in various BMF projects and reflecting on the transformation landscape of the country. This limbo period also provided the much-needed rest from my hectic schedule over the years. The only regret I have is that I did not use the time to improve on my golf handicap.

Are you excited by the new task?

Definitely. This task puts together a sum total of government work. It also provides an opportunity to market South Africa both ­locally and globally, but even more ­importantly, at a personal level, it has ­displayed a vote of confidence that government has in both my capability and integrity, and therefore failure is not an option.

Do you regard it as a deployment or an ­executive assignment?
I regard it as both a redeployment and an executive assignment in that first and foremost I share the government’s vision in general and the importance of communication in particular.

Which parts of your portfolio, in your career, have best prepared you for being a ­communicator?

I have been an executive in the corporate affairs space for many years, handling both internal and external communications, ­including brand-building for blue chip companies, and I am a chartered marketer. Being president of the BMF has also been very useful in sharpening my communication skills.

How easily do you think it will be to switch between being an advocate (in your BMF role) and being a government communicator, where you may have to support positions you don’t necessarily agree with?
Even if you are involved with only one ­organisation, it does not mean that you ­always agree with the various positions taken by that one organisation. The important thing is to communicate the position of that organisation regardless of your personal position. Obviously, it is first prize if your personal ­position and organisational position are aligned. The fortunate thing in South Africa is that we are a democratic government that is always prepared to listen.

Non-racialism is a plank of government policy. How will you balance your two roles: BMF president and government spokesperson? Both are equally demanding.
Yes, government is committed to ­non-racialism, in line with the obligations that the Constitution places on all of us.
Black people in South Africa constitute 90% of the population that was disadvantaged by apartheid.

Focused programmes such as the ­Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based BEE Act, which are meant to level the playing field, are perfectly in order. These two pieces of legislation, contrary to incorrect belief that they are racist, are in fact designed to ­fundamentally reverse racism.

My government role is a full-time job, and my BMF position is non-executive and largely ceremonial, and simply means attending four board meetings a year and doing other small bits and pieces on the way.

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