Manyi can’t wear two hats

2009-10-03 12:44

“WHAT I see is that the ­director-general of the labour department will be in constant communication with the president of the BMF.” – Jimmy Manyi.

Hah! Hah! This is Manyi’s joke which he uses to buttress an ­aggressive campaign to remain president of the Black Management Forum when it meets at its elective conference next week.

Manyi has been an excellent BMF president. He has fought for the rights of black managers and placed employment equity?– and the lack thereof– at the top of the national agenda.

There can hardly be a chief executive who is not afraid of the wrath of Jimmy. The latest Commission on Employment Equity report shows that our economy is still largely an Irish coffee with white managers continuing to dominate. Senior blacks are a sprinkle.

Now Manyi is in a powerful position to tackle equity and to ensure that the policy is not boycotted as the recession ­begins to bite. As the director-general of the labour department, he will have far greater authority and sway to push against the rising tide of anti­affirmative action sentiment across the country.

But his job is much larger than this. He will have to coordinate the effective implementation of our complex labour laws, ensure the Commission on Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration stays on top of its always-ballooning workload, continue to make improvements to the unemployment benefits regime and to fix the compensation fund. That’s just the top of his in-tray.

Cabinet imposes enormous workloads on director-generals and he needs to be focused on one task.

He is also the director-general of an entire system of labour regulation and he must be seen to be totally non-partisan to ­either black or white, boss or worker. It comes with the turf.

The director-general of ­labour and the president of the BMF should not be in constant communication. So Manyi can’t wear two hats if the rules of fairness are to govern.

His minister Membathisi Mdladlana should tell him so quickly, as it appears he is set to be catapulted back into the presidency by the BMF conclave. This is a bad idea not only because his position would place him in an awful and binding conflict of interest. It also negates three decades of work by the BMF which has grown a cadre of black managers.

Whenever corporate South Africa has complained of a ­senior skills gap to explain its lukewarm embrace of employment equity, the BMF has pointed to a growing depth of middle and senior managers.

To now declare that it can’t find another black president is to sound exactly like its nemeses in boardrooms across the country. There are many able and capable black managers able to take on the task. It’s time for Manyi to pass the baton.

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