Manyi moves to restore calm

2009-10-10 13:11

THE decision of Black Management Forum presidential candidate Bonang Mohale to withdraw from the election race may have averted a rift within the organisation, but it will do little to quell the storm over its contentious leadership.

This is because Jimmy Manyi is beginning his new three-year stint as the president of BMF at the same time that his five-year contract as director-general of the labour department begins.

Commentators outside the BMF and some of its members view Manyi’s appointment as a conflict of interest.

But Manyi says this is not as serious as the fallout a contested presidency may have had on the BMF.

“The move helps to cement the organisation so that we all move forward as a united BMF. There are no winners or losers. An election would have firmed up different camps,” says Manyi, who says he had to take leave from his day job to attend the BMF conference this week.

Manyi is convinced that in time, he will be able to bring everyone to his side.

“It is not the first time that people have preferred other people. We will work with those who preferred a different person,” he says.

But the battle for the presidency has already claimed one scalp.

Fani Xaba, the chairperson of the BMF North West and a board member, notified his colleagues of his resignation on Wednesday.

BMF managing director Gaba Tabane says the executive committee is scheduled to meet within two weeks when the resignation is likely to be discussed.

Xaba was one of the people who publicly voiced their dissatisfaction with Manyi’s candidacy because of the conflict of interest and his public support of the ANC in the run-up to the general elections in April.

Manyi says he initially decided to stand down but changed his mind after being persuaded to stand by the BMF provincial leaders.

“I stood because it was important to provide continuity. There would have been a leadership vacuum if I had left. The strategy is to profile the deputy president Thembakazi Mnyaka. I will play a hand-over role.

“This sits well with our succession planning. Anybody else would have lost the chemistry of having worked with the current members and the board. I have personal relations that need to be exploited for the benefit of the organisation,” he says.

Nomhle Nkumbi-Ndopu, the BMF’s former deputy president, stepped down this week while Tabane took office in August.

Manyi says his appointment does not suggest a dearth of leadership within the organisation.

“BMF is not short of leaders. BMF does not make changes for change’s sake. It is a strategic organisation. The forum knew if I jumped, we would have spent at least a year adjusting. This is about proper succession planning,” he says.

Nedbank, which is scheduled to meet Manyi later this month, will hope he is this conciliatory. The bank is expected to brief Manyi on its decision to alter the responsibilities of the chief financial officer when Raisibe Morathi assumed the position, ostensibly for more effective succession planning.

Manyi also says it would have been difficult for him to assist the organisation if he had stepped down. “If you are outside the system, your assistance might look like you are undermining a current president.”

A BMF member who spoke on condition of anonymity said Manyi’s appointment may be an example of an organisation falling victim to its own success.

“The BMF voice carries significant weight in socioeconomic debate in our country. Some people fail to distinguish between themselves and the organisation. They don’t realise that when other role-players interact with them they interact with the organisation and not the person,” said the member.

The member said when the BMF constitution was changed six years ago to extend the president’s term to three years, it was done with an unwritten understanding that holding the office for four years was too long for any one person.

The preference was for presidents to serve only one term.

The BMF constitution allows its president to serve two terms. Before the 2003 change, the presidential term was two years.

It is uncertain how long Manyi will be able to juggle his labour department role and the BMF. At the moment he sounds comfortable with the challenge.

“I do my labour department work during office hours. After hours and on weekends I focus on my BMF work,” he says.

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