Verwoerd state of mind

2011-03-05 08:39

Dear Jimmy, 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 against the values ­espoused by the Black Management Forum (BMF) since its inception.

That you were a director-general of the Department of Labour, as well as the president of the BMF at the time when you made these statements is quite a mystery.

It is a mystery because I must ­assume that you were elected as ­president of the BMF without any ­familiarity of the history and ­constitution of that organisation, and that you were appointed as ­director-general of the Department of Labour without any familiarity of the ­Constitution of the Republic of South ­Africa or the legislation administered by the department itself.

That you lack the moral conviction to publicly apologise says so much about your acute lack of judgement.

The Government Communication and Information System press release in which Vusi Mona ­issued apologies only for the fact that “some ­people may have taken ­offence” says to me that you clearly fail to appreciate the extent to which your utterances are both unconstitutional and morally reprehensible.

“The coloureds who are overconcentrated in the Western Cape” are the sons and daughters of those who waged the first anti-colonial battles against the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British when they set foot on our shores.

They include many who made huge sacrifices in the struggle against apartheid at a time when people with views like Jimmy Manyi were ­conspicuous by their absence from the misery of exile, the battles at the barricades and from apartheid’s jails.

By the way, what did YOU do in the war, Jimmy?I put it to you that these statements would make you a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd.

I want to put it to you that you have the same mind that operated under apartheid – never merely satisfied with inflicting the hurt of forced removals and the Group Areas Act – but needing to encamp language groups so that horrible ­aberrations, such as Soshanguve, were created to accommodate “non-Tswanas” in their own little ­encampments in greater Mabopane.

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 of the ­worst-order racist.

Those of us who found our way into the struggle through the black ­consciousness movement have ­always understood the origin of the BMF, as we have understood and supported ANC documents that speak of “blacks in general and ­Africans in particular”.

Regrettably, in your understanding, the term “black” has quite a ­different meaning.

As a consequence of your behaviour, people like me are being asked to explain what the ­drafters of amendments to the ­Employment ­Equity Act (EEA) were thinking.We were present at the point of the debate of the first Employment Equity Bill.

We expressed complete ­comfort with the assignment of ­“designated groups” to include “black people”, which means ­“Africans, coloureds and Indians”, ­because it served as a representation of our ­constitutionality and as the fruits of our struggle.

The just and constitutionally obligated provisions for redress are not, and can never be, an excuse to perpetuate racism.

Now, in light of the utterances you have made at a time when you were at the Department of ­Labour, and given the fact that the amendments to the EEA were drafted during your tenure, I have a sense that your racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government.

Count me among those who, in spite of my position, will ensure that Parliament acts in the letter and ­spirit of our constitution when it adopts amendments to the act.

I have never waged any battle from the premise of an epithet that apartheid sought to attach to me, but I will do battle against the harm you seek to inflict.

When I do so, it is not as a coloured but as a non-racist, determined to ­ensure that our great movement and constitution are not diluted through the actions of racists like you.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor A Manuel.

» This is an edited version of the letter Manuel, Minister in the Presidency, sent to Manyi, the chief government spokesperson this week

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