Who made you the King of the Coloureds, Manuel?

Dear Minister Manuel:

I was appalled by your cowardly, unwarranted and racists attacks on Jimmy Manyi. Your letter is bristling with insults, half-truths and outright misrepresentations for which you should be ashamed.

You took advantage of your position as a cabinet minister and in particular Section 197 of the Constitution which obligates Manyi as a member of the public service to “loyally execute the lawful policies of the government of the day.”

Manyi is disabled by this higher constitutional imperative from engaging in public mudslinging with you or responding to your dastardly and vitriolic attacks on him.

As a director-general for the Government Communication and Information System, he is obligated to respect all Cabinet members and their departments.

He can only respond to your pseudo-intellectual clap-trap at the risk of losing his job.

That is why I think you are a veritable bang-broek Comrade Manuel.

You and your cohorts who have targeted Manyi for his position in the Black Management Forum as well as his views on employment equity must be cognisant of another provision of the Constitution, Section 197 (3) which states that “No employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause”.

In a gangster-like fashion, some of you have deliberately targeted Manyi and have relentlessly pursued an agenda of driving him out of any position where his views may be heard. Let me deal point by point with the diatribe contained in your letter.

The opening paragraph in your letter betrays your ignorance of the constitution and smacks of casuistry.

You implore Manyi to let “us drop titles for the purpose of a necessary exchange. So let us forget for now that I am a Cabinet minister and that you are a director-general equivalent, in the same government.”

What utter nonsense! You have deliberately exploited your position as a Cabinet minister and a senior member of the ANC and have written your letter with full knowledge that it would be given wide-spread publicity and would have the tendency to inflict maximum reputational damage on Manyi.

You knew that the distortions and falsehoods in your letter would provoke public condemnation of Manyi without any chance of meaningful rebuttal by him. What exchange can Manyi realistically have with you in light of the constitutional duty imposed upon him?

In fact, you never genuinely expected the “necessary exchange” you cynically allude to ever to materialise.

It is downright ludicrous for you to expect anyone to “forget” that you are a Cabinet minister when dealing with the Manyi saga. Wasn’t Manyi’s recent appointment to his current position approved by the very Cabinet of which you are a member?

You make another puzzling statement that it is “quite a mystery” that Manyi was a “director-general of the Department of Labour, as well as the president of the forum” at the time when he made the statements attributed to him.

You claim that you must assume that Manyi was “… appointed as director-general of the Department of Labour, without any familiarity with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa or the legislation administered by the department.”

Once again this begs the question: were you not part of the Cabinet that approved Manyi’s appointment in his former position at the Department of Labour?

Did you shirk your responsibility to ensure that Manyi was fully conversant with the Constitution and applicable legislation when his appointment came up for discussion before Cabinet?

You have chosen to attack him on the basis of statements he allegedly made more than a year ago or many months before his appointment came for consideration before Cabinet.

Did you at any stage take your Cabinet colleagues into your confidence on this matter of disclose to them the alleged racism by Manyi or his lack of familiarity with the values undergirding our Constitution?

Once again, your reckless statements expose you as a complete ignoramus when it comes to the Constitution.

You have conveniently cast aside another fundamental Constitutional principle, that is collective ministerial responsibility enshrined in Section 92 of the Constitution.

Section 92 of the Constitution makes it pellucid that members of the Cabinet are accountable collectively and individually to Parliament for the exercise of their powers.

Quite naturally and in line with this precept, it means that once the Cabinet has decided or made its views known on a matter, members of the Cabinet have to speak with one voice and consistent with their duties to defend and execute the Cabinet policies.

You have tried to extricate yourself from two separate Cabinet decisions regarding Manyi’s appointment and have in effect called into question the competence and wisdom of both the president and your Cabinet colleagues in appointing Manyi to his positions.

I suggest that the president remove you from Cabinet for your unconstitutional actions and political grandstanding.

Before that occurs, you should consider resigning as a Cabinet minister because of your violation of the foregoing Constitutional provisions.

Substantively, there is nothing racist in the statements attributed to Manyi.

You have made your incendiary remarks and lobbed patently false accusations against Manyi and have completely failed to understand the point he was making in its proper context.

I am unwilling to attribute this simply to your lack of higher academic achievement or advanced degrees. It reflects your own mean-spirited racist attack on Manyi.

Let me refer you to your own address to the Western Cape Anti-Racism Conference, Peninsula Technikon,16 August 2001. See http://www.treasury.gov.za/comm_media/speeches/2001/2001081601.pdf

You stated the following:

In confronting our past, we must recognise that racial divisions here were a necessary precondition for capitalist industrial relations.

Every element in South Africa – from the early colonisation by the Dutch, through the decimation of the indigenous Khoi and San, through the introduction of migrant labour to dig the mines, through the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, the introduction of job reservation and the coloured labour preference policy – in fact every element of South Africa’s apartheid past was premised on the need to subjugate black South Africans, in order to exploit and so maximise both profits and control.

Some of this history is so complicated, as Ian Goldin reminds in his book Making Race: The Politics and Economics of Coloured Identity in South Africa. In the nineteenth century, the term coloured in official documents referred to all persons not classified as European.

By 1904, however, the term coloured had been reconstituted to exclude Bantu-speaking people.

From 1904 until the present time the term coloured has roughly designated the same category of individuals.

No single definition of coloured people exists: a succession of contradictory legislative measures and legal precedents has only added to the ambiguity surrounding the term.

In acknowledging our past, especially here in the Western Cape, we must then understand how this bureaucratic nonsense has been imbibed – the legacy of group areas remains, and the coloured labour preference, is still sought after by some.

There is nothing racist in Many recognising as you did then that the legacy of apartheid has bedevilled many of the post-apartheid efforts to create a just and egalitarian society with equal opportunities for all our citizens.

Manyi is alleged to have said “I think it is 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”.

How can any right-thinking rational and unbiased observer think that an affirmation that South Africa belongs to the coloureds in totality, not just the Western Cape, is a racist statement?

Is the alleged over-concentration not a result of the very apartheid legacy you claim “has been imbibed” and the consequence of the same “coloured labour preference” you claim is still being “sought after by some”?

If so, what would be wrong with someone advocating a change in this mindset where people have “imbibed” the poisonous apartheid ideology?

You blithely ignored your own previous speeches and acknowledgement of this socio-economic reality in a mean-spirited and gadarene rush to condemn Manyi.

The fact of the matter is that the highly educated Manyi was expounding a very simple labour economics concept which was apparently too complicated for you to comprehend.

As an economist and as a director-general for labour, Manyi was duty-bound to recognise that racial discrimination and the legacy of “coloured labour preference policy” continue to deny members of the coloured community the attainment of full potential in the South African labour market as a whole.

Any labour economist worth his salt would tell you that racial discrimination in employment is manifested in the patterns of differential access to employment, differential labour mobility, and income inequality for oppressed groups.

Manyi was correct in stating that racial discrimination in employment is an affront to the principle of equality for all citizens.

He articulated a theory that recognized the appropriate labour market as the whole of South Africa and not just a province where some people still seek a “coloured labour preference” according to your own admission.

He would have been remiss in failing to recognise that what you call “bureaucratic nonsense” has distorted our labour market in a way that has major implications for all our citizens since it symbolises a grossly inefficient way to allocate scarce human resources and imposes an economic cost on the South African society as a whole.

Differential labour mobility not only robs the economy of a valuable resource and diminishes the competitiveness of South African businesses at home and abroad it also saps the self-esteem of the affected groups leading to conditions of poverty that undermine social cohesion.

In order to function properly on a theoretical level, labour economists’ models make certain assumptions about labour suppliers and labour markets that do not always hold true on a practical level.

For example: it is presumed that all workers are primarily motivated by a desire for economic gain and would in an ideal world move beyond provincial boundaries in order to maximise their benefits.

But while higher wages in other parts of the country may be attractive to labour migrants from Western Cape, social and cultural factors, as well as the legacy of the coloured labour preference policy may often temper workers’ willingness to leave the Western Cape.

Conversely, the coloured labour preference policy which has been scrapped in law continues unabated as it is still being vigorously sought by others. It is not racist to interrogate these issues and to debate them freely and frankly. They are national issues and not simply “coloured” matters.

It is significant to note that the Constitutional Court has commented on the effect of the coloured labour preference policy on the transformational process in three major decisions.

It did so in the Grootboom case where Justice Yacoob stated: “The cause of the acute housing shortage lies in apartheid.

A central feature of that policy was a system of influx control that sought to limit African occupation of urban areas

“Influx control was rigorously enforced in the Western Cape, where government policy favoured the exclusion of African people in order to accord preference to the coloured community: a policy adopted in 1954 and referred to as the ‘coloured labour preference policy’.

“The legacy of influx control in the Western Cape is the acute housing shortage that exists there now.”
That court also discussed the background to this policy fully in the majority judgment of that court in Ex Parte Western Cape Provincial Government and

Others: In Re DVB Behuising (Pty) Ltd v North West Provincial Government and Another 2000 (4) BCLR 347 (CC) paragraphs 41 to 47. It recently did so in the Thubelisha Homes cases.

You would not dare accuse these judges of anti-coloured racism but you have no compunction about scoring cheap political points at Manyi’s expense.

Coloured academics have also written extensively about the “nature and form of coloured identity in the Western Cape” and how “many coloureds have indicated that they feel marginalised in the post-apartheid dispensation, and are especially resentful at what they perceive to be a preferential allocation of resources to Africans in the Western Cape, when their needs are just as great.

See, Debating Coloured Identity in the Western Cape by Cheryl Hendricks, head of the Southern African Human Security Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria. Published in African Security Review Vol 14 No 4, 2005.

Hendricks notes the following: “In June 2005 factionalism within the provincial African National Congress (ANC) executive, widely proclaimed by the media to be between the ‘Africanists’ and the ‘non-racialists’, sparked renewed tensions. The traditional practice of the ANC in the region was to ensure that the ANC executive was largely representative of the demography of the province.

“The ‘Africanists’ asserted that this norm was dated, that representivity should be reflective of the majority of people who voted the ANC into power in the province, and that there was a need for speedier transformation in the Western Cape.”

I am beginning to suspect that your own political position has everything to do with the spewing of your bile directed at Manyi.

He is simply a scapegoat and it is abundantly clear that you have misused Manyi’s name.

Undeniably, you have denuded his statements of all relevant context in order to squelch any meaningful debate and to ingratiate yourself with some factions within your own political party.

It is simply inconceivable and inexcusable that you, an experienced Cabinet minister, would be so misinformed about the Constitution and simple labour economics issues.

Your comparison of Manyi’s views with those of Verwoerd is beyond the mischievous and is emblematic of a megalomaniac mind that has lost touch with reality.

How do you make the logical leap to equate a man who advocates opening up the entire South African labour market to all our citizens, including the coloureds, with a known segregationist and racist like Verwoerd?

Despite your so-called struggle credentials you have disgraced yourself and done a disservice to the many who sacrificed dearly for our freedom. You have white-washed and downplayed the grotesque nature of apartheid and its ideologues by your puerile antics.

You further make totally unsubstantiated statements that in the light of the utterances Manyi “made when you were the director-general of the

Department of Labour, and given the fact that the amendments to the Employment Equity Act were drafted during your tenure, I have a sense that your racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government.”

This is political grandstanding and arrogant display of disrespect to your Cabinet colleague whose portfolio includes labour.

While a director-general and legal teams may assist in the drafting of legislation, the views of one civil servant do not determine the outcome or settle a debate.

Are you suggesting that your colleague who has executive and political oversight over the labour d

epartment is not sufficiently sagacious or clever like you and would be hoodwinked by Manyi?

Draft bills are presented to you and your colleagues for approval and presumably you apply your mind conscientiously in that regard.

You have in a disingenuous way threatened to target, frustrate and single out for heightened scrutiny any amendments that Manyi may have worked on simply because you disagree with his views.

Your Cabinet colleagues would need to be ashamed of themselves for allowing your damnable, asinine and retaliatory antics to violate Section 197(3) of the Constitution.

Your statement that you “will ensure that Parliament acts in the letter and spirit of our Constitution when it adopts amendments to the act” is also a meaningless cliche.

It is a truism that Parliament will debate the matters extensively and that the chief state law advisor will scrutinise the proposed legislation and certify its constitutionality. That officer will never approve anything out of kilter with our Constitution.

So just hold your horses and chill Comrade Manuel!

Your statement that you have never waged any battle from the premise of being a coloured is a demonstrable falsehood.

Not long ago, you made statements about persons, presumably coloured and whites, who still wanted the apartheid coloured labour preference policy continued even in our democracy.

When Manyi made a statement supportive of transformation and in favour of opening up labour markets on a national scale you launched a merciless sledge-hammer attack on him simply because he is not a coloured entitled to speak on matters you deem your exclusive preserve.

Truth be told, you and a motley crew of coloured politicians have arrogated to yourselves the exclusive monopoly to speak or comment on issues pertaining to coloureds.

You have abused this supposed right to impose a form of apartheid and institutionalised hypocrisy in our national discourse.

Persons commenting on such “coloured” issues without first seeking advance permission from these self-anointed minders of coloureds run the risk of being savagely attacked and having their reputations ruined through lies and innuendoes.

How do we promote a meaningful national dialogue and advance the transformation agenda when you act as gangsters of the worst kind.

I am now forced to ask: Comrade Manuel, art thou the king of the coloureds?

Finally, you should be mortally ashamed of yourself for invoking President Mandela’s name in your juvenile and mean-spirited battles against Manyi.

You are no Nelson Mandela, sir.

I remain, faithfully yours,
Paul Ngobeni. 

» Ngobeni is a special adviser to the minister of defence and military veterans.

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