Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel has launched an unprecedented attack on government spokesman Jimmy Manyi, branding the Black Management Forum head as a racist in the mould of H F Verwoerd.
Manyi has never been far from controversy. When we was head of the Employment Equity Commission he denied that there was a skills shortage in the country, blaming the problems on the reluctance of business leaders to hire black people. He also called for white women to be removed from the Employment Equity Act’s scope as they were well represented.
The latest storm blew up in response to the proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Act. Trade union Solidarity found a video clip of Jimmy Manyi speaking on Freek Robinson’s programme a year ago. He said that there was an ‘over concentration of coloureds’ in the Western Cape and that they should move to other areas.
At the time he gave the interview Manyi was Director General of the Department of Labour and head of the Black Management Foum. Asked afterwards in which capacity he was speaking, Manyi responded that it didn’t matter.
Manyi was suspended from the Labour Department not long afterwards after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were lodged by the Norwegian ambassador. It was alleged that Manyi attempted to generate business for himself while acting in his capacity as Director General. His dual role at the Labour Dept and BMF was also a concern.
Now Trevor Manuel has ripped into Manyi. In an open letter he says, “I want to put it to you that your behaviour is of the worst order racist”. He goes on to say that, “the statements would make you a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd”.
“I have a sense that your racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government,” Manuel adds.
The attack gets more personal, and more severe. Questioning the role that Manyi played, if any, in the struggle against apartheid, Manuel asks, “What did YOU do in the war Jimmy?”
Manuel also attacks Manyi’s ethics, saying that not personally apologising showed a lack of moral conviction,”
The unprecedented attack on President Zuma, and the goverment’s spokesperson, begs the question whether Manyi can continue to keep his job. While clearly a gifted communicator, Manyi seems to court controversy whereever he goes and tends to become the story.