I proceed from my recent blog posting on Manuel’s open letter to Manyi

Manyi is guilty as charged — no two ways about it. His statements about coloured people being over-concentrated in the Western Cape and his astounding rebuke for them to “stop this over-concentration” are truly shocking. It does not matter in what capacity or context he made them and it does not matter when exactly these statements were made. It is revolting enough to know that these statements were made 16 years into our democracy and they were made by a senior government official who also happens to lead a major non-racial organisation — the Black Management Forum.

And yet, if Manyi is guilty, Manuel is not necessarily innocent — the point of my earlier piece, on which I wish to expand.

Firstly, Manuel is a man who does not know the new South Africa, except as a chauffeur-driven Cabinet minister. Name a space, place or phase where crucial decisions had to be made about this country since the dawn of democracy; you will find one Trevor Manuel in there. The likes of Jimmy Manyi “came into power” via the route of the Black Management Forum and found Manuel already there. Manuel acknowledges in his letter that he was there when the first Employment Equity Bill was conceived. Since to our knowledge Manuel has always held a Cabinet position and held a position in the NEC of the ANC throughout the democratic era, where was he when the second Employment Equity Bill was conceived? I note that Manuel said he should have been “more vigilant” when Jimmy started making “strange utterances that sought to carve away at the basic premise of the Employment Equity Act”. A rather weak excuse, I would say. Why was he not vigilant enough?

Secondly, the “basic premise of Employment Equity Act” is indeed now under threat, not only from the narrow and dangerous racist thinking of the likes of Manyi, but from the emotional, belated utterances of those in power, such as Manuel, who have, by their own admission, been less than vigilant. But we shall not achieve this if our so-called leaders only find voice when it seems as if people who look like them are under threat. This disturbing reality cannot be masked by suggestions by the likes of Manuel and Jonathan Jansen that they are not speaking as coloureds, but only as “detribalised” non-racists. Incidentally, Manyi uses the same tactic when he insists on speaking in different capacities, one at a time, totally disconnected one from the other — Black Management Forum president, director general of the Department of Labour and more recently as a government spokesperson. It does not work — not for Manuel and not for Manyi.

Thirdly, in his letter to Jimmy, Manuel is at pains to expose the absent or questionable “struggle credentials” of Manyi. Manyi is asked directly and indirectly, what he personally did “in the war”, whether his experience compares to those who made “huge sacrifices”, whether he suffered the “misery of exile”, whether his credentials are as good as those who are the “sons and daughters” of people who were the first to resisted colonial powers, whether he participated “in the battles at the barricades” and whether he knows the inside of an apartheid jail. This line of argument is vicious, problematic but also symptomatic of a general tendency in sections of the ANC ruling elite. For one thing it perpetuates myths about the struggle that are convenient to the ruling elite. The struggle against apartheid is reduced to exile, jail, historical lineage and prominence in celebrated struggle personalities, events and moments. In reality, the struggle against apartheid was a lot more complex than that. There many more millions of South Africans who participated in the struggle than those listed in the TRC reports or those listed in the index of Manuel’s hagiographical biography. To talk about struggle credentials in the manner that Manuel does is misleadingly simplistic, perhaps deliberately so. Seeing that most South Africans have not become Cabinet ministers or director generals, how and from what platform, using whose microphone, will they trumpet their own perceived struggle heroics?

Fourth, the irony is that while Jimmy is justifiably accused of a form of racism that promotes a crude form of Black African(ist) domination of the kind decried by Nelson Mandela, Manuel’s utterances about struggle credentials are one of the main bases for the cronyism, cadre deployment, entitlement, tender fraud and sophisticated nepotism that is tearing our country apart at this time.

Manuel and Manyi are a lot closer than Manuel lets on. If Manyi advocates a system that will promote black Africans to the detriment of all others, while Manuel advocates one that will promote cadres and cronies with struggle credentials, what is the real principle difference between them?

Lastly, the reprehensible and dangerous words of Jimmy Manyi cannot be defended. I urge that the Manuels and Zumas of this land will have the courage of their convictions and ask either that Manyi makes an unreserved public apology or that he resigns from his current position.

However, we need to do a little more than merely pronounce Manyi a “racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd”. Nor is it accurate or helpful to insinuate that Manyi’s thinking on this matter represents the thinking of most if not all of the present government and all Africans, as Jonathan Jansen insinuates in his article.

We should desist from arguing — as Jansen does — that coloureds have had a monopoly of being at the receiving end of the worst kinds racial insults in this country. I am a not only black in the black consciousness sense of that word, I am also a not-as yet-detribalised Shangaan non-racist who is equally not coloured. But I, my grandmother and my father, know what it means to be insulted and treated like dirt by both black and white. What we all need to do is join hands in finding a passionate voice in defence of the sound, constitutional and “basic premise” of the Employment Equity Act, which is to ensure the inclusion of blacks — African, coloureds, Indians and Whites — who for historical reasons have been excluded from this country’s economy.


  • Tinyiko Sam Maluleke is a South African academic (currently attached to the University of South Africa [UNISA]) who suffers from restlessness, intellectual insomnia, insatiable curiosity, a facsination with ideas, a passion for justice, a crazy imagination as well as a big appetite for music, reading and writing. He has lectured briefly at such universities as Hamburg in Germany, Lausanne in Switzerland, University of Nairobi in Kenya and Lund University in Sweden - amongst others.


Tinyiko Sam Maluleke

Tinyiko Sam Maluleke is a South African academic (currently attached to the University of South Africa [UNISA]) who suffers from restlessness, intellectual insomnia, insatiable curiosity, a facsination...

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