The ANC withheld any support for Trevor Manuel’s scathing attack on Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday as Cosatu sided with him and pressure piled on the government spokesman over his controversial race remarks.
In the ruling party’s only comment on Manuel’s outburst against Manyi, secretary general Gwede Mantashe hinted that the ANC heavyweight and planning minister in the presidency had acted without the party’s backing.
“He does not want our view. If he wanted our view he would have written a letter to us. He went into the open. We won’t join the match, we won’t get into that mud with him,” Mantashe said.
Manuel branded Manyi a “worst-order racist” in an open letter to the Cape Times and added: “I have a sense that your racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government.”
Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said he agreed that Manyi’s statement about an “over-concentration” of coloured people in the Western Cape was racist and further comments along this line would call into question his fitness for high office.
“I agree with Manuel. He is right. That remark of Jimmy’s was a most unfortunate statement ever to be made in a democracry,” Vavi said.
“It is a bizarre statement. I dont know what he had smoked to make that statement… It is absolutely racist, in fact you can’t put it in any other words.
“We’ll be checking very carefully as to whether he will be making other such statements because it then calls into (question his) fitness…. whether he is fit for the position that he has just been promoted to if he harbours such views.”
Manuel’s former Mbeki-era Cabinet colleague Kader Asmal urged government to make a moral choice between the views of Manuel and those of Manyi.
“Minister Manuel deserves the support and praise of all right-thinking South Africans,” Asmal said in a statement.
“The choice facing us is very clear: do we stand behind the humane and generous values of Minister Manuel, or do we, by staying silent, lend our support to the mischievous and dangerous notions of Mr Manyi.”
The Democratic Alliance urged President Jacob Zuma to fire Manyi, after releasing a recording of remarks he made about Indian South Africans last year while still director general of labour.
“Indians, we should be having only three percent of positions on management. They are sitting at 5.9. I call it the power of bargaining. Indians have bargained their way to the top,” Manyi said in an address delivered to the Durban Chamber of Commerce last year.
The DA’s federal chairman, Wilmot James, said the address was recorded by SAFM radio on February 20 last year, a month before his controversial remarks about coloured people in an interview with DStv channel KykNET.
“The DA today calls on President Zuma to dismiss his government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi,” he said.
Manyi, also president of the Black Management Forum, confirmed he had made the remarks in his Durban address, but said they were in jest.
“The remarks were made in jest; just a jest, on a light note. I was quoting figures at the time. The remark was really just made in jest,” he said.
He refused to react to Manuel’s letter.
Manuel is the chairman of the national executive committee deployed in the Western Cape to help the party regroup ahead of local government elections after losing the province to the DA in 2009.
In his letter, he said he would “do battle” to ensure that Parliament did not pass amendments to the Employment Equity Act drafted on Manyi’s watch if they violated the non-racial spirit of the Constitution.
Manyi’s woes began but weeks after he was appointed government spokesman in February when the Solidarity trade union claimed that if the amendments were passed up to 80 percent of coloureds in the Western Cape would lose their jobs and posted a clip of the KykNET interview on YouTube.
Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary general, Tony Ehrenreich, said he wanted to know the extent of Manyi’s role in drafting the equity law amendment and called for an investigation into his remarks on coloured people.
“Was he instrumental in drafting the law as it come out, given his attitude?” Ehrenreich asked.
Political analyst Adam Habib suggested that Manuel’s letter could be part of the ANC’s campaign in the Western Cape ahead of the elections.
“Strategic calculations are being made about the Western Cape.”
However, Habib said he believed at the same time that Manuel was personally outraged by Manyi’s stance.
“The scale of it, the articulation of it, the harshness of it suggests that he is really angry and he feels violated in some personal sense.”
Cope MP Dennis Bloem, who defected from the ANC in 2009, said Manuel’s letter should be read as proof of a bitter battle over race policy in the ruling party. – Sapa