Manyi's dual roles queried

There is no conflict in heading the Black Management Forum at the same time as occupying a senior government position, says Jimmy Manyi. And the government declined to say this week whether public service regulations condone Manyi’s joint role as director general of labour and forum president.

Manyi has brushed aside scepticism arising from his re-election to the top forum job. “I continue to hold the two positions unashamedly,” he told the Mail & Guardian, saying that both the forum and the government wanted the same thing—transformation in the workplace.

The government’s senior management service handbook says employees should not use their positions to promote or prejudice any political party or interest group and should avoid conflicts of interest.
But the public service commission and the department of public service and administration referred the M&G to each other, leaving inquiries about Manyi unclarified.

The handbook also says senior managers must place all their time at the disposal of the state, as the Public Service Act requires. Manyi told the M&G this week that he took three days’ leave to perform forum duties, but refused to say if he had discussed the holding of the two positions with Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana.

As Manyi’s boss, Mdladlana told the BMF conference on Thursday that a delegation had met with him at his office and asked him to stop Manyi from standing for the organisation’s presidency. He did not say who was part of the delegation. “It’s Jimmy’s choice if he wants to be BMF president,” Mdladlana said in his address to conference delegates.

Manyi’s Labour Department role would not muzzle him, he said. “I used to work in the private sector and I criticised corporates. Why is it any different now?” he asked. “If we [the forum] have to criticise, that will probably be 1% of everything. It cannot define the relationship [with government].”

The relationship between the government and the forum is likely to be cosy, though.

“We want government to give the forum a call before they move [on policy] and say ‘How must we do this?’ We want to influence policy. It is not the forum’s job to criticise government; we’ve got the DA to do that,” Manyi said.

He was elected unopposed after another contender, Shell SA chairperson Bonang Mohale, withdrew from the race on the day of elections.

Forum managing director Gaba Tabane said Mohale had accepted the nomination on the understanding that Manyi was not available, saying he had never intended to challenge Manyi. Manyi first told the board he would not stand but changed his mind, saying he was persuaded by members to stand. Mohale then withdrew.

Manyi disputed the perception expressed this week that the forum had failed to groom capable leaders, making it easy for him to hold on to the presidency for another term. “It is the best term to do the grooming because I know that there is no third term in the forum.”

Although he refused to concede that his two positions could create a public relations nightmare, Manyi did indicate that his new forum deputy, Tembakazi Mnyaka, was likely to become the “face” of the organisation. “She will be more profiled. I’m going to play a supporting role,” he said.

He acknowledged that there were people in the forum who were unhappy because they “genuinely wanted a different person”.

“It might take a bit longer to win those people back,” he said, adding that he is prepared to work on uniting the forum. “There are no grudges. I think it was all in a good spirit.”

As part of a campaign to vote him out of the forum, Manyi had been criticised during the build-up to its elections for accepting a government position and for endorsing the ANC for the April national elections without a mandate from the forum.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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