Jimmy Manyi faces ultimatum

Labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana has instructed his director general Jimmy Manyi to choose between his job in government and his position as president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), The Sunday Independent reported on Sunday.

Mdladlana, who was attending a child labour conference in The Hague in Netherlands, said Manyi’s holding of two positions was “not sustainable”.

He said they had already discussed the matter.

After he was appointed director-general for the department of labour, Manyi apparently promised Mdladlana that the BMF deputy president Thembakazi Mnyaka would “carry the can” for the organisation.

Manyi later stood for the organisation’s presidency and was re-elected in October, two months after he was appointed director-general.

No one to lead?
“Now that they know he is the director-general of the department of labour for the next three years (they should appoint another president).

“Are they (the BMF) saying there is no one who can be the president of the BMF? He should have moulded a leader as he was leading,” Mdladlana said.

Manyi recently said the Constitution had to be changed as it did not favour transformation. He also attacked the freedom of expression clause, blaming it for the media’s criticism on President Jacob Zuma.

The controversial Manyi is notorious for his unpopular statements. The BMF called the election of Business Unity SA president Futhi Mtoba “a blow against transformation and the unity process in the South African business community”.

But those close to the election process told the Mail & Guardian that votes from across both established white business and what can be seen as emergent black business were cast in Mtoba’s favour.

She ran against BMF backed businessman Sandile Zungu — who was reportedly seen as having greater entrepreneurial skills and stronger links to government.

Liability
One source argued that Manyi’s hard line campaign for Zungu eventually became a liability.

The M&G reported in October 2009 that Manyi insisted there was no conflict in heading the Black Management Forum at the same time as occupying a senior government position, while government declined commenting at the time.

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 at the time 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 had said in his address to conference delegates.

Cosy relationship
Manyi’s Labour Department role would not muzzle him, Mdladlana said then. “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].”

But Manyi made no bones about the cosy relationship between government and the forum.

“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.

At the time of his appointment to the Labour Department, Manyi said 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.

However Manyi remained at the forefront of the organisation. Besides his forceful statements around Mtoba’s appointment, he was also vocal in November 2009 around the ousting of Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga. — Sapa and the M&G

See our Dummy’s guide to the Eskom crisis.

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