Manyi's plans for government agency hit brick wall

Controversial government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi. (David Harrison, M&G)

Controversial government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi. (David Harrison, M&G)

And the presidency slammed the controversial government spokesperson's lack of consultation.

Since joining the communications agency in February last year, Manyi has been tinkering with structural changes, but was this week stopped in his tracks by the treasury.

Before former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) chief executive Themba Maseko left, he conducted a review of the organisation with a new organogram. But when Manyi joined, he introduced another structure, upsetting some people in the  government.

“There is a concern that it appears that your department is preparing itself for growth during a constructive climate and the baseline impact of this structure change needs to be interrogated in more detail,” Manyi was told in the letter, written by Japie Jacobs, director general of ­government and administration in the treasury.

Jacobs added: “There are two new sub-programmes that your department wants to introduce in 2013-2014, namely cluster supervisor (human development, social protection and government and administration) and cluster supervisor (economic and infrastructure, justice and international). Introducing these sub-programmes suggests a requirement for additional staff and other related resources, for which there is no guarantee that additional funding will be received.”

Jacobs said the GCIS had previously indicated its budget pressures and how it had had to reprioritise to accommodate some of its main goals, impacting on staff morale and resulting in high staff turnover. “Based on this, it does not seem possible that these additional sub-programmes will be funded internally, except through additional funding.”

Manyi’s contract expires at the end of the month and is described by government officials as unlikely to be renewed.

Performance monitoring
The Mail & Guardian understands that Manyi also did not get approval for his plans from Collins Chabane, the minister in the presidency responsible for performance monitoring and evaluation.

On Thursday, the M&G was shown another letter from the presidency signed by Chabane’s deputy, Obed Bapela, in which he warned Manyi about going ahead with his restructuring plans.

“As the deputy minister delegated to provide ministerial oversight and responsibility to the GCIS, I hereby appeal to the top management not to proceed with the planned restructuring of the institution,” Bapela wrote.

“It is my firm belief that the restructuring of the GCIS should be holistic and not piecemeal. When the transition phase has been completed, the GCIS, in consultation with the executive authority, will engage on the process that will be followed in restructuring the institution. The restructuring process should be done in a holistic manner, with a view to shape the institution to respond to current demands and needs of the ruling party [the ANC].”

When approached for comment by the M&G, Manyi retaliated by issuing a statement titled “Smear campaign against Manyi orchestrated through the Mail and Guarian [sic]” and rejected claims that he had not informed Chabane about his restructuring plans.

Decision-making processes
“Any insinuation that the minister may not be aware is simply a misunderstanding of the collective decision-making processes of Cabinet or undermining the authority of the minister in GCIS operations,” said deputy GCIS chief executive Phumla Williams in the statement.

“Our request was in no way for funding or a restructuring of the organisation, but for the name changes of the branches in compliance with the national treasury guidelines,” said Williams.

A government official told the M&G: “The man has been changing the structure, moving people and renaming sections and units ad infinitum. Whereas his predecessor, Joel Netshitenzhe, left some degree of intellectual depth in government communications, Manyi mistook abrasiveness and aggression for intellectual sophistication.”

The official added: “Maseko had a good relationship with the media, but Manyi came in and destroyed that through his confrontational approach. He leaves no tangible legacy behind except an unstable GCIS and strained relations with the media and government communicators in general. He will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.”

Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012). Read more from Charles Molele

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