Manyi faces grilling over racism row

Thabo Mokone
CONTROVERSIAL Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi is set to face a grilling this morning after yesterday‘s revelations that he first made racist remarks about Indians a month before laying into coloureds.
The DA yesterday released a sound clip at a media briefing in Cape Town in which Manyi is heard saying that “Indians have bargained their way to the top”.
This after Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, in an “open letter” published yesterday, said Manyi‘s comments – that coloured people were “over-concentrated” in the Western Cape and should look elsewhere in the country for work – made him seem like a racist in the “mould of HF Verwoerd”.
Manuel was, in turn, accused by the ANC Youth League of representing right-wing interests.
Last night, Manuel stood by his letter, telling the SA National Editors‘ Forum in Johannesburg: “One of the battles we have is a battle against forgetting.
“The Constitution is based on principles established by former ANC president Oliver Tambo and the Freedom Charter: South Africa belongs to all who live here. When something impedes that liberty I will take up the fight. Someone has to sound the wake-up call.”
In the letter, national executive chairman Manuel, sent to the Western Cape to help the ANC regroup ahead of local government elections after losing the province to the DA in 2009, said he suspected Manyi‘s “racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government”.
DA federal chairman Wilmot James yesterday played a sound clip of Manyi addressing the Durban Chamber of Commerce on February 20 last year on the subject of employment equity legislation in his capacity as director-general of labour.
In the clip, first broadcast by SAfm last year, Manyi is heard saying: “Indians, we should be having only 3% (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.”
James said: “It is nothing more than bigotry and prejudice disguised as humour that relies on old racist cliches left over from the apartheid era.”
He called on President Jacob Zuma to fire Manyi as government spokesman.
Earlier, Manuel‘s letter to Manyi drew blood from ANC Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu, who said the youth league was “disturbed” by the planning minister‘s missive.
He said: “We now do not know who Trevor Manuel represents, because his remarks fall squarely into the political agenda of right-wing political forces opposed to the ANC.”
The DA called Manuel‘s letter hypocritical as he was part of the Cabinet and must have been aware of the controversial nature of the Labour Amendment Bill, at the centre of Manyi‘s comments about the coloured community. If passed in its current form, the Bill could force coloured people to move out of the Western Cape in order to find jobs.
The Employment Equity Act of 1998 allows designated employers (of 50 people or more) to make their workforces conform to either national or regional demographics. But the proposed Bill makes it essential for employers to aim at national population figures instead.
SA Institute of Race Relations special research head Dr Anthea Jeffery said: “The draft legislation could impose a freeze on the hiring of additional coloured workers, while employers in the Western Cape will face the impossible dilemma of needing to reduce the proportion of the workforce that is coloured while at the same time avoiding penalties for unfair dismissal.”
Additional reporting by Sapa, I-Net Bridge

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