No Insight has generated quite as strong a reaction – I’m pleased to say overwhelmingly positive – as the last one “Manuel’s Choice”. And nothing has been written or said to have me change the opinion I expressed of Manuel. Indeed, he receives Insight and I’m sure would have responded if my interpretation of his Manyi remarks did him an injustice.
But Manuel’s statement is much more important than his criticism of Jimmy Manyi and his racially-driven employment classifications. Having described Manyi as a racist in the Verwoerdian mould – and there can be no more damning criticism than that – Manuel went on to say that racism exists in the “highest echelons of government”. It surprises that so few commentators focused on this alarming observation – because the reality is that this has been confirmed by other developments since Manuel’s statement on 2 March 2011.
By way of illustration, Horst Kleinschmidt was one of apartheid’s most persistent and articulate white opponents. Like some other leading anti-apartheid activists, he was born in Namibia. His history is worth reading on the web to get some idea of who this man is and what he did.
However, in a lengthy letter published in the Cape Times of Tuesday 22 March 2011 he had some remarkable criticisms to make of the ANC, confirming the thrust of Manuel’s statement.
Essentially, Horst who has an environmental interest, was appointed to the Department of Fisheries in the Cape. He was forced at a certain point to resign on principle because of the racist management of employment opportunities. To quote him: “In the civil service, unhappily, affirmative action, transformation, cronyism and “tenderpreneurship” have become the direct enemies, not only of an accountable government but of the [ANC’s historical] non-racial goal. The ANC leaders who now lack commitment to promote non-racialism have allowed powerful fiefdoms of African nationalism to triumph in much of the civil service. As head of the fisheries section of the Department of Environment and Tourism, I experienced the Manyi attitude in practice. The leadership would come from Pretoria and address the fisheries component of the staff in Cape Town and pronounce “there are 176 too many coloureds in the fisheries section, besides the 250 too many whites.” I was told that I could employ 1.5 more Indians, as they apparently, were under-represented. I reported these narrow-minded zealots to my administrative and political seniors, but there was no appetite to check such excesses.” He goes on to write: “Job applications of white people were routinely thrown into the waste bin. ..... I was made to understand that their PhDs and related experience counted for naught. An adjustment to the transformation timetable that allowed black people to come through the ranks was not an option. As for the coloureds, more subtle hints were offered: they did not support us in the Struggle, so why should they get jobs.”
Following this was an article by Mondli Makhanya of The Sunday Times and a highly-reputable journalist. Mondli started his article with a reference to something ANC intellectual heavyweight Pallo Jordan wrote years ago. Jordan had said that a condition for the new democracy “must entail the empowerment of the oppressed and most exploited – the Africans, coloured and Indians”. This, he argued, would partly be achieved by the implementation of affirmative action. But he then added: “The purpose of affirmative action is to create circumstances in which affirmative action will no longer be necessary.”
Going back to Makhanya: “In Manyi’s world transformation is about head counts and number crunching, NOT about deracialising society. It is this number-crunching perspective on transformation that has resulted in the ugly racial debate raging at the moment. It is fuelling the sense of victimhood among those South Africans who were classified coloured and Indian by the apartheid government and are still designated as such by our corrective legislation. Put simply, we continue to define ourselves along the same lines that apartheid set us. Whereas in the past it was clear that the whites were the perpetrators of racial oppression, and blacks (in general) were the victims, today everyone is scrambling for victim status and apportioning perpetrator status to the other. In all of this, the ruling party bumbles along cluelessly and defends the indefensible.”
Two senior journalists, Liezel Steenkamp and Pieter du Toit, of the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger captured the mood and – more importantly – the reality of all this in an article in Die Burger on the 15th March. They analysed Manuel’s criticism in what was a carefully written report, concluding: “A process of alienation has taken place in a systematic way since 1994 among the non-Africans in the ANC. The establishment of a so-called racial hierarchy, where your status, influence and future inside the party is determined by race became a reality under President Mbeki’s presidency, but the governing party notwithstanding maintained its non-racism image to the outside world. The growing Afro-nationalism that has taken place under President Jacob Zuma has shed its subtlety. What happened under Mbeki behind closed doors in the ANC is today been bandied about by people like Manyi and Julius Malema in public. They confirm what many for a long time have suspected: That an anti-brown (also anti-Indian and anti-white) sentiment exists within the ruling faction of the ANC.”
The Die Burger reporters’ point is that Manuel’s open statement burst the racial boil within the ANC. And the particular statement that did it was: “I have a sense that your [Jimmy Manyi’s] racism has infiltrated the higher echelons of government.”
The caption, incidentally, to Horst Kleinschmidt’s letter is “Good people in the ANC must say ‘no’ to the new racism”. You might ask - where are they?