In South Africa, only very rarely will political leaders openly criticize each other for their shortcomings, stupid and controversial statements, and despicable actions. Whether you are charged with rape, unsafe sex with someone you know is HIV positive (whilst having a wife or two), misusing tax money, corruption, fraud, or bloody murder: for what ever reason, South Africa’s leaders tend not to openly lambast each other very often. That does not mean, they support each other – they just prefer to keep quiet.
Throw race in the mix and you have got a completely different scenario. Take Trevor Manuel’s open letter to Jimmy Manyi.
Trevor Manuel, former minister of finance and now one of the ministers in the president’s office, is known as a clever, quiet, calm and thoughtful man who seems to over think every idea before opening his mouth.
I remember him while he presented South Africa’s budget in 2009, his last one. At that particular time, South Africa had just been hit by the global economic crisis, which had resulted in the country’s first recession in 17 years. Times were tough, extremely tough and incredibly insecure. Left, right, and center people were losing, companies were closing their doors and folded, mining companies had to decimate their production and the overall economic situation looked gloomy. Trevor Manuel, who must have been terribly worried about the situation, however stood there in utter confidence and managed to inject some much-needed optimism into the Rainbow Nation.
This very man is also known for keeping quiet with regards to the actions of other public figures. Up until now. Out of the blue, Manuel let it rip like no public figure in South Africa has let it rip before. His target: Jimmy Manyi – a government spokesperson, the President Black Management Forum (BMF), and known for a racist statement with regards to South Africa’s coloured population a year or so back.
In March 2010, Manyi – director general of labour at the time – stated during an TV-interview that coliured people “should spread in the rest of the country… so they must stop this over-concentration situation because they are in over-supply where they are.”
These statements practically went unnoticed but were dug up this month, shortly after the publication of a controversial column by Sunday World’s Kuli Roberts – herself black – about coloured women. The column (Jou Ma se Kinders), which was poorly written and riddled with senseless, sensitive and false stereotypes about coloured woman, was taken down shortly afterwards due to heavy criticism from all corners of society.
Shortly afterwards, the conversation’s focus switched to what Manyi had said about a year before.
Trevor Manuel hit back with full force by writing an open letter, that was published in various newspapers and websites. Some passages.
“I want to put it to you that these statements would make you a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd. I want to put it to you that you have the same mind that operated under apartheid, never merely satisfied with inflicting the hurt of forced removals and the group areas act, would encamp language groups so that horrible aberrations, such as Soshanguve, were created to accommodate “non-Tswanas” in their own little encampments in greater Mabopane.”
“Mr Manyi, you may be black, or perhaps you aren’t, because you do not accept that label and would prefer to be “only a Xhosa”. Whatever the label you choose, I want to put it to you that your behaviour is of the worst-order racist.”
“I have never waged any battle from the premise of an epithet that apartheid sought to attach to me but I will do battle against the harm you seek to inflict. When I do so, it is not as a coloured but as a non-racist determined to ensure that our great movement and our constitution are not diluted through the actions of racists like you.”
“I now know who Nelson Mandela was talking about when he said from the dock that he had fought against white domination and that he had fought against black domination. Jimmy, he was talking about fighting against people like you.”
I can help but to wonder what the content of Manyi’s reply will be.* Fore the full version of Trevor Manuel’s letter to Jimmy Manyi, click here.