Transformation takes time – Manyi

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate.

April 1, 2011

South Africa could not expect to turn around 350 years of oppression in 17 years, chief government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said yesterday.

“Seventeen years will never be enough. Do you understand what it is to turn around 350 years of deprivation?” he asked a Tomorrow’s Leaders convention in Sandton.

Manyi compared transformation to the lifecycle of a butterfly, and said that what was needed was fundamental change from the beginning of the cycle to the end.

South Africans needed to respect each other’s cultures and learn to co-exist, he said.

“When we have arrived at the rainbow status of our nation we would not have dispensed with our diversity.”

Manyi said he was glad that DA leader Helen Zille had launched her party manifesto in Kliptown at the weekend.

“I was glad she went there so she could see what apartheid has done.”

South Africans had achieved political freedom, he said, but the challenge was still economic freedom.

“It’s not going to be easy, because once you tamper with the issue of economics, then you have very little friends. People don’t want to let go of what they have.”

Manyi said the government had inherited an unbalanced country in 1994, when 87 percent of the land was owned by white people, who made up just 12 percent of the country’s population.

“Not much has changed,” he said, adding that transformation still had a long way to go.

“The challenge we are facing is a very, very big challenge,” he said.

In 1994, more than 80 percent of the top jobs were held by white people and 87 percent of government procurement went to white-owned companies, he added.

Ownership by black people represented less than 2 percent of the market capitalisation of the JSE.

A survey in 2007 of 3 500 companies, including all those listed on the JSE, found that 74.8 percent of ownership was still concentrated in the hands of white people.

“They did not even have this discussion to sell to white people.”

The survey found there had been “some kind of progress” on employment equity, but it was “very small”.

“You could argue this was the good work of the Department of Labour over the year. You know it’s a very good department,” he said to laughter.

Manyi, who is also the president of the Black Management Forum, was the director-general of the Department of Labour before he was suspended last year after the Norwegian ambassador formally complained that Manyi had used an official departmental meeting to promote his private interests.

Manyi also took aim at the Freedom Front Plus for its attack on the ethics of affirmative action.

Earlier this week, the Freedom Front Plus called Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s defence of affirmative action during his visit to the US “immoral”.

“The time has come for affirmative action to be phased out,” Freedom Front Plus spokesman Anton Alberts said.

Manyi disagreed, saying: “I don’t know where they are coming from.”

The constitution provides for equality among all citizens, including a provision “to promote the achievement of equality” of all.

“It recognises it’s a work in progress.” Manyi said this was why he liked the Afrikaans phrase “regstellende aksie (corrective action)” for affirmative action.

“If something must be put right, it means there is something wrong with that thing,” he added. – Sapa

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