Remarks about the “overconcentration” of coloured people in the Western Cape were not in keeping with government spokesman Jimmy Manyi’s office, but there remained a problem that higher levels of management in the private sector were still “dominated by white males”, ANC mayoral candidate Tony Ehrenreich said at the weekend.
Addressing the Cape Town Press Club, Ehrenreich said: “Jimmy Manyi’s comments were not in keeping with the senior government office that he occupies… not matter what his intentions were.”
He said that Manyi, as a previous chairman of the Employment Equity Commission, had made the remarks in a particular context. Manyi had reacted to a particular standpoint where the private sector claimed that there were no skilled black people to fill management posts. “The argument that (the Western Cape) doesn’t have skilled black people… is racist,” Ehrenreich said.
Ehrenreich, who is Cosatu’s provincial general secretary, said Cape Town was effectively run by “a white old-boys club” whose networks extended across the board. It stretched from insurance companies getting cars panel-beaten at white firms, to geysers being fixed by white plumbers.
As mayor, he would work to build “a coherent response” to the issue of race in the workplace that would draw people into the economy and give them the opportunity of entering “into the system” currently dominated by white males.
Manyi, a former Labour Department director-general who was recently named government spokesman, has previously refused to comment on the public furore surrounding his remarks, made more than a year ago but raised again after his appointment. Part of his job is to brief the media on the bi-weekly cabinet meetings.
Ehrenreich did not think that Manyi’s remarks had damaged the ANC’s campaign in Cape Town. Manyi had previously argued – to the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association – that small minds discussed individuals and by implication, he would not discuss former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s suggestion that he was a racist. Manyi argued great minds spoke about ideas and he insisted he would remain in that terrain and not respond to Manuel.
Ehrenreich was outspoken when pressed on why the ANC tolerated Sheryl Cwele, who has been convicted for drug dealing but remains working for the ANC-controlled Hibiscus Coast municipality, and the alleged free spending of Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka.
“Sheryl Cwele should go to jail and her husband (the state security minister) should be investigated,” Ehrenreich said.
If it was indeed true that Shiceka had paid for a trip with public money to visit his girlfriend overseas, it was “a scandal”, said the mayoral candidate. “Individuals that are corrupt (should face) the full extent of the law,” he said.
But he said big business had been found guilty of the price fixing of bread, yet business as a whole had not been painted as corrupt. The same standard should apply to the ANC, which was not corrupt as a whole.
Ehrenreich, who was nominated by Cosatu to stand on the ANC’s ticket for mayor, said he would serve in the city council irrespective of whether he won the election against the DA’s Patricia de Lille on Wednesday.
He said polls by both main parties showed that they were neck and neck – with the DA running at about 44 percent and the ANC just behind this figure. There was a possibility that the ANC could rule with a coalition of parties which supported budgeting procedures that allowed for delivery to the working class and the poor to receive priority.
However, he said the DA was an important constituency representing wealthy voters, who needed to be taken into account. Many wealthy people played an vital role in establishing industry and jobs.
It was important, however, that residents of the leafy areas of Constantia and Milnerton allowed spending to be prioritised in poor areas. Instead of getting bicycle lanes and rapid bus transport services now, these areas should wait while the municipal budget provided bus services and other municipal services for the poor areas.
These areas tended always to come second in the supply chain, he argued. - Donwald Pressly