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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Jimmy Manyi: spokesperson for the fat cats

Jimmy Manyi is once again "disappointed" in the so-called lack of progress in employment equity (EE). According to his latest report, blacks in top management increased by only 3.9% last year. However, the number of blacks in professional management positions declined dramatically by 14.9%.

It is very interesting that the number of blacks in professional management positions declined by almost 15%. No reasons are supplied in the report quoted above, but it would be interesting to speculate why. Are black professionals dying of AIDS at a much greater rate than was previously suspected, for example? Are they also following the white brain drain and fleeing for greener pastures in the UK and Perth?

Jimmy Manyi is of course complaining with a full belly and a huge personal bank balance. He is a senior executive in Tiger Brands, a listed company. Tiger Brands is the same company that was involved in the bread price fixing scandal a while ago. What exactly qualifies him for his exalted position, apart from a propensity to complain and whine, is not too clear. One should therefore take his tantrums with a large pinch of salt.

As Solidarity's Dirk Hermann pointed out, much energy and hot air is expended complaining about the lack of blacks in top management positions. Top management however constitutes only 0.06% of the workforce. There is relatively little noise about the remaining 99.94% of the labour force. Hermann also points out that the number of whites in top positions has declined by a staggering 20% since 2003.

Manyi's focus on top management in a way reveals his true motives. He is quite simply not interested in the problems of the black working class. If he were, he would surely make equally as much noise about the dreadful state of basic education in South Africa. Regardless of Manyi's verbal diarrhoea and tired cries of racism which are utterly devoid of any credibility, the problem is not discrimination on the part of white companies, but rather the fact that many blacks are simply unemployable.

The real issue in South Africa is that the unemployed are simply not equipped for the challenges of a modern workplace, and they are especially ill-equipped to compete with billions of well-educated Chinese and Indians. The root cause can be traced back to woefully inadequate education in childhood, due to the ANC regime's failure to provide decent schooling. No black pupil currently attending school was ever subject to Bantu education, yet the quality of school leavers keeps declining. South Africa spends more than any other developing country on education as a proportion of its Gross National Product. Can the lack of success in education still be attributed to apartheid?

Manyi spends little energy bemoaning the poor state of education, however. Clearly Manyi has very little desire to address the root cause of  unemployment. His true constituency is rather the parasitic class of the elite, the 0.06%, who expect a 6-digit salary in return for their mere presence. Do not expect these members of royalty to work, but do expect to have to pay them a huge salary. Expect to see them living in opulent mansions and expect to see them driving in the emergency lane of the highway in their German sedans costing more than R1.5 million.

Robert Mugabe won't let an affirmative-action doctor operate on him but chooses to fly to Europe to receive medical treatment. Naledi Pandor sends her children to private schools with mostly white teachers. They look for excellence when it affects them personally, but Manyi expects employers to pay a fortune for employees who are somewhat less than excellent.

Most, if not all, employers realize that to appoint this kind of employee is nothing more than a kind of tax, as it were. They do not add value, but it is part of the risks and costs of doing business in South Africa. This acts as a disincentive to do business in South Africa, and makes the country less competitive internationally. Continued complaints by the likes of Manyi can and will only have one effect: it will discourage employers to hire, thereby exacerbating unemployment.

No wonder employers like Nicole Katz simply refuse to hire the Jimmy Manyi's of the world.
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