The Running Commentary

Manyi, Government and accountability – the new oil and water mix…

It is should be abundantly clear to any person that effective accountability is the only way to ensure that a government delivers on its promises to the people.  Many governments around the world fail their people and we hear about this on a regular basis. When you trace back all of these failures, they are, almost always, as a result of poor accountability.

We have a situation in South Africa where we have a spokesperson for government, in the form of Jimmy Manyi. He is tasked with ensuring that government have the opportunity to put forward their side of the story.  I have to say that while I think he is not the best spokesperson I have heard, I am not sure that many of us would like this job.

Some of you would have heard the debate with John Robbie and Jimmy Manyi on Talk 702 yesterday. While I think that John had Jimmy dead to rights on a number of issues, Jimmy certainly did make a few reasonable statements. Where however he failed dismally was his avoidance of some key questions that John posed.  Questions around whether some of the actions taken by government ever would have happened had it not been for the media’s intervention for example.

Jimmy made the point that the government is taking a hard line on corruption and that the media does not talk about this, instead they (the media) talk about how corrupt the government is.  This point, to a casual observer of the press may appear to be well made.

The question that most irritated me and what led to this post, points to Jimmy Manyi’s own character. John Robbie asked Jimmy Manyi about the infamous Norwegian claims that he (Manyi) tried to solicit business in a meeting with the Norwegian ambassador.  Manyi elected to say that he was not prepared to be ambushed and said that he was not going to answer this.

While I can concur that if you are surprised to receive a question, that it would be fair to not answer right way, certainly Manyi could not be that naïve to not have anticipated that this question would be come up. “The cultural” response as the reason to him (Manyi) not apologising directly to coloured community of the Western Cape, smacks of a stuff you attitude.  Culturally, you apologise in the way that best suites the person you offended not the other way around. A true spokesperson would know this.

My point is that currently Jimmy Manyi has many question marks over his behaviour and conduct, government appear to think that this is not an issue.  None of the issues have sufficiently been investigated and government seem content to say that the public do not need to know the outcomes of these investigations anyway.  Fundamentally proving that government can be accused, in the extreme, of not having true accountability to the electorate and at the very least of being supremely naïve as far as their view of what the public want and need to hear.  We do want to hear about the issues of “public interest”. These include corruption and the like, because they help inform our decision making.

We do not need government to act as the sensor of what we can and cannot hear.  You the government are elected by the people and therefore you are accountable to the people, not the other way around.

702ANCDAJacob ZumaJimmy ManyiJohn RobbiepoliticsSouth AfricaSpokesperson

Mike • June 22, 2011

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