Jimmy Manyi hits out at CEO pledge

30 October 2016 - 02:04 By CHRIS BARRON

The CEO Initiative Pledge signed by Black Business Council CEO Mohale Ralebitso does not reflect the views of the BBC, says its newly elected head of policy, Mzwanele Manyi.

"There is a discrepancy between the BBC position and that pledge," Manyi said this week.

The pledge was widely seen as an attack on the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

"We stand against ... politically motivated prosecutions that cannot satisfy the public interest test," it said. "We stand ... for the rule of law and against the decision to prosecute the minister ... on charges that are ... without factual or legal foundation."

On Tuesday, two days after the pledge was published in the Sunday newspapers, Ralebitso announced his resignation.

Said Manyi: "I am totally against this kangaroo democracy of public opinion in this CEOs pledge.

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"The BBC welcomes the fact that [national director of public prosecutions] Shaun Abrahams has confirmed that there was no political interference. As the BBC we have no right to second-guess him."

In the pledge signed by Ralebitso in the name of the BBC, the CEOs said they "stand against the damage this [the prosecution of Gordhan] has caused to our economy and to the people of South Africa".

The biggest fear of the CEO Initiative, which under the leadership of Jabu Mabuza is trying to avert a credit rating downgrade, is that any action against Gordhan will make this inevitable, with ruinous consequences for the economy.

But Manyi said the pledge was a dangerous attempt to undermine the rule of law. He said the prosecution of Gordhan must proceed regardless of any economic consequences.

"The day we allow ratings to be used to override the rule of law then South Africa will be going astray. Everything must be secondary to the rule of law.

"We cannot have a South Africa that is ratings agency sensitive at the expense of the rule of law.

"The BBC is not for interfering in the judicial process and is not for taking sides. The CEOs who signed that pledge are."

Mabuza, who convened and has led the CEO Initiative, said the fact that the pledge was signed by Ralebitso was the clearest signal yet of growing unity between the BBC, Business Unity South Africa and Business Leadership South Africa, both of which organisations Mabuza leads as president.

But hours later, the announcement of Ralebitso's resignation followed by Manyi's attack on the pledge he signed on behalf of the BBC blew that theory out of the water.

Ralebitso, 44, a former senior executive at Absa and Old Mutual Emerging Markets, became CEO of the BBC a year ago.

What many saw as an attitude of obeisance to President Jacob Zuma rooted in deep self-interest did not much change - until Ralebitso signed the pledge. But he did bring an element of sophistication, pragmatism and rational thinking to the organisation's pronouncements which had been conspicuously lacking.

block_quotes_start It is very important that the BBC associated with it and aligns itself with like-minded business leaders and organisations block_quotes_end

The differences between the BBC and Busa, with whose CEO Khanyisile Kweyama Ralebitso enjoyed a close rapport, seemed less unbridgeable than they had for a long time and certainly encouraged Mabuza to hope for a possible rapprochement.

The installation of Manyi as the organisation's new political commissar has changed all that, not to mention the appointment of Danisa Baloyi as president.

Baloyi was kicked off the boards of Absa Bank and Absa Group after her involvement in the notorious Fidentia scandal came to light. At the time Absa announced her removal from the boards as a result of public disclosures related to Fidentia.

Among these was the claim that she had received an interest-free R8-million loan from Fidentia, which she had not repaid by the time the curators were called in.

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Ralebitso said there was no link between his signing the pledge and his resignation. Although the announcement was delayed, he resigned on October 3, well before the pledge was published. Businesses he had started were in trouble and he needed to devote more time to them, he said.

He refused to comment on speculation that his resignation was prompted by the election on September 27 of Baloyi. Nor would he comment on speculation that he felt he would not be able to work with Manyi, who was elected head of policy of the BBC at the same time.

However, a source close to him said he would have preferred a younger leadership with no baggage.

"He also feels it is important to have a communality of vision and purpose among the leadership of the BBC, which might not be possible with Baloyi or Manyi," the source said.

He said Ralebitso did not want to have to spend time defending the BBC for decisions and policies he did not agree with.

Former vice-president and Zuma supporter Sandile Zungu, who has also resigned, for personal reasons, said he "loved the CEO pledge and endorsed it fully. It is very important that the BBC associated with it and aligns itself with like-minded business leaders and organisations."