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ANC Centenary: Manyi’s spin machine goes into overdrive

Wilmot James, Federal Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance
29 March 2012

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi is going to great lengths to ensure that the amount of public money spent on the ANC’s centenary celebrations in January remains hidden.

Leaked Government and Communication Information System (GCIS) memos in the DA’s possession offer an insight into Manyi’s machinations.

On Monday 26 March a document entitled “Guidelines for replying to written parliamentary question on official visits to Bloemfontein” was circulated to all government communicators.

It instructed officials to dodge the parliamentary question by:

  • Referring the questioning DA MP to Annual Reports to find the information;
  • making the argument that it is “not peculiar to have officials travelling to Bloemfontein or any part of the country for that matter for official business”; and
  • defending officials’ trips on the basis that “Government is confident that their Mangaung experience will help shape them into public servants that serve their country with humility.”

This was followed up by a “pre-buttal” statement by Jimmy Manyi to this effect on the same day. The DA responded saying that Manyi’s arguments were irrelevant to the core issue that government money was used for a party celebration. As a result they did nothing to convince us that this was not a blurring of party and state.

Mr Manyi must have realised that the DA had a point because two days later, on Wednesday 28 March, an email was sent to all government communicators which stated the following:

Dear Colleague,
 
A few days ago the GCIS sent you guidelines on the suggested response to the Democratic Alliance parliamentary question with respect to trips undertaken by government officials to Bloemfontein in December 2011 and January 2012. Please do not respond using the suggested guidelines until further notice. An email will be sent tomorrow morning providing clarity on way forward.
 
Until then, please do not respond to the question and do contact me if you have any queries.
 
We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and assure you that clarity will be provided by 09h00 tomorrow morning.
 
Regards
 
Neo Momodu
Chief Director: Media Engagement
GCIS
Tel: +27 79 462-5081 or 012 314-2108
Email: neom@gcis.gov.za

The new set of

guidelines

sent out this morning offers an entirely new argument as to why each ministry should not answer the set of questions posed by the DA. The old line that only officials who “happened” to be in Bloemfontein attended the celebration and that that those who did would somehow gain “humility” from the experience is gone. The new line is that “a number of state agencies and departments were mandated to make preparations as part of the courtesies extended to any President/Head of State visiting a country.” It adds that “officials from different departments were deployed to ensure the smooth running of the event.”

Both these bland and generic responses are designed to shut down the DA’s very specific request for information. When Manyi realised that the first response was not at all credible, he instructed all departments to go with the second response.

Manyi’s communication machine is spinning out of control in its attempts to hide how much the ANC centenary has drained the public purse.

These attempts to deflect away from the real issue do not fool us. All they do is tell us that we are onto something. If government can justify spending money on government officials travelling to Mangaung, why can’t it tell us how much was spent and who went? Is it because the numbers are so large that they will cause a public outcry regardless of the explanation cooked up by Manyi’s spin machine? It certainly seems that way.

The South African people have a right to know how much of their money was spent jetting government officials to the ANC’s bash in Bloemfontein. And so the DA will continue to probe the cost of the centenary. Government has a constitutional duty to account to Parliament and we intend to hold every department to this obligation. Manyi’s machinations will only get government so far.