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Thursday, 3 March 2011

South Africa's Trevor Manuel slams 'racist' Jimmy Manyi

One of South Africa's most powerful ministers, Trevor Manuel, has accused the government spokesman of "the worst order of racism" over remarks he made about mixed race people.

Mr Manuel made the comments in an open letter published in a local newspaper.

Spokesman Jimmy Manyi said in an interview last year - which resurfaced recently - there was an "over supply of coloureds" (mixed race people) in Western Cape Province.

Mr Manyi has not commented.

Mr Manuel, a minister in the presidency in charge of economic policy, is the first minister to comment on the row.

"I want to put it to you that these statements would make you a racist in the mould of HF Verwoed [former South African prime minister, dubbed the 'architect of apartheid]," he wrote in the letter published in The Star newspaper.

Mr Manuel is the most senior member of South Africa's coloured community in the government.

"I now know who Nelson Mandela was talking about when he said from the dock that he had fought against white domination and that he had fought against black domination - Jimmy, he was talking about fighting against people like you."

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says it is unusual for a minister to launch such a strong public attack on another government official.

Mr Manuel's letter has caused mixed reaction in South Africa, our correspondent says.

While the ANC's youth wing has criticised him for publicly reprimanding Mr Manyi, civil society has applauded the move.

The ANC-led government has come under pressure from white- and coloured-led opposition parties over the years, who have accused it of ignoring the needs of the mixed race community in favour of black people.

Some opposition politicians say Mr Manuel's rebuke may be intended to help the ANC win over the coloured vote ahead of local elections due in April.

Mr Manyi made the statements during a televised interview in March 2010, when he was director-general of the Labour Department.

The ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) has since distanced itself from Mr Manyi's remarks, saying they were "disturbing" and "unacceptable".

The government's communication department has issued an apology on behalf of Mr Manyi.

BBC News