National Assembly Debate on an urgent matter of National Public Importance: recent incidents of violence and criminality in the country, including those affecting foreign nationals

CONTRIBUTION BY

PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP

PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

 

In the midst of a crisis, leaders must act.
We are in a crisis. As our nation grapples with the horror of gender-based violence, a
new wave of xenophobic attacks has washed over South Africa. Lives have been
lost and property damaged. There has been looting and burning and violence.
Families have been left destitute, fearing for their lives.
While all this is happening, the world is watching, and we are being judged.
We know that the violence has sprung from our own people’s despair and frustration.
Yet the response is wrong. It must be stopped.
Knowing this, I went on Sunday to Johannesburg to speak to my fellow South
Africans; not to take sides, but to quell the tensions with the voice of truth. I stated
very clearly that I was there, not as a politician, but as an elder. I was there for the
sake of my country.
Tragically, the night before Sunday’s meeting, bottle stores were looted and several
angry township and hostel residents arrived still inebriated. They were in no mood to
hear a message of peace or to be reminded of our Constitution.
Nevertheless, the truth was spoken, and it had an impact.
Was I right to go? To my mind, it would have been a dereliction of duty not to go. In
fact, that is what I said to Minister Cele. I advised him that I was going to
Johannesburg and he expressed his gratitude, offering to arrange security.
So I am dumb-stuck by the Minister’s comment yesterday that he is “taken aback” by
my visit to Johannesburg, as though what I did was political posturing. The
insinuation is there that, had I not gone to Johannesburg, the looting and violence
that took place on Sunday would not have happened.

Minister, you know why I went. I was not stealing anyone’s thunder or scoring
political points. I am too old for political games. I went in good faith, accepting my
responsibility to act to quell the violence. There are diplomatic and economic
ramifications to what our people are doing.
When I spoke about our brotherhood on the African continent and when I reminded
us of the risks and sacrifices many African countries took to support our liberation
struggle, I was speaking as someone who is part of that history.
When I spoke about the need to resolve undocumented migration, I was speaking as
South Africa’s first Minister of Home Affairs under democracy, having grappled with
these issues for ten years in the Cabinets of President Mandela and President
Mbeki.
When I warned that we are fighting our own family and starting a feud that can only
end in tragedy, I was speaking as the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch
and Nation.
Minister Cele had informed me that some of those who were looting were seen
running into the hostels, suggesting that these people may be Zulus. I apologised to
His Majesty the King on Saturday at the Reed Dance Ceremony, saying that I had to
leave to go to Johannesburg.
When I spoke there against withholding justice from foreigners, I was speaking as a
Christian.
For all these reasons, I had a responsibility to act. To say now that I was scoring
political points or doing something unexpected is simply deceitful.
I have been vilified for too long to speak diplomatically. I am sick of the IFP being
cast as responsible for violence, either obliquely or directly.
The simple fact is I have the temerity to walk into difficult situations, knowing that I
cannot please everyone, and I will be attacked. But that is part of the job of being a
leader.
I will always be willing walk into danger, either physical or political, for the sake of
saving lives. And to me, lives are lives. Our Constitution enshrines the right to
freedom from all forms of violence. That right applies to everyone in South Africa,
whether citizens or not.
Attacks on foreign nationals and their businesses is a violation of human rights and a
violation of our Constitution.

I understand the tensions and the valid complaints. Wrongs have been committed by
both sides. This violence has not come out of nowhere. But there is a saying in Zulu
that you cannot slaughter all the sheep because one sheep has transgressed.
We are making South Africa a swear word on the continent, and a laughingstock in
the rest of the world. Because the world knows what we are so quick to forget:
Africans are family.
I fear what will happen if we fail to extinguish this fire.
There are consequences for our country and for our people in the diaspora. We need
to stop this thing in its tracks before serious action is taken against us.
Honourable Speaker; this is not the first spate of attacks, but it must be the last.