Joint Sitting Debate On The 2017 State Of The Nation Address

Address By
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

National Assembly

Honourable Speaker;
Honourable Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces;
Your Excellency the President;
Your Excellency the Deputy President;
Honourable Ministers;
Honourable Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members –

When the apartheid regime imposed the homelands system on South Africa, Mr Oliver Tambo and Inkosi Albert Luthuli urged me to take up leadership of the KwaZulu Government. In this way, they said, we could undermine apartheid from within.

I did what they asked, for they were my leaders.

But it placed me on a journey of intense opposition, vilification and danger; a journey that endured for many years. Why did I keep going? Because I love my country, I respect my leaders, and I follow my conscience.

These are the same reasons I keep serving, even in a vastly changed political environment; even when chaos regularly erupts in this House; even when we are forced to apologise to our guests, to the nation and to international observers; even when security is breached, and the Constitution is considered pliable; even when the Hon. Ndlozi warns me to move, because things are about to get rough.

I am descended from warriors and kings. My grandfather fought at Isandlwana. I have survived countless assassination attempts. I’ve been watched by the Security Police and have gone head-to-head with powerful leaders. I am not afraid.

But I am tempted to become despondent.

After the sitting last Thursday, a message was posted on Facebook that read –
“My heart broke when Prince Buthelezi said ‘I am told it’s going to get rough. I don’t know where to go…’ Does he realise that that sentence is the voice of the people?”

This is what our people are saying, Mr President. They know that it’s about to get rough. And they don’t know where to go. They don’t know where to turn for safety, or how they and their families can avoid the storm.

Empty words don’t provide refuge. There is no longer meaning in the well-worn phrases: “a better life for all”, “government is working hard”, “we’re showing signs of stability” and “working together we can do more”.

Our people are desperate for something real. Real hope and real solutions.

I must thank you, Mr President, for finally explaining what is meant by “radical economic transformation”. Unfortunately, while the intention has merit, the approach is flawed.

Listen again to the words of Mr Tambo: “We have it within our power to transform this country into the land of plenty for all…”

That vision carried through in GEAR; the Growth, Employment and Redistribution plan. It carried through in AsgiSA; the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa. But it doesn’t carry though in the new plan of radical economic transformation.

GEAR didn’t fail. It was abandoned by the ANC. AsgiSA wasn’t flawed. It simply lacked the sustained and strategic leadership needed to implement it. The same might well be said of the NDP in years to come. It didn’t fail and it wasn’t flawed, it just wasn’t carried through.

The difference between these economic approaches and the programme of radical economic transformation is the complete reliance on rearranging the little that exists, moving it from one group to another. Evidently, white monopoly capital is now the only scapegoat for failed leadership on economic policy.

I believe in the redistribution of wealth and the creation of social and economic justice. But I also know that if we shift our focus away from growth, and make it all about redistribution, millions of South Africans are going to go hungry. There is just not enough to go round.

I warned Government about this from the very beginning. When we entered democracy in 1994, I urged us to focus on growth. We needed to grow our industrial bases. We needed to grow our economy. We needed to grow our workforce through skills development. We needed to grow our citizens through education.

No matter how you slice it, the pie is just not big enough for everyone to eat. South Africa must grow and develop and progress. Reshuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic will not save the lives of those who are destined to drown if this ship goes down.

This is why I have always pushed for accessible, quality education. The Fees Must Fall campaign isn’t new. In 1971 I met with then Prime Minister John Vorster to urge him to introduce free, compulsory education in KwaZulu. Vorster refused. He followed the apartheid line that blacks were destined to be drawers of water and hewers of wood, and as such they had no use for education. It was a way to keep us under control. Because education brings freedom. Education breaks chains.

Education remains the only way to build a future of opportunity, development, stability and hope. It is how we will transform this country into a land of plenty for all, rather than a land where a shrinking resource base is simply redistributed, laying the foundation for a new cycle of poverty, hunger and despair.

The greatest obstacle to fair redistribution is corruption. It’s not just the media that exposes corruption, maladministration and poor financial management. The Auditor General consistently reports this reality in our Government. We know that inequality is escalating because a large part of the resources that exist is redirected away from laudable goals, into private pockets. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

The intention to eradicate mud schools, for instance, is commendable. But we have heard about this for years. With the launch of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, in 2011, 496 inappropriate structures were identified, to be rebuilt by 2014. Six years later, only 173 have been eradicated. That’s not good enough. Basic Education receives the lion’s share of our national budget. Where is that money going?

Let me ask what only the NGO, Section 27, has thought to ask. After the Limpopo textbook saga, why have we heard nothing about textbooks being replaced? That is meant to happen every five years. Five years have passed. Now what?

Education is the way to economic liberation. Government has a duty to translate the right to education from legislation to reality. I must therefore applaud the reprioritising of R32 billion to support higher education. At last we are heeding the cry of our students.

But another cry will soon resound from our people, and about this we heard very little. South Africa is facing a water crisis which impacts our economy and our ability to produce food. We desperately need the President’s direction on what is being done to meet this crisis. Without water, even land loses value.

The idea that land is the most tangible form of economic empowerment resonates with me. But again, Mr President, education is key. Much of the land allocated to claimants now lies fallow and unproductive. This does nothing to empower the landowner, or advance the economy. It is an exercise in futility.

Our people must be equipped with skills as well as resources. We must reignite hope in our nation, so that people will find the strength to pursue self-reliance.

Failed leadership is robbing our people of hope.

And the payment of millions of social grants alone doesn’t make that alright. We are fast reaching a point, Mr President, where nothing we do in the future will be able to undo the damage.