“BREAKING BARRIERS – BUILDING THE FUTURE”
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Curries Fountain, Durban: 16 June 2018
The celebration of Youth Day in 2018 converges with a number of milestones. This year, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela and also of Mrs Albertina Sisulu. Today we remember the 1976 student uprisings, and we honour 40 years of activism of the IFP Youth Brigade.
These are all significant milestones. But Youth Day is about more than looking backwards and remembering the past. Something exciting lies ahead, and it is that that we should focus on as we celebrate June 16th.
A year from now, there may well be a new balance of power in South Africa, and the Government of KwaZulu Natal could look very different. Because before we celebrate June 16th again, South Africa will hold a national and provincial election. It may be before the end of this year. It may be early in 2019. But we know it is coming. And when it does, it could change everything.
I am pleased that I have the chance to talk to you on June 16th 2018, because you are the ones who will shape the future. I have imbued the IFP with the values and principles of the past generation; of those who liberated South Africa. These principles will go forward long after I am gone. I am confident that this generation will take them into the future, offering to our country what tomorrow needs.
It is time for the next generation to lead, to show the way, and to decide. I am passing on this power to you. I am not the IFP. You are the IFP. Whether I see the next election or not, the IFP will go into it strong, for you are ready to take the baton and run with it.
I say this, not because there are no obstacles or barriers on the path ahead, but because I know you are equipped to overcome those obstacles and to break barriers.
I recently received a letter from a young man named Mr Eric Shikobela. He spoke about the challenges facing our country, but then said (and I quote), “Let us stop complaining about problems we are capable and equipped to solve. We are brilliant and intelligent after all. Believe me; we can all change something somewhere. A small change, a short prayer, a sure effort, a simple idea shared… are all better than just complaining and criticising.”
He called on us all to oppose injustice and corruption because, he said, “We have to stand up for what’s right and oppose whatever (would) destroy our future.”
I am encouraged to see a young South African thinking like this. There is no shortage of hardship confronting young people. You have every reason to criticise and complain. But that won’t take us forward. It won’t change the future. We need to identify the barriers to opportunity, the barriers to hope, the barriers to overcoming and the barriers to success; and we need to break them.
As we prepare for elections, a story is being sold in our nation that we have begun a new chapter. The removal of a president who failed South Africa has been heralded as the end of all our problems. A new dawn has come, with fresh opportunities and renewed hope. But is this true?
Undoubtedly, we have closed a terrible chapter. But the truth is: we’ll keep paying for the mistakes made by the ruling party for a long time to come.
We may have a new President. But we also have a VAT increase, which has made everything more expensive. We have a fuel price hike that has increased the cost of food even further, because the consumer must absorb the higher cost of transporting products. And we have an economy that has shrunk by more than 2% in the first quarter of 2018, which is the worst decline in a decade.
That is not a new dawn. It’s a clarion call for change at a fundamental level. Not a change of president from one ANC cadre to the next, but a change of political leadership across the board.
I respect the President, and I believe that he wants our country to succeed. But he is bound to the policies of the ANC and the demands of the tripartite alliance. He is bound to go along with whatever they want whether it is in the interests of our country or in the interests of a political elite.
Unless we change the fundamental leadership of our country, and our province, this new dawn will unfold into another dark day. I think we know this. We have not been so gullible as to believe that everything is suddenly on the right track. In fact, an IPSOS survey released just this week revealed that, by the end of April, two thirds of South Africa believed that our country is going in the wrong direction. That marks a 19% drop in optimism since the so-called “new dawn” in the ANC. The honeymoon was very short-lived.
The biggest worries in our country remain corruption, crime and violence, unemployment, poverty, education and healthcare. It worries me that the national debate has become so focussed on land expropriation without compensation, as though this were the panacea to cure all government’s failings. This is just one part of an economic strategy that has to be much, much broader if it is to have any impact. We need a comprehensive programme of economic development that looks to the future, instead of just dwelling on the past.
Failed leadership has created the greatest barrier to the future for South Africa’s youth. That barrier is unemployment. The most important thing we can do is to get our youth working.
I know the character of IFP youth. I know that you want to work. No one is asking for a free ride. What we are asking for is decent education that prepares us for work, for the chance to gain experience and to be equipped with skills that are needed and can contribute to the economy. We are asking to become part of the development of South Africa; to become part of the solution to a shrinking economy.
But there is a barrier to economic development that begins in our education system. There is something seriously wrong in the foundation we are providing to our youth. And there is a mismatch between the needs of the economy and what our education system is producing. The education you are receiving is not preparing you for the job market.
How many times have you been told that you don’t have the right experience for an entry level job? Or that you don’t have the skills they are looking for? Or that you don’t have the right qualifications?
How is it that 28% of young people with a matric certificate are still unemployed? And what about all those who don’t make it to matric? The facts about our failing education system are difficult to digest. About half the learners who start school don’t reach Grade 12. How many will go on to a tertiary education?
We often tend to think that there is an army of students out there who are preparing to make their mark on South Africa’s economy. But in reality only about 16% of black youths between the age of 20 and 24 are enrolled at a tertiary institution. And it is estimated that only 22% will ever graduate.
Less than 30% of students complete a 3 year degree within the given 3 years. Among those studying through distance education, like UNISA, only 6% graduate within 5 years. And among the few who do eventually graduate, unemployment remains a very real prospect.
I believe that our Government needs to look at education in a whole new way. Firstly, we need to accept that ours is a digital age, in which information dominates. The worst thing we can do is to keep data costs so high that information remains inaccessible.
If Government is serious about equipping you with knowledge, skills and information, they need to make fast, efficient and cheap broadband available everywhere, to everyone. The inequality that exists between our people is only going to grow, if some are left behind with no access to information and social media.
We need to focus our education system on creating competent digital citizens. Because social media is not just for posting selfies and catching up on the latest celebrity gossip. If you need help putting together a CV, you can get an instant online tutorial. Many prospective employers prefer you to get in touch by email. You can also find out more about the company you are applying to by checking out their website and reading their media statements. You can brush up on your general knowledge, improve your understanding of any field, and get the latest news on politics, business, the service industry or retail. You can get tips before an interview, and advice on how to manage your finances.
The point is that Government must make digital information more accessible if they want this generation to grow and prosper. Coupled with that, they need to transform the education system to enable learners to become masters of their own destiny. So much of the information we receive comes in the form of adverts, text messages and articles. Why then is our education system not focussed on reading?
This year, a study called the Progress in Reading Literacy Study revealed that 8 out of 10 children in Grade 4 cannot “read for understanding”. What that means is that 80% of learners, after 4 years of education, can’t understand written information. To me, that alone means our schooling system is broken.
In a digital age, where information is power, schools must equip learners to read well, to engage critically, to convey a message, to develop an argument and to write persuasively. In this way, young people will be empowered. It will be far more difficult for politicians to mislead the youth when the youth have access to the facts and figures, and are trained to listen out for misrepresentation, manipulation and fake news.
This becomes all the more important as Government prepares to introduce history as a compulsory subject in the school curriculum. There is tremendous value in this proposal. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” We need to learn from the past, and to do that, we need to understand the past.
The problem is that the past is malleable. Whoever controls the present, controls the history books. And whoever controls the history books, creates the future. If you think fake news is a recent phenomenon, you should see the barrage of propaganda that litters the past.
I want to throw down a challenge to this generation. I want to ask you to pursue the truth about the past with an intensity that never backs down. I have no doubt that the history books introduced in schools in the next few years will contain a very simple narrative about our country’s past, with the evil white racist regime overcome by the righteous ANC in a moral victory that would have been bloodless, but for the IFP.
It sickens me to think that the propaganda of the past will find its way into our future democracy through school books. I want to protect young minds against intentional lies. Particularly now, as we approach another election, the lie that the IFP has a history of violence is going to resurface.
Indeed, tomorrow will commemorate June 17th and the tragedy of the Boipatong Massacre. There will, undoubtedly, be newspaper articles penned by the propagandists of our political opponents, reminding us that Inkatha supporters engaged in violence.
But the truth is far more complex. During our liberation struggle, the ANC’s mission-in-exile abandoned the founding principle of non-violence and engaged an armed struggle. They launched what was called a “people’s war”, a tactic they had learned from their communist funders, which intended to sow conflict, fear, hatred, violence bloodshed and uprising among ordinary people.
Inkatha refused to take up arms and we refused to allow our structures within South Africa to be used as conduits for bringing violence into communities. We would not channel AK47s and MK soldiers onto our soil. Inkatha was by then a powerful political force, with more than a million card-carrying members. Our refusal to take up arms highlighted the ANC’s diversion from moral principle. In retribution, Inkatha became a target of the ANC’s people’s war.
Thousands upon thousands of our supporters were murdered. For years, every day brought fresh attacks. Our daughters were raped. Our mothers were butchered. Our sons were necklaced, and our fathers mowed down in a storm of bullets that never ceased. Very few of these atrocities were covered by the media, for they became commonplace.
Through this all, Inkatha stayed true to the principle of peace. Never once did I abandon the call for non-violence. Never once did I order, authorise, condone or ratify a single act of violence or a single human rights abuse. But I constantly warned that you can only push people so far. It’s a simple fact of psychology and human nature that victims may, eventually, retaliate. And that is what happened from time to time. People reached a tipping point, having endured too much, and spontaneous violence suddenly erupted.
We never called those people heroes. We didn’t hail them, as the ANC liked to hail thugs, as “young lions with iron in their souls”. We mourned and wept, and called again for peace, peace, peace.
For more than four decades, the IFP has suffered the effects of a powerful propaganda campaign that cast us as violent, when the truth is that Inkatha rejected violence all along. So what will the new history books say; these history books written under an ANC Government?
Will they speak of the principle of non-violence that was laid at the foundation of our struggle by my own uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme? Will they tell of the ANC’s decision to let blood run in our streets? Will they admit, as Mandela did, in 2002, that the ANC used every ammunition to destroy me, but failed? Will they acknowledge that the IFP was a powerful force for the liberation of South Africa, and for the equipping of our youth for democracy?
The IFP has already been confronted with a Grade 12 history textbook with a defamatory depiction of me “signing on” to the new South Africa with the spilt blood of victims of political violence. This was more than 10 years ago. I raised it with the then Minister of Basic Education, the Hon. Ms Naledi Pandor, indicating the IFP’s intention to take the matter to court. In an out-of-court settlement, the Minister committed to remove this reference from that specific textbook.
But it was one textbook among hundreds. What else has been printed? What other lies are being taught in our schools and universities? What lies are being told to the youth right now?
Let this be the struggle of a new generation: to be told the truth. Fight for it. Demand it. You deserve to know the truth about the past as much as you deserve the truth about the future.
Things are not on the path to happiness and roses. There are very real barriers to development, job creation and economic recovery. But those barriers can be broken. They have been created and are held in place by wrong policies, corruption and weak leadership. It’s time to ignite a fundamental change.
I ask you to become the activists of today. Take up your inheritance; the legacy of discipline, integrity and peace, and wage a powerful campaign for change in our country. We can rescue South Africa. We can restore to KwaZulu Natal a leadership of integrity. It is within our power to make the next election a defining moment; a moment in which this generation takes the reins from those who would destroy your future.
Let us break the barriers, so that you, the builders, the IFP Youth, can build the future that you want to live in.
I thank you.