The Politics of Reward and Favours

Dear friends and fellow South Africans,

This week a giant of our liberation struggle passed away. For several decades during apartheid, Nelson “Nana” Mahomo served as the PAC’s representative abroad, tasked with opening the eyes of the world to the oppression, degradation and poverty of black South Africans.

In the late sixties, he found a powerful way to show people what he had been trying to tell them. He and a small group of South Africans abroad formed Morena Films, with no resources and no experience. With illegal footage, shot in South Africa and smuggled out of the country, Nana produced two films; “Phela Ndaba” (End of the Dialogue) and “Last Grave at Dimbaza”.

These films exposed the truth of what we endured, and what we were enduring daily under an oppressive regime. Unexpectedly, the films received wide international acclaim. In 1970, “Phela Ndaba” won an Emmy Award.

Nana Mahomo had opened the eyes of the world to the pain of our people.

Freedom-loving individuals from many quarters began asking what they could do to bring change in South Africa. Thus Nana was able to channel significant resources and support into the liberation struggle.

But when people asked him what they could do in response to the films, Nana replied, “You have to make a commitment to fight against racism anywhere and in any form.” He knew this was not just about South Africa. It was about the universal values of human dignity, equality and freedom. Racism was at the heart of our battle.

When I think of what we endured and sacrificed to slay the dragon of racism, I find it almost distasteful that this same dragon is now paraded around like a lapdog whenever something is not to the liking of the ruling party.

In the past two weeks, there have been three instances of the ruling party crying “racism” where one would be hard pressed to find any reference to race.

The first was a cartoon in Eye Witness News (EWN), commenting on the newly appointed Cabinet and depicting some new appointees as clowns. Those “who voted them in” were likewise portrayed as clowns. “Racism!” the ANC cried.

Many were left scratching their heads as to how this insensitive cartoon was actually racist. Mr Patrick Craven obliging explained that “it was racist in the way it falsely portrayed ANC voting clowns as exclusively black”. I will return to this later.

For the ruling party, withdrawing the cartoon was not enough. EWN, they insisted, should never publish anything from this cartoonist again. In their eyes, one mistake means you’re out.

Ironically, they consider themselves entitled to make a plethora of mistakes and still enjoy electoral support and positions of power. The Public Protector dared comment on this phenomenon while speaking at the University of Johannesburg this week, saying that voters, rather like victims of spousal abuse, didn’t give second chances as a way of asking for more abuse, but in the hope of things improving.

Again the ruling party jumped up and shouted “Racism!” As the Public Protector pointed out, no rationally-minded person could reach the conclusion that her remarks were in any way a comment on race. But it seems we are not dealing with rationally-minded people.

The third instance of the race card being raised, was in response to a photo tweeted by the DA’s Deputy Chief Whip which captured a dog urinating on an ANC election poster. The dog, one would presume, had no intention of making a political statement, racist or not. What the ruling party wanted to convey by calling this racist is that anything said by the DA against the ANC is said by a white against a black, because this cements the narrative that the DA is a white party.

But it concomitantly cements the narrative that the ANC is an exclusively black party. Which begs the question why the EWN cartoon was “racist” to depict ANC supporters as black. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

The point of the EWN cartoon was two-fold. It pointed out that those who voted for the ANC, certainly in the hope of past errors not being repeated, had been made to look like fools because President Zuma had appointed several people to the national executive who had made plenty of mistakes in the very recent past.

For instance, one of those in the cartoon’s “Congress of Clowns” was now Deputy Minister Bheki Cele, who was dismissed as National Commissioner of Police in December 2012, when President Zuma announced that a Board of Enquiry had found Minister Cele “unfit for office”. He had been suspended the previous year on allegations of corruption.

Clearly the interests of good governance have again taken second place to the politics of reward and favours. This is exactly the case in President Zuma’s appointment of NFP leader, Mrs Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, to his national executive yesterday.

Less than two months ago, the ANC held a protest march against Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi’s alleged misappropriation of municipal funds. It was led by no less a figure than ANC NEC member, Mr Bheki Cele, who announced that the ANC had approached the Public Protector to investigate Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi and her running of the Zululand District Municipality.

So what possible impulse could have led them to give her a Deputy Minister position straight after the 2014 elections? Surely the same impulse that led Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi to give all the NFP votes to the ANC straight after the 2011 elections. There is a relationship of favours and rewards between the ANC and Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi that is now beyond question.

Indeed, when I gave chapter and verse in Parliament in February 2011 of how the ANC was using Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi as an instrument to destroy the IFP, President Zuma himself didn’t deny it. The facts were on the table.

It is quite telling that the NFP leader’s first statement to the media following this appointment was, “It does not make us weak at all.” This was clearly pre-emptive, for the first question that comes to anyone’s mind is how the NFP can be an effective opposition when it is so obviously in the pocket of the ANC.

The NFP’s leadership has tried to compare this appointment to my own appointment as Minister of Home Affairs in 1994. Are they really that politically illiterate?

In the years leading up to 1994, parties at the constitutional negotiating table hammered out an Interim Constitution that secured seats in Cabinet for any party receiving more than 10% of the vote in the first democratic elections. On 27 April 1994, more than two million South Africans voted for the IFP.

Thus, in terms of the Government of National Unity framed by the Interim Constitution, the IFP won seats in Cabinet. There was no motive in President Mandela appointing me as Minister of Home Affairs. He was simply fulfilling the mandate of the electorate and the dictates of the Constitution.

In 1999, President Mbeki reappointed me as Minister of Home Affairs to continue the pursuit of reconciliation which was necessitated by the People’s War that had claimed some 20,000 black lives prior to democracy.

The situation with Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi’s appointment as Deputy Minister is very different. There is nothing in law compelling the ANC to give the NFP a place in the national executive. There is no agenda of national reconciliation. Indeed, there is no incentive whatsoever for them to do this, and they are not known for sharing power out of the goodness of their hearts.

This appointment is simply payment for delivering IFP supporters into the ANC’s fold, via a pseudo-opposition party whose leader dances to the tune of the ruling party.

Had she been in good faith, she would have declined the appointment, as the IFP did in 2004 when President Mbeki offered us two Deputy Minister positions, and as we did in 2009 when President Zuma offered us a Deputy Minister position. At the time Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi, who was then National Chairperson of the IFP, complained bitterly over our rejection of the position, which she desperately wanted for herself.

Now, as Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi celebrates her ill-gotten reward, I want to extend an invitation to all those who feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut by a leader who promised a new and better “IFP” while leading them into bed with their oldest opponents. I invite them to come home to the real deal; an opposition that still outperforms the NFP and has the integrity to really hold the ANC accountable.

Come home to the IFP.

Yours in the service of our nation,

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP