2007 promises to be a turbulent political year



Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation

My dear friends and fellow South Africans,

Many people have asked me recently about how I see the future role of the IFP in the light of the fast-changing politic environment of South Africa. 2007 promises to be a turbulent political year.

The succession races in both the ANC and DA leadership will rightly be highly contested. Both will have a decisive impact upon the future of the government and opposition in South Africa – and how the two interact with each other. There are hazards ahead, to be sure, but opportunities too.

The adhesive glue that kept the ANC together for so long is fast becoming unstuck. This may not a bad thing for democracy – or for the ruling-party.

The fissures we are seeing in the ANC run deeper than personalities or even ideological differences: their origins lie in the struggle.

Unity for the ANC in the struggle was synonymous not only with its internal unity, but with the unity of all the liberation movements. The ANC conceived the armed struggle as the lightening rod for establishing its political hegemony after liberation. The IFP, on the other hand, foresaw a diversity of roles within the liberation movement as the basis for political choice after liberation.

The ANC’s relentless pursuit of the ‘national democratic revolution’ illustrates my point. As the ANC would not accept the IFP vision of unity within the liberation movement expressed in a diversity of roles in the past, today the ruling-party still expects uncritical and unquestioning consensus around its programmes.

Since 1994, we have witnessing the inexorable centralisation of power. Power has gravitated from society to state, from local and provincial spheres to national, and from judiciary and legislature to executive. This top heavy concentration of power at the centre, paradoxically, sits astride a weak delivery state. The numbers of people in deep, entrenched poverty – those at the bottom of the pile – has grown since 1994.

And our public services, in particular, are heaving under the weight of neglect, fragmentation and shortage of resources. The government’s response has been a plethora of service targets, inspection regimes and national standards.

The present bureaucratic overload is rendering central government incapable of coping with the nation’s systemic problems. These range from combating the HIV/Aids pandemic, fighting rampant crime, the provision of healthcare and welfare grants, to the crisis in education.

The antidote to this creeping Sovietisation, I contend, is to distribute power across several competing centres of policy formulation. These include not only several autonomous levels of government, but also the guarantee that civil society remains separate and distinct from the state.

The central challenge for opposition in a democracy dominated by one party, like ours, is to influence policy whilst remaining a counter-balance to the dangers of corruption inherent in such a system.

I want my party to be constructive rather than simply oppositional or reactionary. It is no good providing some natty Saatchi and Saatchi like slogans, but offering no clear alternative policy direction.

I openly concede that we must do more in 2007 to set the terms of political debate in and outside of parliament if we are to be relevant.

Where we govern at the local level in KwaZulu-Natal, we must make services more accountable. Making improvement sustainable will depend on achieving the right relationship between those providing services and those using them.

After all, engaging citizens, strengthening democracy and delivering effective services should be unified not, as they often have been, separate policies.

In fighting crime, we must show that we show that we understand the causes of crime as well as having the will to fight it.

We must also place environmentalism high on the political agenda.

Finally, the IFP must promote that understanding that government, opposition, business, the voluntary sector, individuals and families must all play their part if we are to build a strong South Africa. Whatever our differences are, we can only succeed if we all pull together.

Yours sincerely,

Mangosuthu Buthelezi