Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
We have entered a milestone year for South Africa. 2014 marks two full decades of democratic governance. It marks twenty years since we achieved liberation and gave to all South Africans the right to determine their own future, through their vote. It also marks the year that we will go to the polls once again and choose the leadership we want to take us further down the road of democracy.
The date for the 2014 elections has not yet been proclaimed, but the provisions of the electoral law tell us that it is likely to be held in April or May. We have about four months to decide what the political landscape should look like in the years ahead.
Within those four months, South Africans will be subjected to the kind of politicking and point scoring that marked the first two weeks of this year. We will see the race card being played on the most inappropriate occasions; and torrential criticism of Government's every misstep.
The most consequential debates will be reduced to sound bites, and mudslinging will abound. This has happened in every election campaign since 1994. But with every election, it has become more pronounced, leaving the electorate hard-pressed to differentiate between the truth and the spin.
In the midst of this storm, there is a calm centre. Since our first democratic elections, the IFP has chosen to engage election campaigns by playing the ball and never the man. We recognise that securing the right leadership for our country's future is far more important than scoring a short-lived political point, at the expense of our character.
Thus the IFP does not participate in the mudslinging. Does this leave us behind in the hurly burly of an election campaign? On the contrary, it provides a touchstone of truth, reality and honesty that voters can rely on. Because we have been consistent to our character, voters know that when the IFP speaks, there is no need to unpack layers of rhetoric and innuendo to discover the hidden lie. There is only fact, and truth.
The facts, when it comes to the Grade 12 results, are that the outcome of the Annual National Assessments do not support the remarkably increased pass rate, nor do the education experts believe that the pass rate points to an increase in quality education.
That is not to say that the class of 2013 did not work hard to achieve their results. What must be remembered in this heated debate is that we are dealing with individual lives. There are some who studied hard and achieved their goals.
There are some who disappointed themselves and are living with regret. There are also some who feel tremendous rejection and despondency over their performance.
The IFP would like to reach out to every one of these young South Africans and let you know that this is not the end of the road, whether you got university entrance or not. For those who failed, there are options for rewriting Grade 12, for entering an FET college, for job-shadowing or doing volunteer work to gain experience.
Life will continue, and everything is not set in stone the moment you get your Grade 12 results.
There is another group of young people who should not be forgotten in this debate. The IFP is concerned about the excessive number of learners who enter Grade 1, but never reach Grade 12. They drop out of the system at some stage and are statistically never taken into account when we assess the quality of our education system based on final year passes.
The reality is that our country is made up of many different people, facing many different circumstances. When we talk about the future of our youth, we cannot just talk about the seven hundred thousand school-leavers entering 2014. Not every young person is a pass or a fail. Some are musicians, some are athletes, some are parents, some are the head of their household, some are overcoming disabilities, some are talented artists, some are natural-born leaders, some are faithful friends.
We need to see our youth as more than statistics. They are, indeed, the future.
I invite every young person to consider what you are, beyond the percentage on your school report, and take up the challenge to give our country the unique contribution that only you can make.
2014 offers the opportunity for you to make a difference, by casting your vote and changing the future. As you choose where to place your cross this year, don't be fooled by the noise and the point scoring. The facts and the truth are easily found.
If you want to know the real state of our nation, and what it will take to heal it, come to the IFP. We tell it like it is, without the rhetoric.
In this time of character assassination and double-speak, the IFP is the party you can trust. Whether its election season or not, we remain.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP