Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Next week I shall be travelling to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to attend the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa. This marks the first time that the Forum will be held in East Africa. In recognition of the impact of the global recession, this year the Forum will focus on "Rethinking Africa's Growth Strategy".
By now it is common wisdom that we need to reassess the systems governing global cooperation, financial architecture and policies linked to trade and climate change. I look forward to exchanging ideas with leaders and opinion makers from across the globe on matters close to the heart of the IFP and high on the agenda of South Africa.
One such matter is the energy crisis, which will receive the valuable input of the Secretary General of the World Energy Council and the Vice President of the World Bank's Africa division. South Africa is an energy giant in the sub-Saharan region and, not surprisingly, South Africans will comprise three of the four panellists as we debate the continent's potential to produce significant alternative energy.
The debate starts from the premise that less than half of the population in our region has access to energy, making low rates of electrification Africa's major bottleneck for growth and development. I have no doubt that the Eskom debacle will raise its head in this session, and perhaps this is the venue to expose the problems in the monopoly to the wider perspective of Africa's energy needs.
Another debate I am anxious to participate in concerns strengthening the rule of law, both as a pillar of a functioning society that brings predictability and stability and as the necessary condition for creating a sound environment for investment. South Africa's Minister of the National Planning Commission, our charismatic Mr Trevor Manuel, will share the panel as we discuss the principle of the rule of law and how to strengthen its enforcement.
I am delighted by the title of the inevitable workshop on corruption: "The Elephant in the Room". The idiom, of course, refers to an obvious truth that is purposely being ignored or overlooked. Interestingly, in South Africa we talk about the Elephant all the time. Opposition parties talk about it. Civil society talks about it. Even the ruling Party talks about it, as the President himself bemoaned corruption during the Freedom Day celebrations this week.
If I may refer to the statistics - although that is traditionally the DA's stomping ground - the World Economic Forum notes that: "Corruption is conservatively estimated to cost Africa upwards of US$ 148 billion annually, representing about 25% of continental GDP and increasing the cost of goods by as much as 20%."
As it is often said; statistics do not lie, but people often lie by manipulating statistics. Certainly statistics are one of the well-worn tools of the political trade. But these figures on corruption cannot be manipulated to mean anything other than that we are failing on this continent to put the common good before individual gain.
On many occasions I have decried the corrupt misuse of Black Economic Empowerment policies which were intended to spread our country's wealth into as many households as possible. Instead, BEE has been used to enrich a few elite.
I remain astounded by Mr Malema's statement that he could not possibly be diverting money from the poor into his own pocket because his own mother lived in poverty. There is a step or two missing in his logic, and somewhere within the missing steps the money is trickling away from community development projects and trickling into cars and houses and fine suits.
It is possible to run an administration in Africa without the taint of corruption. I know this because in all the years that I was Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, not once was an allegation of corruption ever levelled at my administration. Perhaps it is because we operated on a shoestring budget and it was painfully clear to us that the few resources we received had somehow to cover an ocean of need.
Today, in our democratic dispensation, there is much more money being channelled through civil servants. Those who disperse Treasury's funds within government departments and those who make the financial decisions are dealing with astronomical figures that seem more than enough to meet the needs. But without astute financial planning, budgets are frittered away and never reach the real social needs.
All that money and all that responsibility combine to create fertile ground for temptation to breed. We know that corruption is a serious problem in South Africa and we know that few of our leaders remain untainted by hints of scandal, allegations of fraud or the semblance of abuse of power. We rely on institutions like the Public Protector to root out corruption in our midst. But as IFP MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini points out, even the Mail & Guardian has exposed and investigated more corruption than the Public Protector.
I find it interesting that the debate on corruption at the World Economic Forum on Africa will be off the record and will not be facilitated by any politicians. Rather, it has been left to the Chairman of Microsoft, Africa and the Africa Bureau Chief of Time Magazine to lead the discussions. I look forward to what they have to say.
In 1992, I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where, together with former President Nelson Mandela and former President FW de Klerk, we announced our intention of constructing a new South Africa. Almost two decades later there is again a need to construct a new South Africa. But this time it is not about political liberation. It is about finally liberating our nation from poverty, corruption and economic crisis.
I trust that next week's Forum will give us a lot to think about.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.