Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The ANC is quick to tar and feather. And true to mob justice, matters of innocence and guilt are peripheral to the cathartic act of public humiliation.
A blatant example is this week's accusation by Mr Keith Khoza, the ANC's Head of Communications, that former President FW de Klerk is "poisoning the South Africans with his utterances" about former President Nelson Mandela. Mr de Klerk, said Mr Khoza, could not acknowledge Mandela because he is black.
What was Mr de Klerk's poisoned utterance? That Mandela, a "principled man and a great communicator" had changed the history of our country, and perhaps even the world.
It seems it's not what you say, but who you say it about that gets you into trouble. I wonder if that is not the case with Dr Reuel Khoza, the Chairperson of Nedbank, who finds himself being clobbered by the ANC for having expressed an opinion on Government.
Writing in his Chairman's Report on the release of Nedbank's 2011 Annual Report last month, Dr Khoza averred that South Africans "have a duty to build and develop this nation". If he had stopped there, he might have been spared the tar and feathers. But he added, "and to call to book the putative leaders who cannot lead".
Immediately ANC Secretary-General, Mr Gwede Mantashe, hit back, playing the man, not the ball. He deftly moved the spotlight onto Dr Khoza's alleged inability to secure a buyer for Old Mutual, attacking his leadership ability. But I think Mr Mantashe summed up his complaint quite succinctly when he accused Dr Reuel Khoza of being one of those leaders "who cannot do what they are told to do."
Mr Mantashe said Nedbank must focus on business, not politics. One could just as well say that all those well-connected ANC leaders who are involved in business should get out of politics. Politics and business are interwoven. Whatever is done in one sphere has an impact on the other.
Dr Khoza pointed out that the integrity, health, socio-economic soundness and prosperity of our country are the collective responsibility of all citizens, both corporate and individual. That sounds like the private sector shouldering its share of the burden. Do we not say, time and again, that business must carry the load if we want to reach our national goals?
It has surely been said often enough that the business sector must be the driving engine for NEPAD. Dr Khoza is the former Chairperson of the NEPAD Business Foundation. He is not only entitled to an opinion, but has the credibility to offer an opinion worth listening to.
In this year's State of the Nation address, President Zuma spoke of "strengthened social dialogue and cooperation" between Government and business "on procurement, skills development, basic education, and the green economy" because, said the President, "Government alone cannot solve the challenges faced by the country, but working together, solutions are possible."
One has to ask what "working together" means according to the ANC. Dr Khoza feels his duty is to build and develop the nation, while Cabinet Spokesperson Mr Jimmy Manyi says he is "duty-bound to help the government anticipate a bright future for all South Africans"
That echoes President Zuma's call for us all to create Afro-optimism.
But can we bar South Africans from expressing an opinion on the factual deficiencies of Government? I disagree that we, as leaders, can deny the private sector the right to criticize us. Dr Khoza expressed an opinion, one that was clearly shared by other leaders in business, judging by their response. He does not deserve to be clobbered for it.
After the ANC had attacked the man, the Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, took the trouble to pick up the ball. He responded to some of Dr Khoza's statements in a published article. But the rhetoric was far from absent.
Minister Mthethwa accused business of perpetuating "the historical injustice of colonialism and apartheid". Business, he said, exploits workers and pays slave wages. He accused Dr Khoza of undermining "the values and intentions of our Constitution", and making reckless statements that will hurt South Africa and "have dire consequences on economic growth and job creation." He accused Dr Khoza's "paymasters", presumably Nedbank's shareholders, of being "the beneficiaries of centuries of racist economic and political dispensations."
There was no appreciation for what the business sector did during the dark days of Apartheid. When the ANC advocated sanctions, and many international companies withdrew from South Africa, it was the business sector that kept those few people who had jobs working. Today the ANC disapproves of sanctions being imposed on Zimbabwe, for the same reasons I disagreed with sanctions against South Africa. I don't expect the ANC to acknowledge that I was right. But I do expect them to show some gratitude towards business.
Minister Mthethwa's article is peppered with references to "sacrifice and selfless struggle", "the legacy of imperialist plunder" and the "advancement of human rights and freedoms". Casting the ANC as the supreme liberator of South Africa, he effective tells Dr Khoza: If it weren't for us, you wouldn't be anyone. And without our protection, you "would be reduced to nothing".
Again the ANC has reacted like a bully.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP