Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
After signing an agreement that would maintain the US military presence in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush held a press conference. This was in Baghdad, in 2008. In the midst of the conference, a journalist by the name of Muntadar al-Zeidi achieved instant notoriety by throwing his shoes at the American President.
In Arab culture, showing someone the sole of your shoe is considered an insult. Throwing your shoe at them is worse, as the shoe is considered a dirty or unclean item, constantly in contact with the ground and associated with the lowest part of the body, the foot. By throwing his shoes at President Bush, al-Zeidi was declaring the President "less than dirt".
President Bush, however, was unperturbed. To his mind, it was not as if he had been attacked with a gun or a knife. In Western culture, kicking up a fuss over a shoe would likely be seen as infantile. Thus the President took it in his stride.
This shoe-throwing incident came to mind this week as images surfaced of ANC Youth League members throwing the contents of latrines on the steps of the Western Cape Legislature, and later of human waste being thrown at the Premier's vehicle.
It would be hard to misinterpret the message. Nothing is lost here in cultural translation.
I was appalled to see a response from the ANC Youth League that it would discipline its errant member if he was found to have poured faeces on a Government building in his capacity as a Youth League member. It is not the act itself they were concerned about, but what hat the perpetrator was wearing when he committed the act.
This same ANC Youth League, according to media reports, is facing possible liquidation because of an unpaid debt of R15 million dating back to the congress in 2008 at which Mr Julius Malema was elected. It seems the spectre of Mr Malema continues to haunt the Youth League.
Considering these latest scandals to come out of the ANC's youth, I couldn't help but compare the spirit and character of the Youth League to that of the IFP's Youth Brigade. They are truly chalk and cheese.
From Inkatha's inception in 1975, we promoted the role of youth not only in our liberation struggle, but within our Party and within our country. We instilled a sense of ownership within our youth, impressing upon them the need to take care of the country they would inherit. This created a culture of discipline that remains a feature of the IFP today.
Thus when the ANC's mission-in-exile called on students to burn their textbooks and tear down their schools in protest, Inkatha urged students to attend classes diligently and to consider education a valuable tool for our liberation. We countered the culture of destruction and entitlement, with a culture of diligence, tenacity, self-help and self-reliance.
So it is that today, while ANC Youth League members are spreading faeces to discredit their political opponents, the IFP Youth Brigade is organising a National Education Summit to focus young South Africans on the fundamental human right to pursue knowledge and gain skills.
The Summit will coincide, intentionally, with the commemoration of Youth Day on the 16th of June. Out of this Summit, the youth of the IFP will produce a clear programme of action and a declaration of what must be done to rescue our country from an ailing education system.
The youth of the IFP are looking forward, and building a future in which the next generation will be able to study, learn and develop their talents, without the myriad of obstacles faced by this generation. The culture of the IFP has shaped the vision of these young people, and I am proud to see our youth taking leadership on such a critical issue.
This kind of initiative speaks to the youth of today, many of whom will become first-time voters in the 2014 national elections. The first-time voters of next year were born after our democratic transition. For them, the history of apartheid and liberation is simply history; significant, certainly, but not decisive in shaping their identity.
This generation of voters is focussed on the present, and wants to build for the future. Thus they will find a natural home in the IFP.
I have no doubt that the ANC is aware that it will not be able to rest on liberation credentials in the 2014 elections. This ANC is no longer the ANC of Madiba. Young voters now see the ANC under President Zuma, whose leadership does not cover the multitude of sins plaguing our country, nor quite particularly the chief sin of corruption.
Many young people don't know the ANC of yesteryear, but only the ANC of today, where youth leaders run riot, integrity is lacking and one scandal after the next erupts in the media. But in reality, the ANC of today was created by the ANC of yesteryear. This is the natural evolution of a party that embraced chaos, violence and tactics of destruction.
The IFP of today is also the product of the IFP of yesteryear. We have grown into a party of discipline, integrity and constructive citizenship, because we laid a foundation from the start that would bring us here.
On these trajectories, the youth of the ANC and the IFP will continue to grow in different directions. The future will record what was best for South Africa.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP