Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In my newsletter last week I wrote about the slide in ANC/IFP relations in KwaZulu-Natal, which, I believe, is largely due to the duplicitous behaviour of Premier Sibusiso Ndebele. This week's disturbing events in Vryheid, which I witnessed firsthand, brought home to me how far the process of reconciliation has slid since 2004 when the ANC took power in KwaZulu-Natal.
The initiative of Taking Parliament to the People - an absurd contradiction in terms if there ever was one - has consistently been criticised by the IFP as a waste of the taxpayers' money. The IFP believes that the taxpayers have sent MPs to Parliament to do a job. It is scandalous for parliamentarians to hold glitzy izimbizo to tell the electorate what a fabulous job they are doing. It is patronising, self-serving and wasteful.
I believe the people of Vryheid are more concerned about social deprivation, poor service delivery, high rates of joblessness, drug and alcohol misuse and our 'broken society'. I was therefore not surprised that this week's political jamboree elicited an angry response from the crowd in Vryheid on the opening day. These fine people were not taken in by the ruling Party's velvety production.
The ANC must have been mortified at the people's anger as, true to form, they had done their best to bus in their own supporters as opposed to the local residents - the people of AbaQulusi. My own daughter, Phumzile, was attacked during the proceedings. When she was hit on the head with a chair by ANC supporters, the tent erupted in angry protest.
On Tuesday, matters deteriorated further when the IFP announced it would no longer participate in the initiative of Taking Parliament to the People in Vryheid unless Bheki Cele, ANC MEC for Transport, issues a public apology for his invectives directed at me the previous day. It would take a better man than Mr Cele to offend me, but he did offend many people present.
The ANC ostensibly and ostentatiously refused to apologise and, instead, appeared to blame the disruption on an opening statement by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Dr Lionel Mtshali, who succinctly summed up the ruling Party's record of broken promises in the area. It must be pointed out that the Leader of the Official Opposition was actually applauded by the public for his address. I am glad, for one, that we have an opposition leader who is not intimidated from calling this failing administration to account.
The IFP maintains that the root of Monday's commotion was the people's anger at the lack of service delivery, which was further incited by Mr Cele's insensitive outburst. We have also thrown our weight behind the joint statement by the DA, ACDP and UDM which condemned Monday's chaos as a result of the ruling Party's failure to implement agreements reached at a multi-party forum ahead of Taking Parliament to the People in Vryheid.
I do not blame the DA and the ACDP for boycotting the last three days of this circus. Once again, the ruling Party seems to have shown its disdain for multi-party democracy. How can they talk about taking parliament to the people when they show scant respect for the basic processes of representative democracy?
The initiative, despite numerous objections from the opposition parties, continues to lack an inclusive spirit and remains a public forum for the ruling Party to garner votes for whatever election follows next. All practical arrangements surrounding Taking Parliament to the People, including public transport and catering, appear to complement the ruling Party's intention to abuse the initiative for political gain. This is blatant misuse of taxpayers' money; it is a form of corruption: the ruling Party's outrageous attempt to control the people with their own money.
In addition, the IFP has raised legitimate concerns about the proliferation of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operatives in the area, apparently sanctioned by the ANC provincial secretary, Mr Senzo Mchunu.
The IFP rightly objected to the presence of an illegal paramilitary organisation where the security of the delegates and guests is guaranteed by the formal organs of the state.
I am genuinely concerned about what appeared to be a complete breakdown of parliamentary decorum in Vryheid on Monday. It is perhaps a good thing that the people who elected this parliament and on whom this parliament imposed itself this week got to see for themselves the attitude and behaviour on the part of the ruling Party. This is what the IFP and other opposition parties have to put up with in parliament.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP