Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
On Saturday night, primetime news brought us images of protesters wielding knobkerries, sticks and shields and calling for change in the IFP. And the newscaster glibly repeated the lie that the IFP is taking disciplinary action against its National Chairperson.
The perception is growing that we are taking desperate measures, but our motives are becoming lost in a morass of political analysis and commentary. We have been accused of trying to cling to leadership positions, trying to diminish our National Chairperson's chances of being nominated, trying to make Conference non-elective and trying to silence democratic debate.
I have even been accused of being a violent man intent on intimidating my opponents.
There is probably little I can say to convince the analysts they are wrong. But perhaps they will listen to the words of someone else. Mr Bheki Cele, the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, conveyed the following message to me through an MEC; if we held our Conference now, there would be a bloodbath.
This province bears the memory of a low intensity black-on-black civil war. We feel the threat of tensions more keenly and are more aware of the potential for violence in any situation. We are also more vigilant about diffusing tensions and averting possible bloodshed. That is our legacy. Some may understand; others won't.
But there is no way that the IFP, in good conscience, could have held its Annual General Conference this weekend as the reports of violence, intimidation and murder kept coming in. We have a responsibility towards our members to keep them safe wherever they gather. This responsibility carries more weight than a few adverse opinions about our decision to postpone Conference.
What the media has not reported on in the follow up to Saturday's coverage of the protest by the "Friends of VZ" is that someone has been fatally shot in KwaMashu for refusing to participate. Our constituency secretary in uMtshezi, who was fired for not supporting the "Friends of VZ", has been shot in the back. This was the second time he has been shot at. I recently mentioned that Mr Michael Makathini had been killed, community members were baying for blood, people wanted to burn down houses, leaders were being pistol whipped and threats were flying.
Police reports have warned us of an assassination plot against one of our senior leaders in the run up to conference, and intelligence reports refer to guns and ammunition being moved from Durban to Ulundi. Officers have been sent to warn me, based on their assessment, that my life is in danger. I am not scared of dying. I have been an object of assassination threats for several decades, first from some elements of the apartheid regime and from my own black people during the low intensity civil war in the eighties and nineties.
But I value other people's lives and we had to weigh up our responsibility in the circumstances. How could any organization hold a conference in these circumstances? What kind of organization would ignore all this volatility, violence and warning and call its supporters to gather regardless, when their lives would clearly be in danger?
I cannot help but wonder how any political analyst or commentator who remembers the internecine war of the eighties could overlook the obvious and attribute all manner of ulterior motives to our postponement of conference. Are these so-called experts really analysts, or are they political enemies? I cannot think who else would put spin on the attempt to save lives.
Deliberate misinterpretation of our actions has been used by the "Friends of VZ" as well as the ANC Youth League, whose provincial secretary, Bheki Mtolo, launched a vicious attack on me this week.
This has been followed by the pontificating of Mr Zet Luzipho, the provincial secretary of Cosatu in KwaZulu Natal, over why we postponed Conference.
I really take strong exception to this. The tripartite alliance of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu has had many instances of disagreement, but we never thought it appropriate to poke our noses into their business.
Again and again they are convincing us that they are behind the ructions we are experiencing. It is clear there is more to the IFP's problem than meets the eye and the fact that a third hand is involved has become obvious.
Defamation and slander are regular weapons in the arsenal of our opponents, and these are further embellished by some in the media and some of the so-called political analysts. I sympathise with the general public who are bombarded with all these conflicting signals.
In the end, they cannot know what is what.
But at some point, the facts speak for themselves.
We cannot be expected to ignore violence. Our decision to postpone conference until the situation can be stabilized is based on responsible leadership.
With the amount of opposition we face, it is a public relations' nightmare to explain what we do and why we do it. But we choose this nightmare over the other; because never again will we allow KwaZulu Natal or our country to be plunged into violence for the sake of politics.
That is part of our commitment to the people we serve.
Violence related to the activities of the "Friends of VZ" has erupted both in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. That is the same pattern it took during the low intensity civil war that cost us more than 20,000 black lives. Our determination is "Never, never again!" To those who pooh-pooh these facts, let them read Dr Anthea Jeffrey's book, "People's War".
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, 082 729 2510.