Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The silly season is over! Well, the latest floor-crossing window is closed anyway. The "smash and grab" on opposition parties which characterised the 2005 window period did not materialise this time and Cape Town remains led by the multi-party government. I believe this is because most of the unprincipled politicians bolted last time, although one relished accounts of the antics of some "crossitutes" which would be manna for the scriptwriters of a Monty Python sketch.
Despite gaining 12 councillors nationwide, the IFP remains opposed to floor-crossing which, it believes, undermines the principle of representative democracy. During the two-week long floor-crossing window the IFP gained Ndumeni municipality, as well as the following councillors-
4 from the ANC (2 from Ndumeni and 2 from Zululand District)
3 from Nadeco (1 each from Mtubatuba, KwaMbonambi and Empangeni)
3 from the Independent Democrats (2 from Johannesburg and 1 from Tshwane)
1 from the Democratic Alliance (Nqutu)
1 from the Minority Front (eThekwini)
The decision these councillors made could not have been an easy one. It was perhaps made more difficult by the fact that they have crossed the floor to join the one political party in South Africa that has consistently opposed floor-crossing from the beginning. We believe that the twelve councillors who joined us have put to the test the conventional wisdom whereby the biggest beneficiary of the floor-crossing legislation is the ANC. For the first time the ruling-party has experienced the baleful effects of legislated electoral theft.
The ruling party has all the patronage in the country to lure members from other political parties. We on the opposition benches, on the other hand, only have our beliefs. If these twelve members, disillusioned by their old political parties, found our values more appealing than material offers from the ruling party, we have an obligation to welcome them. And we do.
My party is concerned about the incidents where the councillors in the process of joining the IFP faced harassment from their old political parties, particularly the ANC. The ANC is always thrilled to welcome floor-crossers with much fanfare about the consolidation of the National Democratic Revolution and so on. However, they go Krakatoa when they get a taste of their own medicine and lose public representatives to other political parties. After all, this does not fit in with the Stalinist drive to "reengineer the soul", does it?
Then there was KwaZulu Natal Premier and provincial ANC Chairperson S'bu Ndebele going on about the ruling party's "unstoppable" hegemony in the province. This, my friends, is not the language of a democrat. Mr Ndebele's Stalinesque outburst about the majority of KwaZulu Natal's economic centres being firmly under ANC control followed the latest floor-crossing. The fact of the matter is that that the latest floor-crossing has left the ANC grossly over-represented in the KwaZulu Natal Legislature. The IFP maintained this week that only a political party fuelled by crude self-interest and committed to pursuit of power for its own sake could revel in gaining extra representation through a process as immoral and unfair as floor-crossing.
In 2004 the ruling party won 46 percent of the popular vote in KwaZulu Natal. It commands an absolute majority of parliamentary seats without the voter's mandate. We hope to do something about that in 2009.
I have repeatedly made the point that the ANC may have won 70 percent of the popular vote in the 2004 general election, but, in real terms, it has confidently exercised 100 percent of the political power. This means that the emergence of a de facto one party-state is a disconcerting reality we all need to come to terms with.
Public representatives, we believe, should only be able to cross the floor with the moral legitimacy that they are accountable and directly linked to the electorate who put them there. We are also deeply concerned that floor-crossing is compounding the democratic deficit and a low voter turnout in South Africa. Participation in the local government elections in 1995, 2000 and 2006 was already a worryingly low 48 percent.
With voter apathy and discontent comes the inherent risk that single-issue pressure groups, which have a tendency to cater for elite interests, will begin to supplant, rather than complement, the role of opposition political parties in civil society. Democracy would be the loser.
I would like to repeat what I said earlier in the year: repealing floor-crossing would not be a climb down or a 'U turn'. On the contrary, if the ruling-party has the courage to do the right thing, not only will they enjoy the support of the IFP - and most South Africans, they will give a clear signal of their commitment to a healthy and strong democracy. Now is the time to scrap floor-crossing.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP