Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As the IFP approaches its Annual General Conference, rumours are rife about the internal dynamics of the Party and the probable outcome of the elections. The media has run with some interesting stories; mostly inaccurate and, in some cases, wholly untrue.
I realise that South Africans are eager to know what is happening in the IFP, as we have been a stable part of the political landscape for 35 years.
The name of the IFP is synonymous with principled leadership, integrity and experience. And my name is almost synonymous with the IFP.
It is therefore quite understandable that journalists are allowing themselves to be fed with leaked and unconfirmed information, as right now anything about the IFP sells papers. We, as the leadership, have attempted to keep our focus on resolving internal ructions, and have perhaps neglected to keep the media up to speed.
I feel the weight of responsibility that now rests on my shoulders to set the record straight and give our people a clearer idea of what is really happening in the IFP.
Last week, news broke of a court application brought by a number of IFP members to try to prevent the Party and its leadership from postponing the Annual General Conference or declaring it to be non-elective. The application pleaded urgency on the supposition that our Extended National Council of this past week was set to make these declarations.
Our Secretary-General responded to media enquiries pointing out that the application was absurd, as we had no intention of postponing the Conference or making it non-elective. This was not on the agenda and we had no intention of discussing the possibility.
The truth of this is evidenced by the fact that we have emerged from our Extended National Council and the Conference is still taking place on 23 - 25 July and it is still an elective conference.
Some journalists would have us believe that this was a victory hard won by the "Friends of VZ"; the faction that has been agitating for a change in leadership by any means, including sabotage, deceit, brown envelope journalism, fistfights, swearing matches and treachery.
But in truth, we are ready to hold Conference and all the work we have accomplished thus far has been in preparation for the coming elections. Our Extended National Council was part of this, as we sought to defuse tensions that have been spilling over into violence, in the hope that we might secure a peaceful Conference, without incident or disruption.
Journalists have written that there was overwhelming disagreement from Council to making the Conference non-elective, when in fact this was never discussed. Some have written that our National Chairperson received a standing ovation after she spoke, which is not true. Now there are stories being penned that we have launched disciplinary action against her; which is another lie.
If one looks at the thread running through these lies, it is not difficult to see what the perpetrators are hoping to achieve. It is not the media that is lying. It is the "Friends of VZ" who are feeding lies to the media machine to create the image of a Party that is sexist, dictatorial and on the verge of collapse.
This is just not the truth. In 1 March 2010 the National Chairperson published a strong statement distancing herself from the activities of the "Friends of VZ" and rebuking those who were dividing the Party in her name.
She indicated that she would take legal action if they did not desist, and if they continued to use her name without her permission.
As our Extended National Council discussed the problems threatening our Party, it was clear that the divisive behaviour of the "Friends of VZ" had continued, and still continues, to damage us. The question was raised about why the National Chairperson had not followed up on her intention to seek legal action against them, when their activities have so clearly caused the IFP harm.
I myself have given the National Chairperson several opportunities to clear her name, most recently at the provincial conference of KwaZulu Natal. But she has always declined. It has become difficult to defend her position when she herself will not defend it. It was therefore decided that an enquiry should be held into this matter, to assist the National Chairperson to clarify her position and set the record straight about her link to the "Friends of VZ".
Matters were made worse by the fact that her own daughter was among those who came to the gate outside our meeting and flung invectives and vulgarities at our leadership. Many of those who align themselves with the "Friends of VZ" are our National Chairperson's friends, relatives, former employees and security personnel.
It would be remiss of the Party not to launch an enquiry into this matter and, although I am not entirely comfortable with our having to do so, I recognize the importance of settling this matter before Conference to ensure that we do not run the risk of clashes, violence or disruption during our elections.
The decision to launch this enquiry was based on a resolution of the National Executive Committee and was taken in terms of section 10.9 of the IFP's Constitution. I had reservations about this decision, as I knew that the motives would be misunderstood. But National Council unanimously agreed to the NEC's resolution to launch an enquiry.
The specious court application that sought to prevent us from postponing Conference alleged that I or my "sympathizers" would attempt to "meddle" in the election process. That is a grave insult, which shows the depth of malice held against me by the "Friends of VZ". Their constant ploy has been to portray this coming election as a stand-off between the National Chairperson and the Secretary-General, as though I am simply not part of the equation.
In terms of the IFP's Constitution, National Council must decide on the names of candidates to present to Conference, and will be doing so at its meeting this coming weekend.
In a resolution of 24 October 2009, National Council asked me to consider continuing to lead the Party in order to supervise a peaceful leadership transition. Since then, that resolution has been endorsed by the provincial conferences of KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, as well as the National Council of the Women's Brigade, the National Council of the Youth Brigade and the Executive of Sadesmo.
This was not done at my request. I have not sought to continue leading the Party. It is by now common knowledge that I sought to retire in 2004 and again in 2006, but was unanimously requested by Conference to remain.
I should have decided by now what I intend to do. But the state of the Party and the divisions sown by the "Friends of VZ" have made my decision difficult. I shall now have to decide before or at Conference whether I am willing to see my legacy destroyed for the sake of a "new" IFP, and whether a "new" IFP is something South Africa needs.
In the end, the bottom line is the same as it has always been: what is best for South Africa? What is best for my people? What is God calling me to do?
I have always seen my leadership role as God-given and a fulfilment of my destiny. My destiny has been a part of South Africa's story. And I am not convinced the final chapter has been written.
It is not clandestine media sources, but only time, that will tell.
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.