Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As we celebrate Human Rights Day tomorrow, we have reason to pause for a moment and consider our country's approach to human rights and whether it is reasonable, appropriate and beneficial.
From the outset, I must state that the IFP has always been a champion of human rights. We engaged the liberation struggle from the perspective that human beings have an intrinsic right to life, security and dignity, as well as a right to food, shelter, water, education, justice, health care and the full gamut contained in South Africa's Bill of Rights.
Because we believe so fundamentally in the sanctity of human life, we never saw people as ammunition or as an expendable resource in the pursuit of a cause. When the ANC abandoned the founding principles of our liberation struggle and embarked on a People's War, which brought bloodshed, violence and death to our country on a vast scale, the IFP could not agree. We were no less passionate about political liberation than the ANC, but we could not blind ourselves to the fact that human rights would be trampled by an armed struggle whose very purpose was purportedly to gain respect for human rights.
To this day, I still believe the ANC made a mistake. I was in South Africa when they made a call from their mission-in-exile for black South Africans to take up arms, embrace violence and make our country ungovernable. I listened to our people within communities; people with whom I lived and laboured every day under the worst indignities of Apartheid. And these people were saying no.
They did not want to live in fear for their lives. They did not want hatred, revenge, bloodshed, grief, loss, pain and fear. Even for the sake of political liberation. Because political liberation could be won by other means, as indeed it was; through negotiations, negotiations, negotiations.
It may not be the flashiest way to win a political victory. But it is the only way that protects human rights and secures the high moral ground. It is the only path that provides a secure foundation on which to build once the threshold has been crossed.
This same respect for human rights led the IFP to reject the ANC's call throughout the world for economic sanctions and disinvestment from South Africa in the hope that an isolated economy would flounder, placing pressure on the nationalist government to reform. The IFP recognised that, through disinvestment, jobs would be lost and in the end the poorest of our people would suffer the most; the poorest being the already disenfranchised and impoverished majority.
We therefore stood against sanctions and were criticised for disagreeing with the ANC's mission-in-exile. We were accused of supporting the Apartheid regime, as though the only way to challenge the regime was by agreeing with every decision and every utterance of a leadership outside South Africa.
On the contrary, the IFP found many ways to undermine the Apartheid system, and none of them sacrificed the principle of human rights. In fact we alone protected one of the universally recognised human rights, the right to citizenship, when I refused to accept so-called independence for KwaZulu, which would have robbed millions of South Africans of their citizenship.
What would be the point of achieving a free South Africa when we were no longer South Africans?
Over the years, there have been many admissions from many quarters that I and the IFP played a pivotal role in ending Apartheid through the principled stands we took. I have no doubt that this would be a very different country today, had the IFP not firmly stood for the principle of human rights and the sanctity of human life.
In a democratic South Africa, we have continued to champion these principles and we have continued to experience opposition from the ANC. Although the ANC undeniably pays a great deal of lip service to human rights, when it comes down to the line, they often fail to practice what they preach.
One prime example is their steadfast refusal to roll out anti-retrovirals at all birth facilities across South Africa, even faced with the clear evidence that it could be done. The IFP had done it in KwaZulu Natal under the leadership of an IFP Premier, and we had saved thousands upon thousands of lives, because babies born to HIV mothers, who received anti-retrovirals within hours of birth, had a far greater chance of survival.
We ended up having to take on the ANC in the Constitutional Court, because they refused to do what they are constitutionally required to do; honour the right to life. Now, years later, the ANC boasts how many lives they have saved by rolling out anti-retrovirals. But they never mention that they had to be forced to do it.
Another remarkable example of disrespect for human rights is the way the ANC handled its former Youth League President who publically declared he would "Kill for Zuma"; who himself kept singing "Umshini Wam". The South African Human Rights Commission intervened and instructed the Youth League President to withdraw his statement. The ANC then intervened and asked the Human Rights Commission to withdraw their instruction that he withdraw his statement. Clearly the ANC considered their own understanding of human rights superior to that of a Chapter 9 institution tasked with upholding the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.
There is reason to believe that our country's leadership does not fully grasp the principle of human rights. This creates a problem when it comes to policy development, leaving South Africa with some strangely illogical and damaging policies. There are instances in which the ANC has put their vision of "human rights" above common sense.
One such instance is the policy of allowing 12 year old girls to have abortions without their parents' consent or even knowledge, in order to respect the child's right to make their own choices about their sexuality and their bodies. Consequently, 77 000 girls had abortions at public facilities over the course of one year. 94 000 school girls fell pregnant and some, as young as 10 years old, then tested HIV positive. The Minister of Health, Dr Motsoaledi, has said, "We can no longer live like that." But what is being done to change policies, because polices create consequences?
I have tried to imagine what it would be like for a 12 year old girl to discover she is pregnant, and HIV positive. The average 12 year old girl is in Grade 6. Based on the Grade 6 syllabus, she is just learning how to add and subtract money, about ecosystems and food groups, basic safety around electricity, and where the sun fits into our solar system.
She still requires her parent's written consent to go on a school outing, and still relies on her parents for shelter, food and clothing. She is not legally allowed to work and cannot open a bank account without her parent's signature. She may not legally drive, drink or vote, and is under the age restriction to watch films like "The Amazing Spiderman" and "The Twilight
Saga: Breaking Dawn".
Her parents carry legal responsibility for her care, as society clearly doesn't feel she can take responsibility for herself at this age. Yet, faced with the decision to become sexually active, we leave that decision entirely up to her. Then, faced with the decision to abort a baby that her parents don't know about and that she is financially, emotionally and logistically unable to care for, we allow her to take that decision on her own, in secret.
I do believe there is such thing as common sense and I disagree with constitutional expert, Pierre de Vos, that common sense is merely the sum of what those in your own small circle believe to be true or right. Common sense is what human beings arrive at when we seek logical, rational, simple answers.
It is not logical or rational to place in the hands of a child a decision like abortion. It is like placing a chair next to the stove, so that at least if a toddler does try to touch a hot plate, they will not fall and hurt themselves while climbing on the kitchen counter.
In this instance, and in several others, common sense has been sacrificed for the sake of extreme liberalism, under the assumption that the more liberal we appear, the more respectful we will seem of human rights. The IFP would not sacrifice human life on the altar of the liberation struggle. And we will not sacrifice human life on the altar of human rights.
Our principles enable us to be proud of our legacy. I cannot help but think of the words of ANC MEC for Education, Mr Senzo Mchunu, who said, "The ANC has been built from blood, from tears, from destruction and one-partyism."
Surely that is not a legacy in which to take pride.
The IFP has been built on respect for human life, integrity and the pursuit of genuine democracy. We put people ahead of power. When we celebrate Human Rights Day, we celebrate having stayed true to our principles even under extreme duress. That is a legacy worth celebrating.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP