Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Since the IFP announced that our Annual General Conference would not be held this weekend, but rather in December there has been a great deal of unwarranted speculation by political analysts and journalists as to the reasons for the postponement. I say unwarranted, because we spelt out the reasons very clearly. But when someone is determined to see something sinister, they will find a devil in every doorknob.
One such devil is the debate over whether the IFP will create a Deputy President position. This has been debated within the Party for many years.
We have wrestled with the idea in our Conferences and sought to determine whether it would bring any benefit to the internal cohesion or democracy of the IFP. But one Conference after another has agreed that the role, functions and authority of a Deputy President already reside in the position of National Chairperson. Thus the rank and file of our Party has rejected the idea of creating a new position.
I am not averse to revisiting the idea at our upcoming Conference. In fact, it was I who tabled the notion in our National Executive Committee, suggesting that our Party should consider and even reconsider every possible path as we chart our way forward to 2014. If the creation of a Deputy President position will bring any new benefit to the Party right now, it is worth considering.
But it is not my decision to make. It is not for me to say we need this position or we can do without it. That is for the members of the IFP to debate and determine at our Conference. Our Constitution has created this venue as the forum for decisions like this, because we are committed to transparency and democracy within our Party.
This same commitment led to our decision to postpone Conference and our decision to openly discuss with the media and the public why we were doing it. There are structures within our Party that have yet to fulfil their constitutional mandate of holding elective conferences ahead of our Annual General Conference. We have given them additional time until 30 November to do this, which has meant waiting a little longer for Conference. This is not my decision. It is a requirement of the IFP's Constitution.
If we had decided that holding our Annual General Conference was more important than operating within our Constitution, we would have gone against everything the IFP stands for. Our Conference could also have been declared unconstitutional and any elected leader could have been challenged on this basis. The IFP does things by the book. It might irritate our detractors, but it reinforces the fact that we will never compromise our integrity for political expediency, logistical convenience or the sake of appearance.
For the IFP, integrity comes first, and we are committed to constitutionality.
I have been surprised, and somehow amused, by the political commentators who have suggested that there is no plausibility to the notion that the IFP's branches are not ready for Conference. These are the same people who recently commented on the ANC's State of the Organisation Report, according to which almost three quarters of ANC branches across the country are not in good standing.
One analyst applauded the ANC for going ahead with conferences even when structures on the ground are in disarray. But there is nothing laudable in the chiefs giving a big display of unity when the Indians are fighting amongst each other.
I notice that our detractors have avoided the elephant in the room. They have steered clear of talking about the NFP's postponement of Conference for the very same reasons that their branches are not ready. They have failed to point out that the IFP is vindicated, again, because the leader of the NFP pretended to reject our reasons for postponing Conference when she was National Chairperson of the IFP. She took us to court to try to force us to hold Conference. And the court ruled against her.
Now the NFP sits with the same dilemma and must admit that the problem is very real. Either you follow your constitution and postpone conference, or you hold an unconstitutional conference for the sake of saving face.
When we took the decision postpone Conference, I knew our detractors would claim that I am "clinging to power". It is a most painful allegation to hear, for I remain at the helm of the IFP at the unanimous request of my Party's members. Not for my own benefit, but for the sake of serving the will of my people and the interests of my Party.
I will embrace their will again in December 2011, for I am a democrat and a servant of the people. There is no benefit to me to continue at the helm. No one could have predicted the kind of ructions in the Party which have torn the IFP apart and resulted in such confusion.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP