Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
There is an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation as the IFP prepares to hold its 31st National Youth Brigade Conference this weekend. Yesterday, Sadesmo issued a statement welcoming this conference as "a grand opportunity to make right that which went wrong and chart a clear direction forward".
The IFP relies heavily on its youth to be at the forefront of our political campaigns and activities. We recognize that ours is a youth driven culture and we embrace the lively debates and passionate ideas that spring from our Youth Brigade. This conference is likely to reveal a Youth Brigade that is chomping at the bit to make a change in South Africa.
I look forward to this opportunity to speak to our youth and to hear what they have to say regarding our Party, our future and our vision.
We have not met as a national conference since December 2008, due to the ructions in the IFP orchestrated by some disgruntled members. This will be an opportune moment to set the record straight on many issues, and to expose the barrage of lies we have all been subjected to.
One of these lies, still being told two years down the line, is that the ructions in our Party began with our youth agitating for transformation. The Sowetan recently reported that I have come out for the first time saying that there was nothing wrong in the calls for transformation. What utter rubbish. From the very start I spoke publically and clearly about this issue, pointing out that I myself had been speaking about renewal in the IFP for several years.
The problem was not that some of our youth wanted "transformation".
The problem was not even that the transformation agenda was never clearly spelled out. The problem was that some young people deliberately bypassed Party structures to air their grievances in the media, loudly and with embarrassing ill-discipline.
In doing so, they besmirched the IFP’s reputation, confused our supporters and unleashed a flood of negative and misleading publicity.
When we dealt with these agitators according to the requirements of our Constitution, we were accused of expelling them "for calling for transformation".
But the transformation agenda was hijacked from the start and turned into something sinister. We know that the group of youths who inflicted damage on the Party did so with intent. Several of them returned to the IFP, begging forgiveness and admitting that they had intentionally stirred up negative publicity.
One of these was Mr Skumbuzo Khanyeza, who was the IFP’s Chairperson of the Youth Brigade in KwaZulu Natal. Mr Khanyeza returned to the IFP in April last year, apologizing and asking for another chance to work for the Party. He committed himself to pursuing discipline and unity.
Mr Khanyeza had come to the IFP from the ANC, and we gave him a position of responsibility based on his skills and passion. Now we are left wondering whether we misjudged Mr Khanyeza, as we did Mr Irvin Barnes; for in the very week of our Youth Brigade Conference, he has resigned from the IFP.
This leaves a vacancy in the Youth Brigade, but not a gap. I am proud of the loyal young people who continue to serve under the IFP’s banner. We boast men and women of great integrity, character and competence. In many ways, we can work better with someone who is committed and available, than someone who is skilled, but unstable or disinterested.
This weekend’s Conference is an elective conference in which our youth will choose their new leaders and their candidates for the May 2011 Local Government Elections. I will urge them, as I always do, to choose candidates that are committed to service delivery, and not merely to their own pockets.
It remains a source of distaste that our former National Chairperson happily drew an IFP salary during all the time she was working to destabilize our leadership and damage our Party. She drew an IFP salary for months after the National Freedom Party was registered. She even drew a salary from us while she took us to court to try to prevent us from taking any disciplinary action against her.
She set a terrible example for her followers. Politics is about service, not power. History is littered with tales of the rise and fall of ambitious politicians. It is those who come into politics with a heart to serve, and those whose hearts are never poisoned, who stay the course and create a legacy.
The IFP will quickly forget the ones who defected, for serving a nation of such great need demands that one moves on swiftly and never stops to engage in self-pity. But history will be slow to forget the young leaders who rise at a time such as this to become champions of hope for democracy and development.
I look forward to engaging the IFP youth as we meet this weekend.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP