Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Prior to the 2006 Local Government Elections, IFP Councilors, Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Exco members from all our municipalities signed a pledge of honour, service and delivery. We realised that, since 1994, voters had become increasingly disillusioned with a governance system which has failed the poorest of the poor, while benefiting the politically well-connected.
Voter turnout in Local Government elections is generally poor. But when one looks to the reality of unemployment, high crime rates, poverty, a crippled education system, the pervasiveness of corruption and the dearth of integrity among South Africa's leaders, it is clear why many of our citizens are apathetic or openly cynical about the impact of their vote at the local level.
It has always been the cornerstone of IFP philosophy that people should govern their own lives to the fullest extent possible at the local level and that they should be empowered to do so effectively.
That is why local government matters, and why municipal democracy, municipal functions and municipal institutions are so important.
Local Government is the primary interface between a citizenry and its leadership. The 900 IFP councillors that serve in municipalities across South Africa know that listening is far more important than speaking.
There is a difference between looking good and being good; and the IFP focuses its energy on the latter. We prefer to give all our attention and time to serving the needs of our people, rather than to spin-doctoring and creating colourful pamphlets.
The needs of our people, particularly in rural areas and among the poorest communities, are vast and gut-wrenching. I recently visited Maphumulo in Ilembe where a fire had gutted the hopes of a community.
This kind of natural disaster highlights the poverty our people live under, for no one within the Maphumulo community was able to assist the victims materially or financially. With the pain of helplessness, neighbours grieved with a family in crisis.
The IFP is not a rich political party. We are not awash with money like the ANC or the DA. Yet IFP members dug deep into their own pockets to assist Maphumulo with disaster relief hampers and temporary shelters. I was reminded of my visit to Maliyamakhanda Primary School earlier this year, where an IFP businessman donated ablution facilities. We didn't bus in the media to these events or create a big hoopla. We simply gave and served and assisted as our consciences dictated and our resources allowed.
This is the essence of service in governance; but some politicians have completely misunderstood. I must say that the IFP has often achieved the seemingly impossible when it comes to administering meager resources. Those who knew me during my time as the Chief Minister of KwaZulu will recall that we built many schools, clinics and houses on the shoestring budget allocated by the apartheid government. Even Mr Fred Khumalo, the at times acerbic Sunday Times journalist, recently admitted that I was right in my policy of prioritizing education.
It is no secret that my relationship with the media has been bitter sweet over the past half a century of my public life. The years of vilification and anti-Buthelezi propaganda have not entirely subsided into the past. I was not surprised, therefore, that several newspapers this week picked out one line from my 128 line speech on Wednesday, to suggest that the coming Local Government elections in 2011 will see the end of the IFP.
This Wednesday, senior local government office-bearers of the IFP gathered in Durban to reaffirm their pledge of 2006 by signing a new Service Delivery Agreement. This Agreement acknowledges that many voters are dissatisfied with the pace of change and that 2011 will offer the opportunity for the electorate to judge the performance of municipalities and councillors, and the parties whom they represent.
As the President of the IFP, I received the signed Agreement from our office-bearers and took the opportunity to warn them of the obligations it bestowed and the serious consequences of failing to uphold these commitments. The overwhelming majority of our office-bearers were present and duly signed. I therefore spoke firmly to the hundreds of councillors, mayors, deputy mayors and Exco members.
I warned against divisive behaviour and the self-enrichment of tenderpreneurs. I warned against the corruption, incompetence and weak leadership that is emerging in many municipalities in KwaZulu Natal; and I noted that the Province has been in decline ever since the IFP handed over the reins of leadership to the ANC. These facts are backed up by the Auditor-General's report on provinces.
Ordinary South Africans responded to the IFP's renewed pledge of good governance with tremendous enthusiasm. Messages of support and congratulations flooded into radio stations, as people acknowledged the integrity of the IFP and our transparency of leadership. The negative newspaper headlines failed to capture the public's positive reaction. Instead they singled out one line in which I warned that we could lose support if we fail to meet the legitimate expectations of our people.
That is obvious. Every political party must work to meet the expectations it raises. In this case, I pity the ANC which has promised the moon and the stars to its people. But the media neglected every other line in my speech. They could have made headlines with my remark that being a councillor is not about getting a paycheque, but about service. They could have quoted my reminder that the culture of service delivery has been part of the IFP's make up for 35 years.
The IFP's pledge to development, poverty relief, job creation, combating HIV/Aids, facilitating access to government services and social grants, and delivering basic services like water, roads, electricity and sanitation, were wholly ignored by the media. Perhaps that is because campaigning for the 2011 Local Government Elections is well under way and our competitors have many ways of unjustly tarnishing our name.
Or perhaps it is because the name of the IFP has been synonymous with good governance for so long that it is hardly news anymore. Whether or not it is newsworthy or makes us look good in the public eye, the IFP will keep doing what it takes to serve the people of South Africa. For us, that is the real reason for existing.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP.
Contact: Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, 082 729 2510.