Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The past week has been hectic as parties issued their manifestos to acquaint voters with their policies. When I presented my Party's Manifesto in Soweto on the 25th of January I opened with the following words:
"I wish to begin my address by stating just simple facts of the matter as far as elections are concerned. I realise that the citizens of our country are now being bombarded with all sorts of promises, many of which will never be realised even in our lifetime. Representatives at all levels of government are elected in order to administer the citizens' money. That is tax-payers' money.
Budgets can be as high as they can be, but the crucial thing is who will be dispensing that taxpayers' money.
The criteria for this as far as I am concerned is whether the people that citizens elect are people who are honest, people of integrity. And people who are not corrupt. That should be the yardstick. People who have these qualities are scarce in Africa and not least in our own country. Citizens have to be certain that the people they elect are people who they are certain will administer the government funds, which is another name for tax-payers money with honesty and integrity."
For months my Party has been holding Listening Campaigns in many parts of the country in order to hear what the citizens themselves have to say, before formulating our policies and putting together our Manifesto. After all, it is only the wearer of the shoe who knows where the shoe pinches.
As the different party manifestos were being launched, one political analyst wrote in a national newspaper that "Those who shape our national debate are putting words and thoughts in the minds of voters, rather than listen to them".
That indictment could not be made against the IFP, as our Manifesto was based on the various views of the voters expressed during our Listening Campaigns.
In my long life, I have seen many extravagant promises that political parties and politicians make to the voters. Most of them were not even capable of being fulfilled, and many of those that could have been fulfilled, were not.
For this reason, we tried to confine our promised undertakings to what we consider to be within the realm of the possible. I have emphasized that I will not insult the voters' intelligence by promising Eldorados. I realised a long time ago that there is great wisdom in President Abraham Lincoln's famous words – that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
That is why I said the following in Soweto on the 25 of January:
"On this occasion, the IFP is launching its manifesto. We have developed our policies in a dialogue with all the people of South Africa. They are sound and reasonable solutions to the dramatic problems we have. They don't contain any wild policy, but the honest and decent common sense which has thus far been lacking in our government."
The formulation of our Manifesto was more than a mere exercise in compliance. We do not believe in blindly engaging the ritual of presenting a manifesto, regardless of how divorced it is from the reality in which we find ourselves in our beloved country.
Moreover, while disagreements are the very nature of politics, I believe in the principle of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I remember the words of one important journalist who told me that I was being a gentleman in dealing with certain acts of omission and commission by a certain politician. Again, I believe in playing the ball and not the man.
My long experience in politics has taught me that, while one should not mince words as a political leader, one should always avoid acrimony for acrimony's sake. After all, violence between human beings is often triggered by an acrimonious word.
I hope that we have avoided the danger of insulting the voters' intelligence in our Manifesto. I have too much respect for the intelligence that God planted in the minds of members of the Homo Sapiens species.
I have grown up and always lived among the poorest of the poor. And throughout my lifetime I have marvelled at the wisdom that emanates from ordinary people.
It is for this reason that we have avoided trying to mesmerise the voters with highfalutin ideas. Instead, we have dealt with everyday common problems that we face as South Africans, which one does not need erudition to understand.
Above all, we have tried to remind voters of our tried and tested leadership.
That is what we should all be judged on; our track record.
Mine started with governing our territory which the Apartheid regime designated as "KwaZulu". Our budget was a punitive budget. On a per capita basis, we received less than any other self-governing territory or so-called "independent" territory. The things we accomplished for our people on a shoestring budget are the stuff of legends.
Moreover, when that dispensation ended, the governments of those territories were asked to return funds that we had in our coffers. It was only I and the KwaZulu Government that were able to return any funds from our coffers to the democratic government of the new South Africa. That is part of the track record on which we should be judged.
A journalist once asked me how the schools in KwaZulu managed to always start on time, when throughout South Africa chaos reigned in our classrooms with students burning their textbooks and school buildings. Foreign investors marvelled at the infrastructure and industry in KwaZulu when Apartheid collapsed, even in the shadow of sanctions and disinvestment. When the oppressed majority were suffering under poverty and hunger, we in KwaZulu were focussed on subsistence farming and taught our people how to start co-operatives and small businesses.
These are but a few footnotes on our track record.
I believe that, on this, we should be judged.
Yours in the Service of our Nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, 083 611 7470