Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
We have now had a few weeks to absorb the shock of the tectonic shift - and it is the most significant in 14 years - that has taken place in our politics. We are now faced with two potentially competing centres of power: one at Luthuli House and the other at the Union Buildings and continued uncertainty of will who lead the nation after 2009 with the President of the ANC embroiled in a protracted legal battle.
I would like to suggest that we respond to this tempest with the following advice which might, at first, seem a bit rich from a politician: calm down. I am not seeking to emulate UK opposition leader David Cameron who, just before Christmas, infuriated the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown with the camp one liner "calm down dear", but we do really do need to calm down a bit. Let us look to the year ahead with cooler tempers and a little more reason than has prevailed thus far. We need to find a way again of being able to disagree without being disagreeable.
There are multiple hazards ahead for sure, but before we succumb to the doomsayers, let us consider that our position is not unique in the democratic world. And that is the paradox of democracy: it sometimes results in some strange and unexpected permutations. Sometimes events turnout to be more transitory and illusory than the present 24 hour media 'in the moment' coverage suggests.
Let us consider the greatest democracy of all: the USA. Until recently, the 'Neo con' consensus seemed entrenched in America. Karl Rove, President Bush's strategist, believed he had delivered for the Republicans a "natural majority" in 2004. And so it seemed with a Republican in the White House and a majority in Congress. In less than four years, the political terrain has been transformed by, amongst other things, Iraq and a faltering economy.
This week's exciting events in New Hampshire which saw the Democrat's leading candidates, Hilary Clinton (who would be the first female president) and Barack Obama (who would be the first black president) fighting toe to toe. This, combined with the unexpected triumph of Republican contender John McCain (defying the trend towards increasingly young candidates with his experience and proud war record), holds out the promise that this election will be the most exciting yet in America.
We may have no idea how events will unfold in SA in 2008, but equally we can draw comfort from the fact that no one knows who will be leading the free world from January next year. One thing is for sure, the American political process has been reinvigorated and both Republican and Democrat candidates are drinking heavily from the cup of hope. We need to too.
There's another important message here. As American politicians are discovering afresh that there is a whole different reality outside of Washington, South African politicians also need to be reminded that is a another world outside.
We politicos might all be taking in hushed tones as if someone has died about 'competing centres of power', the NPA, the Scorpions and the judicial process, but most South Africans, I believe, are fretting about rising food prices, high interest rates and will the stadiums be ready for 2010. As I said two weeks ago in my newsletter, the ruling-party really needs to get back to the business of government whilst our well-designed and independent institutions, under our impeccable Constitution, do their business in upholding the rule of law.
Whilst I have no objections per se to the ANC conducting their own fact-finding mission about the arms deal, they might be better putting their energies into day to day governing. If they do go ahead, they cannot keep it private as they wish to. This is not Stalin's Soviet Union. The IFP believes that South Africans can have faith in the integrity of our judicial process to probe the arms deal. Let the independent investigation be reopened and allow the fierce light of forensic scrutiny to, once and for all, illuminate the unanswered questions around this R40 billion deal.
The IFP is equally confident that Mr Jacob Zuma will receive fairness and justice when his case goes to trial because our institutions are strong and impartial. We must detoxify the personalisation of our public life and as patriotic South Africans reaffirm our faith in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are confident that, if there is an elaborate McCarthy-like political conspiracy, our institutions will expose it as such. In the meantime, let us pursue the constitutional directives to liberate our people from HIV/Aids, poverty, joblessness, criminal activities, poor education and preventable diseases.
We have witnessed in recent weeks how quickly a country based upon the rule can be derailed. When I attended the 'Konrad Adenauer Foundation Rule of Law Program for Sub-Saharan Africa' in Mombasa in October 2006, I did not imagine that within a year, the elections would be marred by violence and anarchy. The events in Kenya are a reminder to us how easily the scales can tip in the wrong direction even in a country which was admired for its stability since independence.
Martha Karua, the Kenyan Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in her opening address reminded us that equality before the law forms the central pillar of the concept of the rule of law. She observed that the changing nature of modern governance requires constant dialogue at all levels of society to ensure that the ideals of rule of law are safeguarded at all times.
The Minister further observed that rule of law was under threat in most sub-Saharan African countries because democratisation had not been fully achieved or consolidated in the region. She called for greater democratisation and practice of the values of constitutionalism in order to institutionalise the rule of law in the region. She said this would require a proper separation of powers, an effective and independent judiciary and effective laws and policies on human rights which must be founded on a solid, modern and progressive Constitution. Whilst mindful of the grave days ahead, let us not lose sight of that the new South Africa was founded upon these very principles.
The leaders of the ruling party here need for the sake of us all, government and opposition alike, to rein in those speakers within the ANC who are fanning the flames of volatility.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP