BY PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Ladies and gentlemen; is there any country in the world that has 48 parties contesting an election? Perhaps there is, but this is unprecedented for South Africa. Clearly we are facing a watershed election, reflective of the deep crisis we find ourselves in at this present juncture.
I want to thank the Durban Club, the Chairperson, and my friend Mr Arthur Konïgkramer, for arranging this lunchtime meeting, so that we might have a chance to sit around the table and consider the future of our country. I appreciate the opportunity to speak and listen to individuals like you, who are invested both financially and personally in the wellbeing of South Africa.
It is fitting that my talk here today forms part of the anniversary series commemorating 165 years of the Durban Club. This Club has hosted many prominent individuals, one of whom was the man who ordered my great grandfather’s Royal Kraal at Ulundi to be burned to the ground.
Lord Chelmsford was the commander of Her Britannic Majesty’s army during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. My paternal great grandfather, Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi, was commander-in-chief of the regiments of King Cetshwayo, who was my maternal great grandfather. When the British defeated the Zulu at the Battle of Ulundi on 4 July 1879, Lord Chelmsford ensured that the capital of Zululand was engulfed in flames.
All that was left were ashes; and the unconquerable spirit of a conquered nation.
It is remarkable to think that Lord Chelmsford dined here, at this Club, which was then reserved for gentlemen. The Club had been formed, and I quote, “for the purpose of playing at Billiards, Chess and as a Reading and News Room”. Evidently it was conceived as a place of comfort and enlightenment.
Today, as we gather in this historic Club, the comfort will be provided by my hosts. Presumably, this means that I am here to provide enlightenment!
The question I hope to answer is the one on all our minds, and certainly on our lips: “Wither South Africa?” Where is our country headed? And is that destination inevitable, or can we still change track?
The fact that we have 48 parties contesting the May 8th elections speaks of the deep dissatisfaction of South Africans and the sense of uncertainty that pervades. Voters are looking to their political leadership and asking, “Who can I trust?” Where trust has been broken again and again, and no trust has been nurtured in an alternative, people feel they have two options. Either stay away, or start your own party.
The IFP is offering a third option. We are reminding South Africa that there is a leadership that can be trusted. The fact that those who were believed to be infallible have fallen by their own hand, does not mean that all political leaders are untrustworthy.
It does mean, undoubtedly, that the average South African needs to be more circumspect about handing power to people for their exciting slogans and expansive promises. We could do with more critical enquiry and active engagement by the electorate.
But the temptation to believe that all politicians are corrupt must be avoided. So too should we avoid the simplified assumption that if the ruling party is bad, the opposition must be good.
If one thinks in marketing terms, the revelations of state capture and entrenched corruption in the ruling party are a boon for the opposition. Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on the flaws of one’s opponent? Indeed, people used to say that President Zuma was the best free advertising for the opposition. So much so, that when he was finally dislodged, the DA and EFF seemed to lose momentum.
The IFP, however, doesn’t think in marketing terms. We think in terms of what is good for the country. So we are not salivating over every piece of evidence that the ANC is riddled with corruption. We are what is called a constructive opposition. As I have said in Parliament many a time, when Government does what is right for our country, we will support the Government. But when it does what is wrong, we will stand up and speak.
So we are standing up and speaking, because in far too many instances Government is doing the wrong thing. This isn’t a public relations exercise, but a fight to save South Africa.
Let me give you one example of where our Government went severely wrong.
More than 90% of power in South Africa is supplied by Eskom. But Eskom’s coal-fired power stations have suffered repeated faults and its two new mega power stations are underperforming. To supplement our needed power supply, South Africa buys power from the Cahora Bassa hydro station in Mozambique. In recent years, we have been buying about 1 500 megawatts a day.
When the Cahora Bassa lines went down after Cyclone Idai, we could not receive this crucial energy supply, and we had to put the lights out to prevent the national grid from collapsing. In other words, we don’t have sufficient supply within our own country and we’re reliant on Mozambique.
Energy expert, Mr Chris Yelland, estimates that Stage 2 load shedding costs South Africa’s economy 2 billion Rand a day, while Stage 4 costs closer to 6 billion. Goldman Sachs has announced that power cuts will reduce South Africa’s first quarter GDP growth by 0.3 percentage points.
This is a disaster for a struggling economy.
So imagine we were able to build our own hydro station that had the capacity to supply upwards of 1 500 megawatts which could be fed into the national grid – the same amount as we’re buying from Cahora Bassa.
Your imagination needn’t stretch too far, because that is exactly what was planned in the Thukela basin in the 1980’s.
A massive pumped-storage scheme on the Thukela at Mvumase, here in KwaZulu Natal, was investigated in great detail by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Eskom concluded that the scheme was both feasible and economically justified. Unfortunately, for apparently political reasons, the apartheid government stopped the project.
When South Africa entered democracy in 1994, the Mvumase project was placed back on the table. It remained viable and attractive.
Studies done in the eighties showed that some 20 000 hectares of land could be irrigated by the project, stimulating small scale farming and creating jobs. The produce of these farms could ameliorate food security, and could also boost the economy through export, particularly with the Dube Trade Port and Durban Airport so easily accessible.
Most importantly though, we would be generating our own energy supply that would be vital for the economic growth so urgently needed. But rather than pursuing this project and expanding capacity within South Africa, our democratic government took the decision to refurbish the Cahora Bassa scheme. Once again, it was a political decision.
Political considerations have played far too great a role in the policies and decisions of our Government. I remember how we all embraced the macroeconomic strategy of GEAR, Growth, Employment and Redistribution. I was relieved, sitting in President Mbeki’s Cabinet, to see that the ANC was moving away from socialism which had been its ideology for so many years. The IFP is a champion of a free market economy, and we saw GEAR as a ray of hope.
But no sooner had Government adopted GEAR than we saw the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners protesting on our TV screens, shouting, “ASIYIFUNI GEAR! We don’t want GEAR!” And what happened to GEAR? It fell off the table. The ruling party has been led about by the nose when it comes to economic policy. In trying to satisfy everyone, they have satisfied no one, and this policy uncertainty had led us down a road of economic weakening.
Some 20 years later, the focus has shifted from weak and indecisive leadership, to corrupt leadership. Last week the media was aflutter over a comment made by the Honourable Mr Tendai Biti MP, former Minister of Finance in Zimbabwe. Mr Biti said, “Zimbabwe invented state capture. But South Africa perfected it.”
In focussing so much on President Zuma, the opposition played into the idea that corruption began with his presidency. By extension, then, corruption must have ended with his exit. That is precisely the narrative the ruling party is pursuing with the idea of a new dawn. But the reality is that corruption was present before Mr Zuma, and it is still there after him.
His leadership may have brought things to the surface. But we need to realise that, beneath the surface, there is more than one man. Our own President in fact was Deputy President of the country and of the ruling party when everything that happened under Mr Zuma’s presidency happened. Yet he opposed every motion of no confidence, and said not a word against the President.
Now when he speaks of nine wasted years under President Zuma, we need to ask, “Where were you?” There has not been a complete transformation in the ruling party. It is the same people, holding the same power, doing the same things. Will we look back in another five years and say, “Another five wasted years”?
I do not believe that our future is cast in stone. The destination is not inevitable. Yes, if we remain on this trajectory and do nothing to change it, we can predict with absolute accuracy where it will end. But we have a chance to change it.
That chance comes now, on May the 8th, with a national and provincial election. This is not just politicking. It is absolute fact that the ballot box will decide whither South Africa.
So what do we need to do to save South Africa? We need to restore integrity to leadership positions. We need to place leaders in power who can be trusted to serve South Africa, and the needs of South Africa, with honesty, transparency and selfless commitment. But how do we choose these leaders out of the 48 parties contesting the elections?
Dr Phil has a wonderful aphorism that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. To predict whether leaders will be honest in the future, you need to check whether they’ve been honest in the past. It is pointless voting on the basis of promises, because promises have been made before, and promises have been broken. The electorate must evaluate parties on their actual performance and the empirical evidence of their character.
This is why the IFP has been confident enough to run with the simple slogan, “Trust Us”. Because we know that in the end it all comes down to track record. The IFP’s track record is consistent. We have delivered good, clean governance. We have been honest with the electorate. We have provided a constructive opposition that builds our country and helps our people.
Where others talk about tearing down and slaughtering whites and hitting back, the IFP maintains the voice of reason. We encourage dialogue, social cohesion, respect and equality. We know that everyone has a contribution to make to the success of our country, and everyone has the right to claim a stake in our country’s future. There is no future for some, at the expense of others.
What the IFP is seeking to create is social justice and economic justice for all of South Africa’s people. We cannot work for all people, without working with all people. This is why I caution against assuming that every opposition party is good merely because it stands in opposition to the ruling party. The two biggest opposition parties have shown evidence of racial bias, suggesting that they will work with some, and for some South Africans, but not with or for others.
The DA’s ill-conceived campaign that seeks, and I quote, “to keep the ANC and the EFF out of the Western Cape” has created the idea that majority black parties are unwelcome, even in a democracy. Covering all its bases, the DA is also sending out smses urging people not to vote for so-called smaller parties, because that, they say, is a wasted vote.
This arrogant way of addressing the electorate is worrying. Your vote should be respected. It is your voice. Your voice should not be discounted or discredited simply because it’s not the voice of the Democratic Alliance. What is the DA saying to someone who resides in the Western Cape, but supports a different party? You are not welcome here. Your voice is irrelevant.
The thing about a democracy is that everyone is equal and everyone has an equal right to support the leadership of their choice. Denigrating people for who they choose to support is not a good way to build social cohesion. As leaders, we should instead be educating voters, earning their trust and listening to their voices. We are, after all, here to serve the people; not the other way around.
If we want to change the destination of our country, we need to empower leaders through the ballot box who are not only competent and strong, but who are principled and respectful. We need leaders who will do the right thing, even when it is difficult or politically uncomfortable. We need leaders who will commit to good policies and see them through, no matter what. We need leaders who have shown that they can be trusted.
The IFP offers that leadership to South Africa. We are a known quantity, tried and tested, both in governance and in opposition. Our people’s faith in our country’s leaders has been severely rattled. We need to remind them that there is still solid ground. There is still a safe bet on the ballot paper.
The IFP has governed this Province before. We know what it takes, and we are able to do it, with excellence. We have always worked through partnerships with the people, including people like you who are able to make an investment in strong multi-party democracy. But as much as we have achieved through partnerships, it pains me to say that business has largely neglected the IFP. So much more could have been done if the right people had worked together.
As we move forward towards the future, I hope to see South Africans of goodwill joining hands with the leadership of the IFP. Together we can restore integrity to our country. Together, we can save South Africa.
I thank you.