Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
This weekend, for the second time in history, eleven political parties came together and held a united rally in Port Elizabeth to oppose the ‘Secrecy Bill’.
The first of such rallies was held in Khayelitsha on the 17th of May. We knew then that such a rally was a unique and unprecedented occasion, as never before in the history of South Africa have so many parties joined hands in opposing legislation. However we did not know whether this event would remain an isolated one. We now know that it won’t.
In fact, we are now planning a third event of this nature to be held in KwaZulu Natal with the possibility of a fourth one in Gauteng. We must, therefore, promote debate on what this all really means.
What started as a single event is now taking the shape and form of a march.
But, as politicians, we can only march on the feet of our respective constituencies and at the pace and in the direction that our constituency determines for us. Therefore, it is essential that we solicit feedback on what is now happening within the opposition ranks so that we may determine where it should all lead.
It is clear that a new South Africanism is emerging. It is a new sense of politics within South Africa which brings people together as South Africans, across party political divides. The whole of South African society joined hands against the Secrecy Bill, ranging from schools to churches, from trade unions to NGOs, from communities to economic potentates. This is a grand alliance of civil society, even broader than the mobilisation against Apartheid.
We must ask ourselves whether this coming together of our society is about a single issue, namely the Secrecy Bill, or is representative of a much deeper and wider malaise which calls for a broader and deeper political response.
As politicians, we can only address this fundamental question by means of suppositions and predictions. It is for the people of South Africa to speak up to let us know whether the coming together of all opposition parties to fight the Secrecy Bill may have broader value in giving the country direction and leadership to solve the many issues affecting our population.
Can a united opposition provide its leadership in respect of economic growth, unemployment, poverty, crime and the ever rising cost of living? Is South Africa ready to turn the page and have a different government? Are these the seeds of a new government-in-waiting?
Politics is the art of the possible, which not only means that everything is possible but also that a good politician must be able to distinguish what is and what is not possible. It may just be that this is not possible, but in the end it is only for our constituencies to say so.
I will continue to promote unity amongst opposition parties as I have done for many years. I have been a catalyst of unity among all South Africans for about sixty years and often bore the brunt of vilification and attack because of my willingness to reconcile everyone and seek only consensus-driven solutions. However, even in this respect, one must look at the signs and needs of the time.
A great deal of the inefficiency and incompetence in Government’s action is the result of paralysing consultations, lack of vision, lack of political will and, in the end, lack of true and genuine leadership. The necessary balance between leadership and consensus has been skewed in a manner in which leadership is now lacking.
The country needs the leadership of capable men and women who have the courage, determination and skills to take the many problems ailing our Republic and afflicting our people, and deal with them decisively.
I have often said that I will support the ruling Party whenever it does the right thing. When I disagree, I do so in the spirit of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I am shocked by the violence that ensued when the Democratic Alliance demonstrated in support of the Youth Wage Subsidy. This kind of response by COSATU does not auger well for the consolidation of democracy.
South Africa remembers how ideological differences once caused people to harm each other. In our dark past, lives were lost when ideas clashed. Let us never allow that past to return.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP