30 January 2019
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Repeatedly I have said in Parliament that the IFP will support Government when it does the right thing. We are a constructive opposition. But when it does the wrong thing, we will certainly speak.
This past weekend, as I visited seven different voting stations, I met people from all walks of life who were responding to the IEC’s last Voter Registration Weekend. The conversations we had were fascinating, for they were in equal measure both worrying and encouraging.
Almost every conversation started with enthusiasm over the chance to vote. But then came the reasons.
Elderly women in KwaMakutha expressed concern for their families who are struggling to survive on an Old Age Grant. Corruption, they said, is eating the food that should be on their tables.
Young students in Umlazi said they were worried about getting jobs, because they believe you need to be politically connected or willing to grease a few palms to get work.
In Amanzimtoti I heard small business owners lament the death of viability because the economy has collapsed under this government. Investors won’t come, they said, because expropriation without compensation is just the long way of saying “land grabs”.
In Chatsworth the issue of social cohesion loomed large, because racial tensions and divisions are being sown, and government is doing nothing to stop it.
Residents in KwaMashu were worried about crime, particularly against women, and they’re angry that Government is failing to protect them.
I have heard these things before, in countless places. They are the pervasive cry of a nation in distress. It’s terribly sad that this is the narrative of our democratic South Africa on its 25th anniversary.
If a correspondent from the future visited 1994 and asked what people would be saying ahead of this sixth democratic election, predictions would surely tend towards the positive. Our democracy should be strengthened by now, government should be a well-oiled machine primed for service delivery, inequality should be a thing of past, and our economy should be thriving.
Instead, we are wrestling with striking incongruence between what is being said by those at the top and what we all know.
Our country is in crisis. Yet the President is asking us to give him a chance to restore the integrity of the ANC and to fix the problems it has created in the governance of our country.
Is that a fair request? The question is really whether it’s a request made in good faith.
The image the President would like to convey is of the cavalry riding into town to sort out the mess someone else created. But that is not the case. He and his Cabinet are not newly arrived, conjured out of thin air, to do a clean-up job. They are part of the very collective that failed us.
That’s why it doesn’t ring true when the ruling party says that ANC comrades fingered in the State Capture Inquiry were operating in their “individual capacity”, as though their leadership in the ANC can be separated from the position they hold in government; the positon that bestowed the authority that they abused.
The leaders of the ANC are not separate from the ANC. In an aside, the DA is experiencing a similar problem in trying to distance itself from Tweets by the Premier, saying their own leader is making public statements in her individual capacity. The electorate doesn’t make that distinction between leader and party, because it can’t really be made.
Going back to the ANC, the President is not the dog that wags the tail. He is – in a democratic system – the tail, and he is being wagged by his Party; the party that turned a blind eye to cronyism, to institutionalised corruption and to State capture, right to the very end, when the whole corrupt system toppled into exposure.
Where was the President while all of this was going on? He was sitting next to President Zuma. He was Deputy President of the ANC and Deputy President of the country. He voted against every Motion of No Confidence the opposition brought against the President. While the State was being plundered by ANC leaders, he was a senior member of the ANC’s NEC.
Until the President submits himself to the Zondo Commission and tells South Africa what he knew, and what he did about it, we can only go on what we do know he has done or omitted to do.
If the President was fully committed, and able, to restore the ANC’s integrity and fix the governance problems created by ANC leaders, he would have taken the first opportunity to rid Cabinet of certain bad apples. Yet to everyone’s surprise, the bad apples remained.
Why? Because the dog always wags the tail.
If the ANC is disowning its leaders exposed through the Zondo Commission, how committed are they to fixing the problems in the Party? You cannot say we want to fix the party, but then deny that the problems have anything to do with the Party.
Did the ANC really decide it was time to expose corruption in its midst? Did the best interests of the country even feature?
An optimist would want to believe that is so, but a realist knows that the system of corruption couldn’t continue. As it grew, it reached a tipping point and became untenable. It toppled under its own weight.
But thank God it toppled when it did. Where would our country be if we had continued down that road? The question is, have we really changed course? Has enough changed in the ruling Party to warrant giving them the nod to keep managing the treasure chest of the State and the circumstances of our families?
I said that these conversations are both worrying and encouraging. The encouraging part comes back to the fact that people are standing up and getting involved, through political activism and through their vote. The crisis we face in South Africa has galvanised revolutionaries of goodwill.
I see it in the number of people registering to vote. I see it in the number of new memberships in the IFP. I see it in by-election results where the IFP has been taking wards away from our old opponents. But mostly I see it in the way people talk. They are not just angry, or frustrated or disappointed. They are provoked. They’re ready to act.
This places South Africans in a uniquely receptive frame of mind. Many will easily embrace the divisive rhetoric of firebrands. But so too will they be open to a message of hope, if it speaks to them in a voice they can trust.
I am determined to sway South Africans away from the firebrands, towards hope, unity, possibility and peace. I believe we can rescue South Africa. But it’s us, the people, who will do it. If the Zondo Commission has taught us anything it’s the veracity of Lord Acton’s dictum that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Our struggle for liberation was not to enrich the few, but to liberate the many. Now that the many are free to choose their leaders, let them choose wisely.
Yours in the service of our Nation,
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY