Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
If you knew that speaking against injustice would cost you your freedom, take you away from your children and send you to solitary confinement for months on end; would you still speak?
Albertina Sisulu did. This week our nation poured out tributes to the woman we called mother, mentor, stalwart and icon. She deserved every accolade we bestowed upon her, both in life and in death. She has not been lionized since her passing last Thursday; she has simply been thanked for what she did for our country.
In many ways, our thanks cannot cover the depth of her contribution to our liberation struggle; because she suffered in ways that we cannot begin to understand. She was arrested for singing freedom songs at a funeral, and held in solitary confinement for seven months. She refused, under the worst psychological duress, to betray the whereabouts of her husband. Time and time again, she got up from where apartheid had cast her, dusted herself off and took up the fight anew.
Hers was a spiritual as well as a political victory, for through her unwavering faith she rebuilt the faith of others. History will record her role in glowing terms and we who knew her will remember her with fondness.
But Albertina has given us more than a story of hope and perseverance. She, and many like her, have given us the freedom to follow in their footsteps without suffering their punishment. The men and women who stood up to apartheid and brought down an unjust system opened the way for South Africans to continue the fight for liberty without the obstacles of arrest, detention, murder and suffering.
Today you may speak against injustice, and it will cost you no more than your time and energy, and perhaps your comfort. That is Ma Sisulu’s real legacy. That is what we struggled to achieve for so many years. My generation, the generation of Albertina Sisulu, endured a long and very painful journey to bring our country to the point of political freedom. The fruit of our labour is ripe for the picking.
But who will pick it? The record voter turnout in last month’s local government elections suggests that an increasing number of South Africans are willing to get involved in politics. That is heartening news. So is the fact that the IFP regained its position as the third largest political party in South Africa, and the second largest predominantly black party after the ANC.
This means that the majority still believes in opposition politics, even in the face of the ANC’s concerted effort to secure political hegemony. South Africans still see the value in having a vehicle through which you can object to whatever government foists upon you.
Democracy empowers the solitary voices by linking them with political parties. Today it is not about individuals empowering a party, the way Ma Sisulu did the ANC, but about a party empowering individuals by representing their views, vociferously and with purpose. It is not just about being heard; it’s about accomplishing something of benefit.
This is why the IFP doesn’t rant on about Gareth Cliff’s suitability as an Idols judge, or other people’s dance moves. We don’t see how many times we can fit the phrase "backward rightwing formation" into a press statement.
Because even if a few people are talking about these things in the public arena, giving them a voice doesn’t further the pursuit of democracy. Indeed, it belittles what politics is about.
South Africa’s challenges are so much greater. Why entertain the masses when you should be serving them? Because, as the Romans knew, a circus distracts hungry people. The politics of 2011 is a far cry from the politics of 1944, when Ma Sisulu was the only woman present at the inauguration of the ANC Youth League.
Nevertheless, there are still those who understand the value and purpose of politics. The IFP grapples with the real issues, because these are your issues. We speak about rising food prices that will impact your pocket, secrecy laws that will impact your right to know, and policing policies that will impact your personal safety. We engage on the debates that matter.
This makes the IFP a vehicle for the solitary voices; the ones who are willing to speak up against injustice, whatever form it might take. Today, changing the system still requires speaking against the system, but it is that much easier because democracy has been achieved.
If you feel like a solitary voice of reason in the midst of the state sanctioned circus, do not despair. Link yourself to the IFP, strengthen opposition politics and make yourself heard. We need activists today as much as we did in 1944.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Liaison Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP. 082 729 2510.