Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last week we witnessed the appalling scenes, so redolent of the struggle years, of striking soldiers rampaging through Pretoria and engaged in conflict with the police. One can only shudder at how these images have further undermined SA’s reputation as a reliable investment destination. This week’s bizarre Canadian ruling giving Brandon Huntley asylum, unfortunately, wrongly conflates the image of a lawless and anarchical SA.
The right to protest is a fundamental human right provided for in our Bill of Rights. Last week, even the IFP witnessed such a protest in Durban with rubber bullets being fired. But there is a difference between the right to protest and acts of brazen criminality. Such acts, some by the protectors of the citizenry, give a false sheen of legitimacy to criminality.
In SA, a major way of problem-solving is mob rule. When construction workers go on strike they torch the trucks and damage the site. When municipal workers strike they burn cars, damage property and dump rubbish. Some police toyi-toyi and even shoot at each other. This use of mobs and the impunity of the anonymity of mass action lead to a breakdown in the rule of law. This, as academics have observed, is a direct result of the merging of militarised struggle politics with unions and community organisations.
Analysts chalk the violence up to lack of service delivery, levels of inequality and other standard epitaphs that are paraded out to explain every social problem. But this is only part of the story. I am sorry to say the genesis of the present unhappy state of affairs lies in the apartheid era.
The ANC and UDF had the strategy of ungovernability that was used to incite the youth and people of the townships to violently rise up against their oppression. The townships saw a lot of violence in recent times as apartheid began to unravel. The violence included mob justice in the form of necklacing, shooting and other violent acts against those deemed to be the enemy. The unforeseen legacy of the strategy of ungovernability is what we are seeing today.
I foretold this in the 1980s when I said that in rendering South Africa ungovernable, it would surely create a nation of ungovernable people. It appears that areas which experienced the most oppression and most mobilisation by the ANC and UDF – the townships and specific informal settlements – are where most of the xenophobic attacks occurred last year.
I do want to add here that while the IFP rejected the armed struggle, I always understand that the door of negotiation was firmly slammed shut, and that many struggle activists felt that political violence was the only language that the apartheid regime understood.
I often stated that the most honourable thing to do for those who believed that black South Africa supported the armed struggle, was to start by sending their own children first out of the country before recruiting other people’s children to join the liberation army.
I told a rally at Jabulani Amphitheatre that the borders of South Africa are too wide to be well-guarded; that those who wish to join the liberation army should do so, and that they can easily go through the fences on our borders, but that they must only make sure that their clothing does not get torn as they cross the fence. As a result of my saying this, Minister Piet Koornhof approached me and stated that the President and members of Cabinet were very upset because I was encouraging black youth to cross our borders to join uMkhonto weSizwe. So I empathised with, but would not, and could not, endorse the armed struggle because I knew where it was going to lead.
Today, the ruling party still fails to provide an overview of this tragic period in our country’s history; an honest overview of where things went wrong in their organisation. We have yet to hear the present day ANC-aligned intelligentsia linking the post-1994 levels of violent crime to the organisation’s call to take up arms against apartheid. Those who expected the language of the struggle to give way to a more civilised genre after the advent of democracy must have been disappointed by Peter Mokaba’s often repeated call "Kill the farmer, kill the Boer".
Certain elements in the ruling party have continued to glorify the struggle violence and, for all practical purposes, have not shirked from honouring some of the movement’s less than kosher heroes such as the 1985 Amanzimtoti bomber and uMkhonto weSizwe operative Andrew Zondo who had a primary school named after him near the scene where his explosive killed five white civilians including two babies.
Despite this bleak backdrop, I believe the need for a ‘respect agenda’ is despite our vastly different backgrounds and circumstances, one that we all share. I would like to take this opportunity to propose that we inculcate a culture of respect in South Africa, one that is boldly championed by government but led from the community upwards. I suggested to Parliament a few years ago, during one of the State of the Nation debates, that "at a deeper level, we need to go back to basics and inculcate a respect agenda amongst our youth". "A transforming society", I said, "need not be an uncivilised society.
The seeds of crime and lawlessness are often sown at a young age. We must bring back a sense of respect in our schools, communities, townships and cities". Anti-social behaviour is alien to our African culture which has always been rooted in a strong sense of respect.
This is not a nostalgic glance back to some misty-eyed arcadia; it has regulated our society for generations.
So yes, it is acceptable for protestors to protest, but they should do so with respect for people and property. There is much wisdom in that old adage "one reaps what one sows."
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 555-7144.