Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I wonder what President Robert Mugabe would make of ANC MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu’s accusation that “he has overstayed his time in power” and is taking his Party “to the grave”. South Africa, says Mr Mabuyakhulu, is “worried about unsustainable democracy processes in Zimbabwe” because we are “the first casualty” when Zimbabweans cross the border.
These statements by the ANC’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism in KwaZulu Natal came just days after Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe lambasted President Zuma’s international relations advisor, calling her “an idiotic street woman”, simply for expressing concerns over Zimbabwe’s state of readiness for yesterday’s elections.
In thinking up a suitable slur to respond to Mr Mabuyakhulu, President Mugabe would have some choice skeletons to pick from in the MEC’s closet. He could go back as far as 2003, when a warrant of arrest was issued for Mr Mabuyakulu for failing to pay his traffic fines. Or he could focus on 2009, when it was discovered that taxpayers were paying the MEC R100 000 a month to use his private car for government work.
He could have pointed fingers at the MEC’s broken promises, such as the promise to pay R2 million to a cooperative started by the IFP’s Prince Gideon Zulu. When Mr Mabuyakhulu then withheld this promised funding, a flagship community development project was forced to shut down.
President Mugabe could have reminded us that the Hawks arrested Mr Mabuyakhulu in 2011 on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering; or that while Mr Mabuyakhulu was MEC for Housing, multimillion-Rand tenders were awarded to hand-picked, unvetted construction companies for low-cost housing projects in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. When he left as MEC, those tenders were withdrawn, opening the way for arbitration that could cost taxpayers some R25 million.
It would be interesting to see President Mugabe’s reaction to Mr Mabuyakhulu.
But it is also interesting to see the ANC’s reaction, or rather, their lack of reaction.
When President Zuma’s advisor, Ms Lindiwe Zulu was called a “terrier”, “a frustrated and needlessly loquacious woman” and “an idiotic street woman”, Presidential Spokesperson Mr Mac Maharajah responded by throwing Ms Zulu under the bus. The Presidency, he said, had noted with great concern some “regrettable and unfortunate” statements made by Ms Zulu.
It was quite surprising to see the ANC kowtowing to President Mugabe, when Ms Zulu had done nothing more than what she was sent to Zimbabwe to do: make an honest assessment of the political situation. But this incident made it clear that the ANC’s sole intention was for South Africa to run a publicity campaign for the credibility of Zimbabwe’s elections.
The last time South African delegations were sent to Zimbabwe to monitor elections the verdict was unanimous from the IFP’s delegation, from the delegation of the African Union, from Dr Brigalia Bam, and others, that those elections were not free and fair. Yet the ANC and our Government’s delegation heralded the Zimbabwe elections entirely free and fair.
This time around, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, is already dismissing the elections as a farce. His Party describes them as “a monumental fraud”.
I recall that just before South Africa’s 2009 elections, the former Secretary-General of the African Union, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim visited South Africa and I asked him whether there had ever been free and fair elections anywhere in Africa. He merely chuckled and said that at least they were credible.
The ANC was again determined to declare Zimbabwe’s election “credible”, and President Zuma’s Advisor found herself on the wrong side of this objective.
At first glance, one would expect the ANC to react negatively to Mr Mabuyakhulu’s accusations against President Mugabe, considering how they reacted when Ms Zulu expressed her reasonable concerns. But Mr Mabuyakhulu is unlikely to face censure because, when he spoke, he was on the right side of the ANC’s objective.
The objective in this case, was to denigrate my leadership. Mr Mabuyakhulu used his tirade against President Mugabe as a hook to take a pot-shot at me. He claimed there is no difference between me and President Mugabe. Because we are of a similar age, Mr Mabuyakhulu tied us together and suggested we should both vacate our positions as leaders.
This is the kind of Buthelezi-bashing that the ANC enjoys. So they are unlikely to criticise Mr Mabuyakhulu for making “regrettable and unfortunate” statements.
Mr Mabuyakhulu has something of a vendetta against me, having lost his struggle to unseat me as the Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal House of Traditional Leaders in 2007. His tactic was to declare that the Chairperson of the House could not also be a member of a legislature, which I happened to also be.
This was contrary to the law, and the House of Traditional Leaders challenged Mr Mabuyakhulu in court. The court held that Mr Mabuyakhulu’s stance was illegitimate, and went so far as to state that the provincial government had broken its own laws and gone beyond the power it had under the law.
Nevertheless, Mr Mabuyakhulu continued to persecute me.
This prompted the IFP’s Mr Blessed Gwala asked in the KwaZulu Natal Legislature why the ANC was not lifting a finger to call their deployed member to account.
Mr Gwala said: “The ANC’s silence is disquieting. Is it because Minister Mabuyakhulu is carrying out the mandate to deal decisively with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi? One is tempted to draw this conclusion when one looks at the unfortunate developments…” The idea, Mr Gwala said, seemed to be “to make the kitchen so hot that Prince Buthelezi would have no choice but get out of the kitchen.”
Apparently, Mr Mabuyakhulu is still acting on that mandate five years later.
The ANC is still smarting over the IFP’s by-election victory in President Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla. For Mr Mabuyakhulu, it must have been a double blow. He surely remembers my visit to Qudeni Municipality in Nkandla in 2010, when I pointed out that people had been waiting there for 6 years for the Provincial Government to build some 500 houses which Mr Mabuyakhulu himself had promised, as the MEC for Local Government, Housing and Traditional Affairs.
The incident with Zimbabwe, though, has been very revealing. In the ANC, it’s not about principles. One can do or say anything, so long as it fulfils a political objective. Thus a presidential advisor can be slapped down, and an MEC can be tacitly applauded, for saying the same thing.
But South Africa deserves better. We deserve a leadership with principles.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP