Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Racial slurs are finding their way into our social discourse with alarming frequency, and from alarming sources. Recently a newspaper carried the headline "Race Wars" and, though some thought this an extreme description, it certainly conveyed the gravity of the issue.
I have often said that the IFP refrains from poking its nose into the internal problems of other political parties. But the character assassination going on in the ANC is not simply an internal matter. It raises questions about the ruling Party’s commitment to multi-racialism.
The IFP rejected Government Spokesperson Mr Jimmy Manyi’s utterances regarding the "oversupply of coloureds" in the Western Cape. His comments were highlighted during the debate over amendments to the Employment Equity Act which are likely to disadvantage the coloured community by considering national, rather than regional demographics when calculating representivity in the economically active population.
Solidarity has warned that hundreds of thousands of coloureds in the Western Cape may lose their jobs if the amendments are adopted.
Mr Manyi’s comments were deplorable and widely criticised by opposition parties. Yet the ANC’s Secretary General, Mr Gwede Mantashe, says this criticism is "a question of hatred for change" and not a question of Mr Manyi’s competence. While taking pains to note that this is his own view, Mr Mantashe warns ANC members not to "act as free agents", implying that members should toe the line of the organisation.
He was referring, of course, to Minister Trevor Manuel’s public rebuke of Mr Manyi for making these racist comments. The IFP applauds Minister Manuel and appreciates his courage in taking this stand against racism. It seems bizarre that it should be Minister Manuel who faces censure from his Party, rather than Mr Manyi.
The subtext suggests that the ANC supports Mr Manyi’s sentiments and disagrees with Minister’s Manuel’s stand. I’m afraid Mr Mantashe has confirmed this by referring to Minister Manuel as the "free agent" going against the organisation.
The "free agent" warning is a little off key, when Mr Mantashe is on record making statements that go against the ANC’s stated policy. Take for instance his criticism of the judiciary in 2008, when he labelled the Constitutional Court a "counter revolutionary force". At the time, the ANC back peddled and tried to reframe Mr Mantashe’s criticism, saying that public institutions should expect their actions to be "scrutinised, discussed and criticised" as this was "not unhealthy in a democracy".
To my mind, it is unhealthy for a democracy to have a newly appointed Government Spokesperson make racist comments, and then chastise the Minister in the Presidency for pointing out that the comments are racist. If South Africa is moving back towards a policy of racial discrimination, then yes, the IFP "has a hatred for change".
But we are not alone in raising the red flag over the ruling Party’s missteps towards an untouchable elite. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently spoke quite frankly about the endemic corruption in our country’s leadership that is threatening the gains of democracy. I was interested to hear the Archbishop also recommend a return to a constituency based electoral system.
As Minister of Home Affairs, the IEC fell under me as the line function Minister. It is by now a matter of record that the Electoral Commission which was appointed during that time recommended that South Africa adopt a composite electoral system; part proportional representation and part constituency based. In this way, we could ensure fair representation and simplicity of voting, while also achieving a measure of accountability. Cabinet rejected this recommendation, and South Africa is still bound by proportional representation only.
Accordingly, in each election voters choose a party to represent them, rather than a person, and then rely on that party to choose who will be sent to Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures to be the voice of the electorate. Representatives are accountable to the party that gave them their position, instead of being directly accountable to the voters.
The IFP is concerned about this lack of accountability. In the 2009 general election, we decided to give more power to the electorate by using a constituency based system to draw up our party lists. This enabled our supporters to decide for themselves who their representatives would be.
This brought about profound transformation in our party lists, both in terms of having new faces and in terms of senior leaders finding themselves lower down on the list, after many of their junior colleagues. This was true democracy in the making and a reflection of the IFP’s commitment to accountability in leadership.
We will keep taking steps towards greater accountability so that the electorate can instruct their representatives, rather than simply being informed after the fact about what is being done supposedly in their best interest. I regret that this is often the way governance is done, and the IFP is fighting to change it.
Our bold step towards creating a constituency based system reflected the tide of renewal that is refreshing the IFP. While our values remain uncompromised over 35 years, the IFP has evolved with the changing needs of our country. At this juncture, the greatest need in South Africa is for a leadership that will take a stand of integrity, point to the hard path, and walk it.
Our country deserves more than a tennis match of criticism. We deserve accountable leaders.
At the IEC Leaders Summit I tabled my unhappiness over the fact that complaints about fraud at each election have never been addressed by the IEC. Quite often we are told that we did not present the complaint at the right time, or one or the other technical reason is given. When it comes to the fraudulent registering of people in Umhlanga by the ruling Party, the IEC said that once the date of the election is gazetted, there is nothing they can do.
I disagree. In terms of section 8 of the Local Government Municipal Electoral Act, the IEC may request the Minister to postpone the voting day determined for an election if it is satisfied that "it is not reasonably possible to conduct a free and fair election on that day".
The date should therefore not be the deciding factor, but rather the likelihood of a compromised election; which happens when there is fraud.
As it stands, the people that were registered in Umhlanga who came from KwaMashu and Umlazi, and even those who admitted that they were given bribes, will vote in Umhlanga on the 18th of May because the IEC claims that the gazetting of the election date bars them from investigating the matter.
Electoral fraud has not been limited to Umhlanga. It has happened on a large scale, in several places, over many years.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP