Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In 1983, an Indian sage by the name of Pandit Satyapal Sharma, who later became the Vice Chancellor of the Vedic University of America, conferred on me the title of “Rastia Pita” or “Apostle of Peace”. It was an acknowledgment not only of my efforts to champion adherence to a non-violent liberation strategy, but of my genuine belief in inclusivity across all divides.
Pandit Sharma knew, of course, that I am a Christian. But he also knew that I have walked hand in hand, in friendship, with people of all religions, backgrounds, languages, cultures and races. I have even walked in friendship with those from a different ideological fold, for the sake of what is best for my country.
I am pleased that my example has been noticed by young South Africans, who seek to emulate that commitment to unity across divides. I received a letter recently from the General Secretary of Fort Hare’s African Renaissance Student Society, in which he thanked me for my continued interest in my alma mater, the University of Fort Hare.
He wrote, “Your life has taught us, young people of this country, that true leadership is born of the understanding that at times we have to transcend our ideological boundaries to understand our national allegiance.”
That is, indeed, what I and my Party have done once again as we joined hands with opposition parties represented in Parliament to move, in terms of Section 102(2) of the Constitution, that the House pass a Vote of No Confidence in the President of our country.
During a media briefing yesterday, I stated clearly that I have not taken this decision lightly. Indeed, I have continually warned that the President must receive our support for the simple reason that, if the President fails, our country fails. That is not a failure I wish to see, nor a failure in which I wish to be complicit.
It has therefore been necessary for the IFP to acknowledge that we can no longer support our country’s President under the evidence of leadership failure.
When we as the united opposition tabled this motion in the House yesterday, the ANC was ready to counter it by moving that the House reaffirm its full confidence in President Jacob Zuma. I cannot help but wonder whether the ANC really has full confidence in its President.
Surely South Africans across all ideological divides want a leadership of integrity at the helm of our country. It is unheard of elsewhere in the free world that a presidential candidate enters the race with criminal charges hanging over them like a sword of Damocles. There are many questions still hanging over our President, who should reasonably be expected to be above reproach both morally and legally.
In the after-party of President Barack Obama’s re-election, one thinks of the American example, where a presidential candidate would bow out of the race if any whiff of a scandal emerged, for a democratic election campaign is doomed if the candidate is not considered a man or woman of integrity.
The American electorate holds their representatives to a high standard.
I believe a democratic electorate anywhere in the world should do the same.
In fact, many South Africans outside the ANC fold were somehow surprised by Mr Jacob Zuma’s assent to the Presidency, even though, as it unfolded, its inevitability became increasingly evident. Once the ANC has its heart set on something, nothing is allowed to stand in the way.
It is therefore intriguing to watch the cracks, fissures and divisions emerge as the ANC heads for Mangaung next month. I find it interesting that, when my own Party was experiencing divisions in 2010, President Jacob Zuma invited me to his home to offer me some sage advice. He suggested that, in light of divisions in the IFP, I should step down as the leader of the Party. He conveniently ignored the fact that I am elected by the members of the IFP and I serve at their behest.
Now that divisions are showing in the ANC, we see no signs that President Zuma is inclined to follow his own advice and step down as the leader of his Party.
Today President Zuma has a rather awkward task to perform. The ANC’s Centennial Task Team set a programme last year for the 2012 centennial celebrations. Within that programme, each month of 2012 has been assigned a former President of the ANC who is to be honoured and remembered during that month.
Last month was the turn of Mr Oliver Tambo, and I was present when former President Thabo Mbeki delivered the OR Tambo Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare. I was therefore among the witnesses when Mr Mbeki boldly spoke the truth about the ANC, saying, “I am deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction, and that we are allowing ourselves to progress towards a costly disaster.”
This month, according to the fixed programme, it is the turn of former President Thabo Mbeki to be honoured, and that task falls to President Zuma today. Mr Mbeki has indicated that he will not be present at the lecture, and Mrs Epainnette Mbeki has expressed concern over what will be said, considering the humiliating treatment meted out to Mr Mbeki in 2008.
It seems clear that not every member of the ANC has full confidence in the President. Indeed, one former ANC leader is vociferous in his contempt. The former Youth League President who used to declare that he would “Kill for Zuma” now speaks about a dictatorship and an inherently challenged ANC under President Zuma’s leadership.
There are, of course, always people with an axe to grind. But there are also people with genuine concerns who should not be forced to toe the party line on a matter of such significance to our country. It is these people who need to grasp their “national allegiance”, as the young student said, and do what is best for South Africa. What is best for South Africa and what is best for the ANC’s leadership may not converge at this point in history. We will all need to take a side.
The IFP has taken its stand. Our confidence in the President of our country is irreparably shaken. We urge all South Africa’s citizens to demand a higher standard from their representatives, particularly from the leader who stands at the helm.
It should be for all the citizens of South Africa to decide who leads this country. I shudder to think that the decision will be left to a stadium of cadres at Mangaung.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP