Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last Friday, thousands of IFP supporters marched from Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown to the offices of the SABC in Auckland Park. I want to thank everyone who joined us and encouraged us along the way, for our march was peaceful, vibrant and productive.
It is clear from the photographs that South Africans are fed up with a public broadcaster that allows itself to be run as a mouthpiece of the State. The SABC, as our public broadcaster, is mandated to express the voice of all our diverse people. It is not intended to manipulate public sentiment with political propaganda.
As the Official Opposition in KwaZulu Natal and the third largest political party in South Africa, the IFP has repeatedly urged the SABC to level the playing field as far as political coverage is concerned. We believe citizens have a right to unbiased news coverage that fairly represents the views of the opposition as well as the ruling party.
We are acutely aware that the ANC went into the last national election with an electoral war chest of R200 million. Opposition parties are hard pressed to compete with that kind of money. We have only our voice to work with. If our voice is suppressed by the public broadcaster as we approach the 2014 national elections, how will South Africa know that there is an alternative to the ANC – that there is hope?
Our people are in desperate need of hope. We have reason to be gravely concerned about the trajectory of leadership in South Africa. This is not just the ranting of the middle class or, as the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party puts it, the “anti-majoritarian liberal offensive”. It is the echoing fear of every thinking South African.
Last week in the National Assembly, during Questions to the President, President Zuma made the bizarre statement that, “In a democratic situation, it is the majority that prevails. You have more rights because you’re a majority; you have less rights because you’re a minority. That’s how democracy works.” It seems the President lost his copy of the Constitution.
This week, speaking at the National Congress of COSATU, President Zuma lambasted opposition parties for likening the Marikana Mine Massacre to the nature of police activities during Apartheid. Then he ended his speech with a rousing rendition of “Umshini Wami”. Why, exactly, should we bring our President his machine gun?
In the face of appalling education standards and undelivered textbooks, our President believes that South Africans are happy with the education system.
I beg to differ.
In fact, even the Department of Basic Education differs. In its Report on last year’s Annual National Assessment (ANA), the Department wrote, “Under-performance in schools, especially schools serving the poorest communities, is a widely acknowledged problem. the quality of basic education is still well below what it should be.”
I am amazed that a Spokesperson for the Limpopo Provincial Education Department feels that learners being deprived of textbooks for seven months of the school year “hasn’t been such a major defect to the point that it would hamper our learners.”
The results of today’s ANA will no doubt be revealing as to how learners are coping and how well our education system is performing. That is, if the test papers are delivered on time.
The ANA aims to determine whether learners have achieved the minimum literacy and numeracy competencies for their Grade. Last year, South Africa was shocked to discover that only 28% of Grade 3 children could read or work with figures at a Grade appropriate level, while only 28% of Grade 6 learners had acquired the minimum competence in literacy. It is somehow depressing that the Department of Basic Education would be happy to reach a target of 40% this year.
Does our President really believe that people are happy with the failing education system? Perhaps we should put that question to a national referendum and let the people speak.
Another issue on which the people should be allowed to speak is President Zuma’s application of special remission of sentences and pardons, which gives selected criminals a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. One hundred and fourteen of the convicted criminals whom the President released in April this year have again committed crimes and have been re-arrested. It took them four months to confirm what the court system declared when it sent them to prison – that they are a danger to society.
Yet when President Zuma stood in the National Assembly confronted with the knowledge that people he had released had spared no time in raping elderly women, he refused to apologise. Instead he pointed out that he was legally and constitutionally allowed to release prisoners, and it was not written on people’s foreheads who would commit crime again and who wouldn’t. So it’s just a gamble. A gamble with people’s security and lives.
Certainly Section 84(2)(j) of the Constitution empowers the President to pardon or reprieve offenders, and President Zuma has been happy to exercise that power. But, just a few lines up, Section 84(2)(g) of the Constitution empowers the President to call a national referendum. That is a power the President has not yet exercised, despite the fact that the Constitution calls it his responsibility.
Perhaps our President feels there is no need to give our citizens a voice through a national referendum on such trivial matters as the education of our children and the security of our people.
But I would argue that he should certainly ask South Africans through a national referendum whether the ANC can continue to foist a hand-picked President on us, or whether the people should decide who is best suited to run this country.
If we put the form of the electoral system to a national referendum, I sincerely doubt the survival of the current party list system that prevents voters from choosing the actual men and women who represent them. No wonder the man at number one on the ANC’s party list has been reticent to call national referendums.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.