Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
A wit once said "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". The same can be said of the Party I lead, the Inkatha Freedom Party.
This seminal election produced some fascinating outcomes not least the failure of the ruling-party to re-secure its two-thirds majority by a whisker, the emergence of Cope with a respectable 7% of the vote, and the Democratic Alliance’s victory of the Western Cape with an outright majority. This raises all kinds of fascinating questions.
Will President Jacob Zuma encourage freer debate in this parliament? (I believe he will). What type of opposition will Cope provide? Will the national government try to thwart the Western Cape government if it strikes a too independent note in exercising its concurrent powers? Will there be greater co-operation and policy co-ordination amongst the opposition parties in this parliament?
In many ways, the result made most South African voters’ feel like their team had won. In that way it reflects something of the spirit of the 1994 election, although less hope is evident. Multi-party democracy is thriving and the fears of one-party domination have, for now, been laid to rest. And perhaps one of the best indicators of this was the IFP’s ability to survive against the odds.
The pundits, once again, predicted that the IFP would be wiped off the electoral map. The hostility evident in the most of the media commentaries are par for the course for the IFP, which has always operated in a hostile environment. The knives are sharpened at election time when attempts to discredit the IFP and me have always been rife.
During this election campaign, in which the ANC had a R200 million war chest at its disposal, the IFP was maligned and ignored at every turn. Last year, the National Council of the IFP met with the Chairperson of the IEC and her board, exposing many incidents of intimidation and areas of concern which placed free and fair elections in jeopardy. While promising to revert to the IFP on these matters, the IEC failed to do so.
Even matters of such great concern as ballot printing which took place during the election, and which His Excellency President Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria, a member of the African Union Monitoring Team, conveyed to the Chairperson of the IEC on my behalf, were not reacted to by the IEC. On the 31 of March 2008, the National Council of the IFP met with the Chairperson of the IEC and members of the Commission. I presented an aide memoir to the IEC pointing out many shenanigans in previous elections. The IEC promised to revert back to us, but they never did.
Yet despite all this, plus a battery of dismal polls predictions and the negative commentary I mentioned about the IFP before the elections, the IFP remains a major player with substantial representation in the National Assembly.
Whilst I candidly admit that we would like to have done much better, the IFP was certainly not eliminated and, against the odds, secured 4.5% of the vote with 860, 000 votes. This will give us a representation of 18 members in the National Assembly and KwaZulu-Natal Legislature respectively.
The media throughout the last parliament, as in the previous decade, placed me in the same basket as Ms Patricia de Lille of the ID and General Bantu Holomisa of the UDM although both arguably enjoyed a fairer wind from the media. But the facts now speak for themselves; while the IFP has lost some support, the ID and the UDM have unfortunately been practically wiped out (no one should derive any pleasure from that). It is time for the IFP’s detractors to face reality; we remain a force to be reckoned with.
In this parliament, the IFP team will effectively fulfil it opposition monitoring and oversight roles on behalf of all who those who supported us and those who did not. We will seek to confidently inform and influence policy and make pro-active, as well as reactive, policy proposals and decisions within the scope of the portfolio committees. This, I believe, is our sacred duty.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Liezl van der Merwe, 083 611 7470.