Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As we celebrate Africa Day across the continent, our thoughts turn to issues affecting all of Africa’s people. The deliberations of the First Global African Diaspora Parliamentarians’ Summit, which was held in Johannesburg this week, led to a call for closer cooperation and greater participation of all stakeholders in the development of Africa.
The development of Africa is a theme we prioritise in every forum, from macro-economic policy discussions to conversations in the corridors of Parliament and the lecture halls of universities. The need for development cannot be separated from the reality of widespread poverty on our continent.
I have spoken today at the African Day celebrations and lamented the on-going incidents of xenophobia against African foreign nationals living in South Africa. Surely we should bow our heads in shame and apologise to Africa that this is still happening. I record travelling to Johannesburg myself to put out some of the fires against the Mozambican community. It was heart-wrenching to witness the pain we inflict on our brothers and sisters. These are issues we must discuss.
I was privileged last night to attend the Annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture at UNISA, where we listened to former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, former President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and our own former President Thabo Mbeki, as well as Professor Chris Landsberg. I was surprised to see former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who was added to the programme, to the great benefit of all.
As President Obasanjo rose to speak, he came first to greet me and expressed his delight that we would see one another again this evening when he speaks at a function of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation. I have maintained a long friendship with President Obasanjo. He remains one of the giants of Africa who played a significant role in the liberation struggle of South Africa.
I have always been impressed by President Obasanjo’s astute reading of politics in South Africa. I recall being invited to deliver a lecture at the Institute for International Affairs in 1976, at the instance of General Obasanjo, which coincided precisely with the day that Transkei received its so-called "independence". His invitation enabled me to physically distance myself from the policy of independence a la Pretoria, which I steadfastly rejected for KwaZulu.
President Obasanjo also wisely divined the value of unity within the liberation movement. He therefore made efforts to bring together the Head of the ANC’s mission-in-exile, Mr Oliver Tambo, and myself as the President of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe.
On one occasion, he arranged for Mr Tambo to travel to Lagos, without my knowledge, to coincide with my own visit, so that the three of us could talk. For whatever reason, Mr Tambo was delayed and I was informed that General Obasanjo wished for me to extend my visit. In the end, Mr Tambo arrived just as I was leaving, and we had a brief meeting at the airport in Lagos.
I was also reunited during that visit with Mr Samuel Nujomo, who led the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) in its long struggle for liberation, and later became the first President of Namibia. I had last seen him thirteen years previously at the airport in Cairo, as I passed through on the way to London. It was wonderful to see him again in the Presidential Guest House in Lagos.
Whenever I meet with African former Heads of State, I am reminded of the tremendous support I received throughout our liberation struggle, and the support they still give our country in the pursuit of a flourishing democracy. I remember how President William Tolbert invited me to Liberia over Christmas, where he decorated me with the Knight Commander Star of Africa Together President Tolbert and I arranged for a South African student to study in Liberia.
I believe that young people should be exposed to new experiences and broader horizons, for so they become the masters of their own destiny.
History shows that cultural revolutions are driven by the younger generation. Change is more vigorously pursued by the young.
I will never forget a speech delivered by Mr Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe in 1949 at a Completers’ Farewell function of the University of Fort Hare. Even after 63 years, I have not forgotten the quote he used to explain his passion for the liberation cause: "Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm. Tell a man moderately to rescue his wife from the arms of a ravisher. Tell a mother to extricate gradually her babe from the fire into which it has fallen. But do not ask me to use moderation in a cause like the present."
I sense a second wave of uprising in South Africa when I listen to young people and hear their frustration. The cause of the present is not political enfranchisement, but jobs, security, a livelihood and the possibility of achieving some sort of quality of life in return for hard work.
Poverty is the crucible in which the next revolution is forming. If one reads the signs of political progress and social discontent, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that South Africa may yet see a second uprising of its people against their leaders.
On Africa Day, let us heed the lessons being taught on this continent in places like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, where a chasm opened between the vision of the leadership and the aspirations of the people. It is dangerous for a government to lose touch with the people it serves.
We cannot give young South Africans catchy slogans, costly celebrations, empty promises, poor examples and little opportunity.
They deserve more. The development of Africa will be meaningless without the development of its citizens.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP