Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
OFFER VALID FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY
These are the words we often see printed on deals that seem too good to be true. In today’s world, we need to fill up with petrol before the price increases, buy a new cellphone before the special ends, and sign up for university before the cut off date. The same applies for registering to vote.
Democracy may have given us all the right to vote in elections, but we cannot vote if we have not registered – and registration is about to close.
Yesterday, in the National Council of Provinces, the Acting President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, announced the election date as 18 May 2011. That is about 10 weeks away. But according to our electoral law, voter registration closes when the date is proclaimed.
This weekend is thus the last chance to go to your voting station and register to vote. Miss this opportunity, and you are giving away your power to choose who governs you and the quality of your governance.
The Independent Electoral Commission will post signs outside voting stations this weekend to highlight where to go. If you registered for any previous election and have not moved, sms your ID number to 32810 to check that your name appears on the voters’ roll at your voting station. If you have moved since you registered, you will need to re-register in your new voting district. If you are registering for the first time, take your ID book along.
Tomorrow I shall visit Nongoma’s biggest voting station to lead a registration drive. I believe that Local Government Elections are the most critical elections of all, for it determines who people will interact with directly in their own community when issues of service delivery arise. Effectively, you are choosing your contact person in dealing with Government.
The benefit of choosing an established opposition candidate, like the IFP, is knowing that they will not simply toe the line and make excuses for any government failure. With the IFP, there are no excuses and no hidden agendas. We believe in making local government work efficiently, effectively and without delays. We have experience in governance and experience in shadowing government; challenging inefficiency, exposing corruption and speaking truth to power.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was established under my leadership as Minister of Home Affairs. At the time, we were operating under the Interim Constitution which enabled us to decide from the outset whether the IEC should supervise elections run by the State, or actually conduct the elections. In my ministerial capacity, I chose to give the IEC greater power in order to safeguard our electoral process.
Recent events have proven again that this was the right decision. In terms of our Constitution, the IEC, like the Public Protector, is a Chapter 9 institution which makes it independent from the State. It is one of the checks and balances we have put in place to protect the interests of our people from the at times conflicting interests of a ruling party. For some time now I have warned that we need to strengthen and safeguard our independent institutions.
A fortnight ago the Public Protector found National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele guilty of improper conduct and maladministration. On Thursday morning, Police from the Crime Intelligence Unit raided the Public Protector’s Office, demanding access to documentation used to make this guilty finding. The National Commissioner avers this was not done on his instruction. But if the Police are not operating on the instruction of their Head, who is instructing them?
Independent institutions like the Public Protector and IEC were established to protect us from government just doing as it pleases.
Beyond these institutions, we should be protected by the Constitution itself. But if the ANC attains the power it so persistently pursues through the destruction of opposition politics, it will have free reign to change the Constitution as it sees fit.
It is difficult to believe that the ANC would not change the Constitution, given the opportunity, if it suited its own interests.
In December 1994, Mr Jacob Zuma was elected National Chairperson of the ANC, but he sought to serve as the Provincial Chairperson in KwaZulu Natal at the same time. In order to allow him to do that, an exception was made to the ANC’s Constitution. Bending the rules has always been a possibility.
One instance in which "bending the rules" is utterly unacceptable is when it comes to elections. The IFP stood against the floor crossing legislation which allowed elected representatives to change political parties between elections, taking their seat with them. This cross-titution expressed blatant contempt for the voters and the democratic process; it betrayed the mandate of the people.
Our elections over the past 17 years have been lauded as "free and fair". But they have not been without incidents of fraud and irregularities. When she spoke at the launch of the 2011 Local Government Elections, the CEO of the IEC, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, admitted that, just as no human being is perfect, neither is the electoral process.
Since 1994 we have seen incidents of violence, intimidation, "buying" of votes, brown envelope journalism and fraudulent registration. In 2009, for instance, more people voted in Durban than were even registered. One of the most pernicious and recurrent strategies of the ruling Party is bussing people into areas in which they do not live, to register to vote for the ANC.
They have done this in IFP strongholds, to sway the vote. Since 1994 people have been brought from Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape to register and vote in Nongoma and Ulundi. The Minority Front has confirmed that the same was done in Phoenix and Chatsworth, and the Democratic Alliance has now seen it happen in Umhlanga.
We have engaged the IEC on these issues and have submitted formal complaints. I regret that nothing has come of it. Thus far, the ANC has "bent the rules" without censure. It is an indictment on our vigilance over democracy that such fraud needs to spread before it is curbed. But it will be an accolade to the IEC if 2011 is where it is finally stopped.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP