Address by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan and
Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation
Delivered on His Behalf by
the Hon. Inkosi Elphas Mzamo Buthelezi MPL
Deputy President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Durban University of Technology: 17 March 2016
Thank you, Programme Director, for the kind introduction. I am present today on behalf of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, the President of the Inkatha Freedom Party. He has asked me to deliver his message to you, which I now do.
We owe the Institute of Afrikology a debt of gratitude for convening this dialogue in honour of Human Rights Day, next Monday. I appreciated their invitation to be a keynote speaker, and immediately accepted, for I understand that this is one of the most important dialogues we can have at this juncture in our nation’s history.
I am also an admirer of the Institute, for I believe in protecting and promoting an indigenous knowledge system. I am, after all, not only the President of the Inkatha Freedom Party, but also Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan and the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation. Respect for the vast treasury of cultural values is embedded in every fibre of my being.
Unfortunately, however, when it came to making travel arrangements, fate intervened and prevented me from being with you in person. We are in the final week of the current parliamentary term, and I am obliged to be in Cape Town. Today, in fact, we as Members of Parliament are engaging the President as he answers the pressing questions we have posed.
I therefore asked our Deputy President of the IFP, the Hon. Inkosi Buthelezi, to attend this dialogue on my behalf and convey my message. This may prove to be serendipitous, for just this week Inkosi Buthelezi attended the 20th anniversary conference of the South African Human Rights Commission, on the theme of racism. He is thus well-equipped to engage this dialogue as you discuss human rights and the present challenges to human rights in South Africa.
The IFP has a proud history of fighting for human rights and for people’s rights to be respected and protected. Were it not for the IFP’s firm stand at the negotiating table, as we hammered out a democratic dispensation, South Africa’s Constitution would not contain a Bill of Rights. None of the other parties to the negotiations saw the need for a Bill of Rights. The majority party assumed that, having fought for human rights for so long, a democratic government could never infringe upon the rights of its people.
But the IFP sought protection for human rights and we insisted that they be contained in the Constitution. Indeed, beyond the need for a full Bill of Rights, we tabled the need for social and economic rights, a constitutional court, independent organs of state controlling the executive, the recognition of indigenous and customary law, a federal state with provinces, and many other aspects of a modern constitution.
As I recount this, I am reminded of the words of President Julius Nyerere, the first President of an independent Tanzania, when he spoke about the struggle for freedom on the African continent. He said, “We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant.”
Is this the case for South Africa? In Parliament this week, we debated Human Rights Day, and many of us questioned whether we have come far enough in 22 years in protecting and promoting human rights. The IFP made the point that many South Africans still experience gross violations of their human rights.
The rights to dignity, security – and even the right to life – are violated with every act of gender-based violence. How many more women will be raped, murdered or cruelly beaten before we experience a shift in our national psyche? We are moving towards devaluing women, while in every public platform we proclaim gender equality and human rights.
The right to education is likewise violated in every under-resourced school that employs unqualified teachers. I have been to schools that are nothing more than shacks. We talk about getting a laboratory and a library into every school. But some don’t even have windows or toilets. Learners at these schools are deprived of their human rights. There is a glaring discrepancy between the education afforded to the poorest of our children, and the education for sale to the most affluent.
Last year, in the debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address, I pointed out the extent of this difference. A South African household living on the poverty line would need to save every single cent of its income for 164 years to put a child through one of South Africa’s elite schools; a school with a laboratory, a computer centre and a solid maths programme. 164 years. And there are 23 million South Africans living below the poverty line.
Inequality is a growing crisis in South Africa, and it is driving social tensions, racism and prejudice. The empty promises made by government for so many years have contributed enormously to this problem.
It was also President Nyerere who said, “Freedom to many means immediate betterment, as if by magic. Unless I can meet at least some of these aspirations, my support will wane and my head will roll just as surely as the tickbird follows the rhino.”
South Africa’s democratic government has certainly met some of the aspirations of its people. The IFP was part of the Government of National Unity for the first five years of democracy, and I served in the Cabinets of both President Mandela and President Mbeki. I know how hard we tried to fulfil the principles enshrined in our Constitution; and at times we got it right. But there were also times when government got it wrong, like when it abandoned the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Programme and when it refused to roll out anti-retrovirals across South Africa.
Whenever government got it wrong, the IFP stepped in and tried to set things right. We are not ones to stand on the sidelines and point out all the faults of the ruling party. We believe in being solution-minded and driven by the needs of our people.
In the fight for HIV/Aids prevention, for instance, the IFP joined the Constitutional Court case brought against the national government. Under our leadership, anti-retrovirals had been rolled out across KwaZulu Natal to all clinics, when we discovered that a single dose to mothers before giving birth, and a single dose to the newborn baby, effectively prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids.
We proved it could be done, and our example enabled the Constitutional Court to instruct national government to follow suit across South Africa. The tide was turned against mother-to-child transmission, and today it is hailed as one of the great success stories of government. I don’t mind who gets the credit, so long as we keep saving lives.
But as much as has been done to protect and promote human rights in South Africa under a democratic government, it is still difficult to answer the question posed by The Institute of Afrikology. They ask, “Do we really all have equal rights?”
On paper, yes. But in the day to day transactions of life, it is apparent that not all of us enjoy the same level of human rights protection. There is a general misunderstanding about rights in a democracy that has even afflicted our country’s President. You may recall the President saying in the National Assembly that the majority has more rights than the minority, “that’s the way democracy works.” This, however, is not the case at all.
The African-American civil rights activist, William Pickens, said, “To cheapen the lives of any group of men, cheapens the lives of all men, even our own. This is a law of human nature…” This echoes the words of Dr Martin Luther King who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We cannot take a narrow view of human rights. They are not merely political, but are also social, economic or cultural, and may vest in an individual or a group. Every right counts. And every right comes with an equal responsibility. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights contains a list of duties, for its originators understood that within a social compact the right of one is curtailed by the right of another.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was an initiative of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union. It came into effect on 21 October 1986. The Charter is an international human rights instrument applicable to the whole continent of Africa, and it has been ratified by South Africa, together with 52 African States.
Like the European and American Conventions on Human Rights, the African Charter protects civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. But the African Charter goes further, granting protection to group rights or people’s rights.
The Preamble to the Charter quotes the “essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples”. They are: freedom, equality, justice and dignity. These ideals appeal to the higher nature of man.
But I am deeply concerned that politics in this generation has given birth to the threat of demagoguery. There are leaders now who appeal to the worst in human nature, to prejudices and anger. They reject rational arguments, preferring emotive rhetoric that ignites social upheaval and protest.
There is nothing wrong with social upheaval when it is aimed at converting an exclusionary system into an inclusionary one. But the aim of the present demagogues is simply to create a different exclusionary system. It is divisive, argumentative, and non-rational.
They are fuelling a dangerous fire. Moreover, their approach violates several of the duties contained in the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights, including the duty to preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity, the duty not to compromise the security of the State, and the duty to preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values and in general to contribute to the promotion of the moral well-being of society.
It is possible to fulfil these duties and drive a revolution. It depends on the nature of the revolution. Since its inception 41 years ago, the IFP has been driving a revolution of goodwill, aimed at empowering every individual to provide their contribution for the good of the collective.
We don’t believe anyone should be marginalised for expressing a different opinion or practising a different culture. Ours is not a homogenous society. What we do believe, however, is that all South Africans – and indeed all human beings – can subscribe voluntarily to a shared set of values. It is a matter of finding our points of commonality.
Let me be frank, though, and say that I believe in absolute truth. I believe there are moral absolutes. If I did not believe this, I would be hard-pressed to believe that diverse people could find any common ground.
As we engage this dialogue, I encourage you to seek that common ground. It is easy to demand that our rights be respected. But the real test of character is respecting the rights of others, and standing up for the rights of all.
I thank you.