MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
A few weeks ago, Brendon Boyle, that fine Sunday Times journalist, asked me how the IFP’s public policy approach differed from that of the ANC’s. When I mentioned federalism, he rightly pointed out that this had more to do with the machinery – the apparatus – of government. But this, I contend, goes to the heart of how – and how well – we are governed.
I therefore read with concern media reports about the possible demise of South Africa’s nine provinces due to their apparent inefficiency and ineffectiveness. The Eastern Cape is a case in point. (Interestingly, the same amount of attention has not been given to the lack of delivery capacity in local government). Some newspaper editorials have come out in support of abolishing provinces altogether.
Federalism means different things to different people under different circumstances. In South Africa, however, given our multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, yet one melting pot, I am and have always been a staunch federalist.
My party and I have always believed that South Africa, like Australia, Canada, Nigeria and the United States to name a few, is simply too large and diverse a country to be administered as a unitary state. Federalism serves to preserve regional identities across our vast multi-cultural and multi-lingual territory. We must remember that South Africa’s celebrated diversity is the sum of these many identities. Only federalism has the capacity to enhance democratic participation in our country despite these practical drawbacks.
In principle, I have always maintained that the three-tier system of governance comprising national, provincial and local arms of government suits our purpose best. This system brings political decision-making closer to the individual by setting up a network of political structures that compete with the central government and prevent power from being centralised too heavily.
It is for this reason that our quasi-federal model, at least in theory, secures a fragile balance of power. That is also why the IFP ensured during the transition process that provinces were created in principle. We played a large role in strengthening the federal character of the transitional constitution.
But it is for the very same reasons that the IFP has since often criticised the functions of these provinces in practice. The system we have in South Africa today is a far cry from what the IFP and I originally envisaged. It is a hybrid where provinces are endowed with all the appearances of a federal system – their own legislatures, executives and administrative capacities – but, at the same time, are accorded almost no policy-making power by the constitution. It’s like a car without an engine.
So we end up with the worst of both worlds: the financial expense of duplicated layers of government combined with the political drawbacks of a unitary state.
Policing, as the IFP had so often pointed out, in South African remains highly centralised, whilst federal countries such as the US, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Germany have a multiplicity of policing agencies at the national, state and local level.
More positively, if provinces had not existed, the DA-led Western Cape and IFP led-KwaZulu-Natal could not have used their concurrent health powers, one of the few significant powers of provinces, to deliver life-saving anti-retroviral drugs to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus in 2002. Readers might see a clue here why errant provinces might be a minor irritant to the ruling party!
We believe that many of the perceived problems of governance at the provincial level are the result of work in progress. The fault does not lie with the system, but rather with its implementation. What we originally wanted out of provinces was smaller, more responsive, accountable and efficient political units in which individuals could participate more directly than in a monolithic unitary government.
We did not want legislatures, which largely serve to rubberstamp executive decisions without as much as a mock regard for constructive opposition (though the IFP is striving to break the mould of opposition politics in KwaZulu-Natal).
The ruling party is too quick to blame the quasi-federal model for its own failures in service delivery. It is not hard to see why. The ANC has always been dedicated to the notion of South Africa as "one nation", a nation of masses who have apparently reconciled their historical and ethnic differences and who ostentatiously hold the same political opinions. To support federalism means for the ruling party to reject this vision and to deny the very diversity South Africa is made of.
The political benefits of federalism – that is real federalism and one which cuts the distance between the unitary government and the individual while conserving the individual’s regional identity – are usually worth the effort and the cost. The answer, therefore, to our current crisis of service delivery is more, not less federalism for South Africa.
When considering the question of if we should maintain our provinces, it is clear that devolving power is the international trend. Scrapping province’s here would be to buck this trend.
Take Scotland, the home of Adam Smith. Strong regional policies over the past 30 years have transformed the Scottish economy from basket case to one of the brighter stars in European information technology. Britain’s Labour government has delivered a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly over the last decade.
English regional assemblies are also being strongly touted with the aim of balancing economic growth between the country’s eight regions with a US-style enterprise culture underpinned by tax incentives. Directly elected mayors, like their American counterparts, are also gaining in popularity and strengthening a culture of local accountability.
I believe we reject regionalism at our peril. One of the paradoxes of globalisation and economic integration has been the resurgence of regional identities. This must be managed carefully. Petty nationalisms, especially those based on blood and soil, can narrow a country’s horizons and block a wider cultural inheritance.
Yet, undoubtedly, the social impact of globalisation and urbanisation is driving people to take refuge in what they know – their families, communities, regions. These are now the social institutions that offer security and opportunity. Where our people feel powerless in the face of global and urban change, they feel the local can be influenced even if the national cannot. There is growing consumer-like demand for the reform of the ANC’s "one size fits all take it or leave it top down" model. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the new battleground is increasingly around the politics of localism – people want the power to shape their own lives.
Let us respond by building a South Africa of regions and nations blessed with a new dynamism.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP