Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Plato said "The first and best victory is to conquer self". I have found this to be true in life and politics, both of which I have seen a lot of.
The principle of discipline has shifted to the forefront of our minds lately, with Mr Malema’s long overdue disciplinary hearing finally taking place.
The fact that the ANC Youth League’s leaders denied knowledge of the hearing, while at the same time attending it, offers another insult to our intelligence. Someone needs to stop the merry-go-round of spin in the Youth League, for it has taken on a momentum of its own and is likely to start throwing people off.
That might not be a bad thing for the sake of winnowing its leadership.
There is certainly a need to separate the wheat from the chaff in the political arena. The problem is that the wrong people always end up taking the heat. I suspect that before this notorious hearing has ended, we are likely to see more character assassination and mud slinging from the ANC Youth League.
A few days ago, the IFP had reason to discipline two of our own members who brought the Party into disrepute. This is an essential, if unpleasant, duty of leadership, because discipline is the torch that keeps the wolves of discord and chaos at bay. The IFP doesn’t balk at disciplining its members, but we place great emphasis on cultivating self-discipline first.
On Monday I had the opportunity to participate in the Budget Road Show of the Abaqulusi Local Municipality. Abaqulusi is one of the few municipalities that consistently receives an unqualified audit report, of which the IFP is rightly proud. We have not seen the kind of social protest and upheaval in IFP-led municipal areas that we see in the ANC’s domain, where public discontent is expressed through burning buildings and tyres.
As I spoke to the people Abaqulusi Municipality serves, I was reminded of the ANC’s tactic during apartheid of making South Africa and its townships ungovernable. I disagreed with that approach and took a stand for self-discipline and passive resistance, knowing that a culture of ungovernability would ingrain itself on the mindset of our people and carry into the new South Africa after liberation.
I am not against social protest. Indeed, it is a valuable tool with which to address injustice. Over 35 years, the IFP has often organized and participated in marches and demonstrations, in both the days of segregation and democracy. But there is a world of difference between a peaceful demonstration and the chaotic discord, often simmering into violence, which keeps showing up on our news bulletins.
The ANC’s propaganda machine is still running. The mindset of ungovernability persists. And the principle of discipline finds itself on a precarious footing.
This month, Mr Colin Eglin, that tireless patriot and fighter for freedom, turned 85. I was delighted to receive an invitation to celebrate his Birthday. But as I indicated in a letter to him, "I am still tied to a formidable schedule and find myself still shoulder deep in political wrangling". Sadly, I could not attend.
Mr Eglin is one of that generation where integrity trumped expediency. I sometimes wonder if integrity, discipline and fair play are considered old fashioned values among the current generation. If so, I am proud to remain old fashioned. William Penn, one of America’s early champions of democracy, said, "No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself."
Politics is one arena where a level head is essential to longevity of career. I dare say, and I am sure many of us hope, that Mr Malema will be a flash in the pan. Who had heard of this man two years ago? What are his principles? Where do his boundaries lie?
In a democracy, people have the right to know the leaders they have elected to serve them. When one lives in the public spotlight, the lines between what is private and what is public are easily blurred.
The ANC Youth League is learning this, even as they call media enquiries about Mr Malema’s whereabouts "preposterous" and "stupid". It was probably more difficult to obfuscate when the entourage of security and luxury vehicles announced his presence. Yes, disciplinary hearings are internal procedures to which the media should not be privy. But the Youth League should have known where to draw the line long before this.
It is all a matter of discipline. This month the IFP is scheduled to hold its Annual General Conference which, in terms of our Constitution, will be an elective conference. Increasingly the media is seeking answers about whether I shall continue to make myself available to serve as the President of the Party, and whether the inevitable ructions before an election will amount to anything on the day.
We have seen instances of ill-discipline and disruptive behaviour at our meetings, which is all par for the course as one approaches elections. But the newspaper headlines about fistfights in Ulundi and chair throwing in Johannesburg and Vryheid are concerning, for this culture of disorderly conduct is foreign and new to the IFP.
Being particularly prone to impatience, the youth have shown signs of disquiet. But I am encouraged by the return to the fold of Mr S’Khumbuzo Khanyeza who has been reinstated in terms of our Constitution to his position as provincial leader of the Youth Brigade in KwaZulu Natal.
Mr Khanyeza has called a meeting of the Youth Brigade just two weeks before Conference, and I look forward to engaging our youth on their views and concerns at this critical time. The IFP has always been a party of collegial wisdom and collegial responsibility. We know that the youth have a valuable contribution to make and we will listen to what they have to say.
I am still impressed that the overwhelming majority of our youth displays the IFP traits of self-discipline and respect for party structures. But I shall not stop talking to our youth about discipline and respect, because I recognize that my generation of leaders is passing the baton on to a new generation that has been raised in more liberal world, which itself contains features both good and bad.
I feel the weight of my responsibility more keenly now than ever before. My legacy and the legacy of the IFP remain relevant to South Africa; and perhaps more so to the South Africa we all hope to become.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.