Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
When I travel outside KwaZulu Natal, as I so often do, and speak to people about the IFP’s by-election victories in Mtubatuba, in Ulundi, Nongoma, Nqutu, Umtshezi and uPhongolo, there is an understanding that the IFP is gaining pace and support. The sheer volume of our victories is enough to prove that in the present political climate of uncertainty and disillusionment, many South Africans are returning to the principles, vision and hope of the IFP.
Nevertheless, outside of KwaZulu Natal, it is not always immediately evident to people what the IFP’s victories really mean. I was therefore thrilled with Wednesday’s by-election results, because when I tell people the IFP won Nkandla, everyone smiles. Everyone understands the significance of the IFP taking President Jacob Zuma’s hometown with a very convincing 55% victory.
Nkandla, the hometown of the ANC’s President, has been in the spotlight for months as South Africans raised questions about the State’s exorbitant expenditure on upgrading the President’s home, just as his term of office is drawing to an end. But it seems everyone considers Nkandla the litmus test of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership. And the test is showing high levels of acidity.
Indeed, in my travels this week, I heard some very astute observations from one ordinary South African who called himself a “disappointed ANC supporter”. He spoke of the lack of progress by the ANC in fulfilling all their electoral promises, and asked why, in a democratic country, there is still such vast inequality. The inequality he referred to is not racial, but economic.
He expressed enthusiasm for all that Inkatha had done to build schools and clinics while we struggled to overthrow Apartheid. But he could not understand why the ANC, with all the country’s money at its disposal, have not built even half that number of schools over 18 years of democracy. Why, he asked, do the children of political leaders go to private schools, while rural children walk for kilometres to attend a school with no toilets?
“In the rural areas, we are not worried about houses,” he said, “Our concern is for roads, electricity and water. We cannot go to the city and pull electricity back to the rural area. We cannot help ourselves in this. We just have to wait for Government.”
Referring to the ANC’s tendency to roll into town just before an election, and quickly deliver a few services before disappearing again, he said, “They are cruel to us.”
I was touched by his words, because it is indeed “cruel” to give a suffering people a bit of hope when there is no intention of doing more or doing better. When he spoke about the families of political leaders going to private hospitals while poor people only have community clinics, he said, quite succinctly, “They are giving us a poison.” Are they saying, he asked, that the rich can live, but the poor must just die?
Clearly, ordinary South Africans are very worried about our country.
So is the IFP.
In the Western Cape, a former prison guard lamented that when he worked for Correctional Services in 1998 under the IFP’s Minister Ben Skosana, there was a degree of order and respect for authority within prisons, which eroded dramatically over time. Whereas prisoners used to make their beds by roll-call and stand waiting to be counted, warders are now treated with utter contempt and little is done by the prisoners in their own day-to-day upkeep.
He remembers how prisoners used to prepare and serve meals within the prison. But under the ANC’s leadership this function was taken over by a private company with a lucrative, though controversial, tender.
Prisoners are now left to their own devices. I cannot help but think of the old saying that idle hands are the devil’s playground.
Wherever I go, people talk about corruption within our ANC-led Government. The Coalition Against Corruption formed by opposition parties in Parliament has made a big impact on people, who often speak to me about corruption being at the heart of our country’s battle with crime.
The same gentleman who called the ANC “cruel”, refuses to believe that crime is caused by poverty. “Look at Zimbabwe,” he says, “the people are poor, but there is no crime. Even the police don’t carry guns.
Because their government is straight.” Whether or not his facts are right, his sentiments are obvious. Crime prospers in South Africa because our leadership is corrupt.
The shadow of corruption has darkened the ANC’s door to such an extent that the President’s own people reject his Party at the polls. Perhaps it is time the ANC started listening to the people, rather than trying to spin-doctor their way out of every scandal, every question and every debate on the President’s leadership.
I listen to people wherever I go because, more often than not, ordinary people have extraordinary things to say. Of course, at times people say ridiculous things, like the NFP’s leader did this week when the IFP took Hlabisa from her party in a by-election. She immediately complained that she knows her rivals import people into by-election wards to vote, which, ironically, is precisely what the NFP was exposed for doing in Nongoma three months ago.
The IFP’s victories in Mtubatuba, Ulundi, Nongoma, Nqutu, Umtshezi, uPhongolo, Hlabisa, KwaMashu and now Nkandla are testimony to the fact that the IFP is listening to the people. South Africa’s people are asking for a return to sound principles, ethical leadership and clear vision. They remember the IFP as the repository of all that is good about politics, and are strengthening our hand once again.
How often did we hear people say, after 2009, that the IFP lost ground because traditional Zulu voters, seeing the chance to get a Zulu into the Presidency for the first time, switched to the ANC? What will they say now that President Zuma’s own people are switching to the IFP? If it is just a case of people coming home, the IFP is sure to grow in leaps and bounds.
But I believe there is something stronger afoot. There is a groundswell of concerned South Africans looking to put their support in a party they can trust. Not based on promises or spin-doctoring, but on a solid record of 37 years both in governance and opposition.
The IFP has a significant role to play in this country’s future. That is the message coming out of one by-election after the next.
But before we move on to the next by-election, let me say again that the IFP has taken Nkandla. Because I enjoy seeing people smile.
I also want to thank the community of KwaMashu for their patience and calm under very trying circumstances, and for their support for the IFP which kept Councillor Themba Xulu’s seat within the party he loved.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP