Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As this year draws to a close and our diaries begin to fill for 2013, I find there is still so much I would like to do, read, discuss and consider. It seems my schedule just gathers pace from year to year.
I am, of course, no stranger to busy schedules, having served as the Minister of Home Affairs for the first decade of democracy, during which time I was appointed Acting President more than twenty times.
Even before 1994, unlike most of my colleagues in the National Assembly, I was engaged in the onerous task of governance in KwaZulu while waging the liberation struggle within South Africa.
I know about pressing needs and imminent crises, and I also know the slow burn of pressure that comes from tackling on-going policy issues in an on-going socio-economic quagmire. There has never been time to rest, for how can I as a leader of our country take a break from serving needs, when our people never get a break from facing those needs?
Poverty is a daily hardship, felt moment to moment. It doesn’t take a break for Christmas. Indeed for many people this is the hardest time of year, as we try to make our way home to be with family, when finances prevent both travel and time away from work.
I spend a great deal of time with ordinary people. I have never lost touch with the issues that occupy the ordinary man or woman in our country. That is not to say that Members of Parliament, MPLs, Councillors and Traditional Leaders are not ordinary people. There is, truly, nothing extraordinary about leaders that places them above their fellow citizens.
Many leaders experience the same concerns and grapple with the same issues as the people we serve. Many of us, in fact, have a greater capacity for worry. For we take on our shoulders the hardship of every South African, and we carry the burden of everyone who suffers, believing that we can somehow help every person.
I have had to learn over sixty years in leadership to handle the anxiety that comes with serving such vast and unending need. I have learned that distancing myself from hardship is not only unethical, but against my nature. I cannot do it. I cannot draw a line between myself and my people and accept helping only a few.
The Editor of the Sunday Times, who somehow cannot escape the propaganda he was raised on, recently accused me of having a “God complex”. That is quite laughable, for there is no way I could have lived the life I have lived for all these years without being totally dependent on God. He has sustained me and guided me. I have no confusion over who is Lord and who is servant.
Indeed, my faith has led me to investigate how Christ dealt with the overwhelming weight of concern that comes from caring for all people.
Several times the Bible records that Jesus left the multitudes of poor, lame, diseased and needy, all crying out for His help, and withdrew in solitude to pray. But He always came back and continued His work.
That has taught me not to go from one task to another without prayerful thought, for all too soon we become emotionally, mentally and physically drained and begin to serve, not out of the overflow of our concern for others, but out of a misplaced sense of duty. There is no fulfilment in that, only frustration.
The road of leadership is a difficult one to walk. Unfortunately, in our country, a few prominent leaders have embraced corruption and have tainted the relationship between leaders and the people we serve. Many South Africans now see leaders, particularly political leaders, as rich, unethical, uncaring and self-interested. That perception is to the detriment of our country. It is understandable, but wrong.
It is one of the reasons I have pitted myself against corruption in South Africa. This year, the opposition in Parliament joined hands to form a Coalition Against Corruption. This is one of the most significant developments of 2012. The fight against corruption is the first single issue to unite a diverse opposition, which speaks of the severity of the problem and the genuine concern of opposition parties to eradicate it.
Corruption affects us all, from the individual who resents it in the most insignificant daily transaction, to the many who shape the zeitgeist of our nation. So I will continue to fight corruption, as I have for more than six decades. When I ran the KwaZulu Government for eighteen years, never once was a single allegation of corruption ever levelled against my administration. When we spoke of zero tolerance for corruption, we walked the talk. It can be done.
There were many other significant moments that will define 2012.
Marikana is one; it will live in our nation’s memory forever. Another is the legal victory of the IFP’s Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Rules of Parliament and opened the way for individual MPs from any party to table proposed legislation in Parliament.
2012 will be remembered for the textbook saga, for Mangaung, for the opposition’s call for a vote of no confidence in the President, for the delay on a Youth Wage Subsidy, for the State’s expenditure in Nkandla – and the IFP’s by-election victory in President’s Zuma’s hometown. It will be remembered for many events, both positive and worrying. And it will shape the South Africa that enters 2013.
This past weekend, the IFP held its 34th National Conference. We looked at many of these issues and charted the way forward, for we recognise the crucial role the IFP has to play on the road ahead for our country. I am proud to lead a Party that serves South Africa without self-interest and with its principles intact. I am also proud to work with so many South Africans who support the vision and principles of the IFP. I see their support growing and I recognise within it the cry of our nation for moral leadership and integrity.
I will answer that cry every day, for as long as I live. For whatever my position, whatever role I am called on to play, serving my nation is part of my nature. As long as need continues, my work continues too. As we approach the end of 2012, I wish to thank every South African who has supported me and my Party, and everyone who has supported greater integrity in our country, not only through words, but through personal commitment. I also thank God, my Creator and Sustainer, whom I will serve with pleasure all of my days.
I wish our nation a joyful festive season, filled with peace, restoration and hope.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP