Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Good news is rare in politics and seldom published. Events of the past few days have given the IFP cause for renewed hope, as the Provincial Chairperson of the Youth Brigade in KwaZulu Natal, Mr S’khumbuzo Khanyeza, has come forward with an apology for what he now sees as a serious mistake.
On 17 May last year, Mr Khanyeza and a group of IFP youth leaders lit a fuse that caused our Party great damage. Following the national elections, some of our youth panicked and decided that a comprehensive change of leadership is needed. But rather than coming to our National Executive Committee to express their concerns, they launched a media spectacle, flinging accusations at me and the Party’s leadership and pretending that we would not hear them out.
The truth is that we invited them to address National Council so that collegial wisdom could determine the merit of their concerns and take any fair criticism on board. We sought to engage these young people and offered them every opportunity available in terms of our Constitution and internal Party structures.
But as National Council met to hear their complaints, the youths gathered outside and staged a ruckus. All the newspapers had been invited and people had been bussed in to loudly protest that National Council was not willing to hear them. They never even came inside.
It was clearly a ruse, intended to hurt the Party. And it did hurt the Party. A group of these youth from Johannesburg immediately saw the error in what they were doing, and came forward to apologise. I and the NEC accepted their apology and pardoned them.
Some time later, the Publicity Secretary of the Youth Brigade, Ms Hlengiwe Mthiyane, also regretted her participation and apologised, and we likewise accepted her apology straight away without any conditions.
Last week the Provincial Chairperson of the Youth Brigade called a press conference at which he publically apologized for what he and other youth leaders had done, and sought to set the record straight regarding our Party’s respect for democracy and robust debate. We have accepted this apology too and reinstated the Chairperson to his former position.
Since May 2009 the media has had a field day covering all the false accusations and misrepresentations thrown about by these young people. I am hardly surprised that those who covered Mr Khanyeza’s apology and our acceptance thereof doggedly referred to his dismissal as being due to his call for change.
Mr Khanyeza himself set the record straight, knowing that in terms of our Party’s Constitution dismissal is mandatory for anyone who brings the Party into disrepute. The youths who were fired following this debacle were fired because they showed utter contempt for the Constitution of the Party they served. They knew better, but they chose to drag the IFP’s name through mud that they themselves created for the sake of publicity.
I am sure that most of us are drawing a parallel here between the actions of the IFP and those of the ANC when it comes to wayward youth leaders.
According to a labour law expert who has been quoted online, the prescripts of the ANC’s Constitution leave no other avenue for the ANC but to fire their Youth Brigade President now that President Zuma has openly censured his outrageous insubordination. We are left to see what will happen in May when the ANC’s Executive meets to decide Mr Malema’s fate.
I am pleased that when the IFP meets in May at our General Conference, we will already have put much of this nonsense behind us. Mr Khanyeza’s apology and redemption has cleared the way for greater unity of purpose. It has also caused greater transparency of the real motives and real players behind the rift that some are attempting to engineer.
The worst of it is not that some of our youth became hot-headed and caused their own political demise by acting in contravention of the Constitution.
Rather it is the fact that agents provocateurs piggybacked on this ruction to force a succession debate that, nevertheless, never really got off the ground.
From outside the fold, Mr Khanyeza and other youth publically supported the IFP’s National Chairperson for the Presidency in advance of our General Conference. But the National Chairperson distanced herself and announced unequivocally that she would not be available for nomination to this position.
Likewise the other pseudo-candidate, our Secretary-General, announced that he would not be standing for election. But the propaganda machine kept running, and somehow the public thinks that the IFP is locked in a succession battle when, in reality, I have already been asked by National Council to consider continuing to lead.
That is a decision I have not yet taken. There is so much to consider, particularly when we have faced so many challenges from people intent on destroying the IFP. But the events of the past few days have, as I said, given us reason for renewed hope.
I find it interesting that the SABC refrained from airing footage of yesterday’s press conference during which I and the NEC forgave Mr Khanyeza and reinstated him in the Party. The reason they gave for failing to report on this – even after I gave the SABC an exclusive interview in both Zulu and English – is that they anticipate more people coming forward to apologise and they did not want to pre-empt this story! Of course now they tell us the story is old news.
In my experience, the SABC has a history of ignoring the IFP. Several years ago I was approached by a former SABC senior executive who apologetically admitted to me, with tears in his eyes, that he had received instruction from the then Prime Minister Mr PW Botha that Buthelezi was not to be shown on television. This confirmed what I had been told by the late Mr Charles Fiddian-Green, former Executive Director of Safmarine. It seems the instruction to keep me off the air has become entrenched policy.
The history of the SABC’s attitude towards me and the IFP is well-documented in Dr Anthea Jeffrey’s seminal book titled "People’s War", which details how all the blame for the violence in KwaZulu Natal during the internecine low intensity civil war was depicted as being caused by the IFP. Our role in South Africa has always been underplayed. I had hoped that in this new democratic era that kind of bias would end. But in some ways, it is worse now than it was during apartheid. I only wonder whose instruction the SABC is acting on now.
The difference between the IFP and the ANC is not merely that we follow our Constitution when it comes to insubordination among our ranks, but that our youth leaders are reacting to discipline with regrets and apologies, instead of acting shocked by our censure and proclaiming that no one will tell them what to do.
It is because we deemed Mr Khanyeza’s apology as being sincere and because he took the opportunity to set the record straight, no matter how hard that was for him to do, that we pardoned him – as we did with all the others who sought forgiveness.
I have been faulted throughout my career for being too forgiving. But forgiveness is central to my beliefs as a Christian. It serves no beneficial purpose to nurse grudges and nurture bitterness. Indeed it is a dangerous indulgence, because it skews one’s perspective by filtering everything through the prism of distrust, reticence, pain and suspicion.
I have been heard to say that life is too short to hold grudges. But I also know that in the absence of grace, a root of bitterness can spring up and cause many to be defiled. A sincere apology, sincerely accepted, can bring healing. That is a lesson worth learning.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP