Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In a week of extraordinary global events in which the world’s financial institutions have been rocked, we too, in South Africa, have been dazed by the pace of change within the ruling-party: an organisation which, until recently, appeared invincible and indivisible.
Earlier in the week, I issued a press statement in response to the statement made by former Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, calling for a convention.
In contrast to the more incendiary language of others of late, he spoke in the most nuanced diplomatic language. I, myself, made a similar call for a convention of the opposition in 2004.
It is, as I said, not my practise to comment on what happens within other political parties. I have never said a word about their internal leadership struggles and turmoil. That is their internal business. Although, of course, changes within the ruling-party directly bear upon how we are governed.
However, I do believe – as I and others across the political spectrum and beyond have warned for over a decade – we have reached a tipping point in South Africa in which the dividing lines between the ruling party and the State have, to all intents and purposes, collapsed.
Therefore matters affecting the ruling party have become matters of State affecting the future of our Republic. Under these circumstances, it is imperative for everyone, especially you dear reader, to take note.
The fundamental issues raised by Mr Lekota relate to the values which underpin and sustain our democratic process and the future of our Republic.
They ought to be debated seriously and beyond the confined walls of the ruling party.
His comments once again brought to the fore an old debate on the values which bolstered our liberation struggle and how they should be implemented today in the running of our country. Mark Gevisser’s meticulous biography of Mr Thabo Mbeki is worth reading within this context.
For me, at the present time, there is a sense of déjà vu. The founding father of the ANC, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, was my uncle. He, Inkosi Lutuli, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu and other prominent founding fathers were my mentors.
That is why, after holding discussions with various figures, including Oliver Tambo, I formed Inkatha to complement the ANC’s strategy when the ANC was banned and exiled.
With the Soweto bloodshed as a background, and the shocking death of Steve Biko, I met Mr Jimmy Kruger, the chief of the security police, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Unbeknown to me at the time, Mr Kruger was planning a massive security clampdown during which nearly 20 organisations would be declared unlawful and more than 40 people served with banning orders. The meeting developed in a fascinating confrontation as I advanced the notion of a multiracial, majority rule South Africa with a dye-in-the wool ardent believer in the doctrine of separate development.
I argued in my memorandum that "If we are afraid to talk to each other, the only thing left to do in this country is to kill each other." I rejected the Nationalist nonsense that people in South Africa of different ethnic origins would enjoy separate identities and said I could not admit to a qualitative distinction between himself and any other of my fellow South Africans "which is denied by our unity in Christ." I went on: "There are some ideals that are dearer to me than life itself and most certainly are dearer to me than temporary political gains. I share those ideals with whosoever holds them.
"Many of those ideals have been expressed by a long succession of those who have gone before me. I believe that these ideals have been embodied in the sentiments and activities of great South African organizations such as the ANC and the PAC.
"When I further these ideals, I do not do so in order to further the aims of banned organisations, but to further the only common good where all South Africans, black and white, can find each other."
Then in our conversation which was recorded verbatim, Mr Kruger condescendingly suggested that Inkatha was an exclusive Zulu organization which should confine its membership to Zulus. I retorted that Inkatha was structured on the ideals propagated by the ANC Founding Fathers in 1912: that is non racialism and a common citizenship.
And even when in 1979 the ANC and Inkatha broke apart, I made two statements which I believe to still be valid and relevant; namely that nobody owns the ANC copyright and that in its conduct Inkatha remains more faithful to the founding values of the ANC than the ANC itself.
We are now at the stage in which the values underpinning our society are under threat like never before. What we have today is a far cry from the future our forefathers promised us in 1912 and to which my generation dedicated its life of struggle. We must not abandon this legacy, but rather rediscover and inculcate it afresh to inspire future generations.
For this reason, I agree with Mr Lekota that our society must come together to talk about these values and interrogate how we apply them to modern day SA in 2008. Most importantly, I believe we need to bridge the ever-widening chasm of the democratic deficit.
We should do so not only beyond the political divide, but also beyond that which now divides the political world from a civil society which is rightly becoming increasingly distant and disenchanted with politics. This is why, incidentally – and it is not necessarily a bad thing – we have witnessed the proliferation in recent times of NGO’s like the Treatment Action Campaign and a revitalization of advocacy faith-based organizations. This multiplicity of these voices must be listened to.
Hence, an all-inclusive and all-encompassing approach to the convention Mr Lekota suggested is necessary and vital. It must be done with the involvement of building blocks of society such as churches, traditional leadership and business.
A week is certainly a long time in politics, as we have found out yet again.
But we can be sure of one thing. Things are never going to be the same again. The kaleidoscope has been shaken and all the pieces are in flux.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 5557144