Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The news that Eskom is planning another electricity price hike, of 16% a year for five years, has been met with disbelief. Coupled with the rumour that VAT will soon be increased, meaning we will pay a bit more for everything we buy, from a tube of toothpaste to blood pressure medication, citizens are left feeling a bit bewildered.
Tomorrow’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in the National Assembly may bring some clarity, but we are likely going to have to wait for next year’s budget debate to understand just how much citizens are expected to hand over to finance a government that is continually accused of financial mismanagement, corruption and waste.
As I said, there are some things in our public debate at the moment that are hard to believe. But there are others that shouldn’t be believed at all. One of those things is the implausible story being peddled by the NFP that the IFP has rejected peace, and has either ignored or turned down an invitation from the NFP to hold joint rallies.
I was amazed to see an SABC news insert on Sunday evening in which the leader of the NFP, Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi, claimed she had called on me to accompany her to violence hot-spots. In a voice-over, the presenter added that the IFP had rejected this call and told the NFP to go on its own.
I was left wondering what the average viewer must think of the IFP without the benefit of the facts, the truth or even the full story. But I am experienced enough to know that that was the whole idea. The NFP has engaged a resolute strategy to attack the fundamental character of the IFP. It wants to discredit our legacy of peace, non-violence and reconciliation. To do that, it must lie.
Why would someone who has dedicated more than half a century to promoting peace, reject a peace offer? The simple answer is, I didn’t. Although she knows very well where to find me, Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi has not contacted me.
She has not invited me anywhere nor asked me to do anything.
In my online newsletter last Tuesday, I warned that “political violence will continue if the message from political leaders is contradictory, muddied or disputed by the evidence.” I was concerned that the NFP is telling the media one thing, and telling its members something else. That seemed obvious by the fact that a leader on the NFP’s multi-party peace delegation had just shot an IFP member in broad daylight, in front of police and the media, which loudly contradicted the NFP’s message in the media that it is a victim desperately seeking peace.
The next day brought further evidence that the NFP is acting in bad faith.
According to a report in the New Age, the NFP’s Mr Wiseman Mcoyi spoke to NFP supporters outside court, where five NFP members were facing charges of murder, and said, “We have nothing against IFP supporters, but we strongly believe this recent outbreak of violence is the result of Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his cohorts allowing their minds to go astray. Otherwise there would be no loss of life between IFP and NFP.”
I was gobsmacked. In this volatile climate, the IFP has been careful not to point fingers or lay blame for the violence. We recognise that there are several factors driving this conflict, and we have left it to the police to investigate and act as necessary. At every funeral of our members, we have cried for peace, and our message has been that of no retaliation, no revenge, no more bloodshed.
Yet the NFP had just escalated the situation to hate speech and defamation, effectively telling NFP supporters not to target IFP supporters, but to blame me personally for the violence. Coming from anyone else, I would have interpreted these as rashly spoken, careless words. But Mr Wiseman Mcoyi is known for jumping the gun and revealing NFP strategy prematurely. Perhaps it is all just too exciting to contain.
Last year, before Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi had had an opportunity to reveal the existence of the NFP, and not long after her last protest that she would never ever leave the IFP, Mr Wiseman Mcoyi announced to the media the birth of the NFP and Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi’s leadership of it.
So I took his finger-pointing outside court as a portent of the NFP’s strategic direction change. There would be no more talk of working with the police or trusting the justice system or acknowledging intra-party violence and infighting or considering that some murders are criminal, not political.
Instead, they were about to apportion the full blame for the violence on the IFP and, more precisely, on me.
That very night I participated in an interview on Ukhozi FM with Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi. At one point, the presenter, Mr Siphamandla Goge, suggested the idea of us holding joint rallies. This is where the original idea came from. I responded by saying that tensions are too high and the risk is too great, so that a great deal of groundwork needs to be done by both parties, individually, before bringing our supporters into one venue.
I mentioned that when NFP and IFP supporters were gathered in the same place two days ago, an NFP leader drew a gun and shot dead an IFP supporter in full view of the police. At the next gathering of NFP and IFP outside court, an NFP leader announced that Mangosuthu Buthelezi is responsible for the killing.
I have many years of experience in political reconciliation and joint rallies. I know that first we each need to go separately to calm our people down, which the IFP has done and, thank God, done successfully. In our Ukhozi FM interview, I asked the NFP to do the same before we could consider a joint meeting.
It is not just my life I am worried about, but the life of every leader and every supporter attending such a meeting. I am not prepared to put anyone at risk of harm. Aside from the tensions between our members, there are other factors at play, including internal fighting that has seen NFP members killing NFP members. In a crowd, there are often opportunists. What would the repercussions be if anyone fired a shot or, God forbid, killed anyone?
If Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi is willing to risk people’s lives, I am not. There is a way to do these things and she knows it. That is, no doubt, why she has not formally approached me with this premature idea. But that has not stopped her from using it to score cheap political points.
I was astounded that she has now had the temerity to say publically that the King should intervene. Anyone with respect for the institution of the monarchy would have first consulted the King.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.