Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last week I expressed my hope that tragedy would not dominate our headlines over this Easter weekend, but my hopes have been dashed. We have emerged from this weekend with two deaths in the forefront of our minds.
The horrific road accident that claimed the life of our Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Molefi Sefularo, has left our country poorer. We have lost the considerable talent and experience of a man dedicated to serving South Africa. Through his leadership positions in Parliament, Government and the community, Dr Sefularo sought to improve the quality of life of every citizen.
One might be tempted to contrast this with the death of AWB leader, Eugene Terre’Blanche, who was brutally murdered on his farm on Saturday. The ideologies of Mr Terre’Blanche were not intended to serve the nation, but to preserve the standing of a minority which felt sidelined by the advent of democracy.
Did that make him a target for assassination? Speaking from Zimbabwe, where he recently became enamoured with President Mugabe’s economic policies, Mr Malema suggested that – had racism made him a target – Mr Terre’Blanche would have been murdered long ago. Yet not every racist harbours murderous intent.
Malema may have brushed this tragedy aside, offhandedly welcoming Afrikaners to take him on. But President Zuma, being an older and more accomplished leader when it comes to diffusing tensions, knew well the kind of disaster that could mount in the wake of this murder.
In a nationally televised address, President Zuma appealed to political leaders across the spectrum to refrain from fanning the flames of racial discord. For the sake of our national unity, a call for peace, tolerance and circumspect behaviour was the order of the day.
I cannot help but ask myself why our President took so long to make this call. Leaders from all opposition parties warned of the potential consequences of Mr Malema’s hate speech. Does the ANC still believe itself right to have rejected the High Court ruling?
We warned that the ANC’s defiance of the High Court ruling was tantamount to putting the Party before the law, running the risk of destabilizing our society on two fronts; how we see one another and how we see the rule of law.
This is a dangerous combination. The moment the law is seen to flounder, to be unenforced or flouted, it loses authority and can be easily transgressed.
For years the IFP has called for a referendum on the death penalty to allow South Africans to decide whether ours should be a society that demands an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. This debate is not about vengeance, but about deterrence.
The jury is still out on whether the death penalty substantially deters murder. One thing is certain, however. Lenient laws and a justice system that is bent to the will of politicians is a poor foundation for any wall that intends to keep murder out of our society.
South Africa’s justice system needs to be profoundly strengthened if we are to lower the crime rate. But equally, the message that laws apply to everyone must prevail. It is damning that the IFP had to drag the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to court to force her to consider the long outstanding cases of hundreds of political prisoners. A government official should not have to be forced to do their job, particularly when the law dictates that a job must be done.
There are so many instances where the law appears to have been flouted when it comes to high profile people. South Africa cannot afford for contempt for the judiciary to enter, as it did in Zimbabwe where the ruling party repeatedly disregards decisions of the court. It is deeply concerning that Mr Malema has expressed a desire to import into South Africa the worst of Zimbabwe’s policies.
It is also repugnant that he could advocate "land grabs" within hours of Mr Terre’Blanche’s murder. Land reform is a contentious issue, and is certainly higher on the national agenda than the murder of farmers. We know that since 1994 more than 3000 South African farmers have been murdered on their properties. Obviously farm murders cannot be put down to wage disputes and labour issues.
There is something more sinister at work here. These things could not happen in the absence of a culture of lawlessness that hints at the prospect of impunity. Regardless of whether recently revived liberation songs are to blame or not, it is ill-advised to bring the past into the present, except as a means of expressing how far we have come as a nation.
As individuals, we are not all at the same point on the continuum that leads away from a past of division and towards a shared future. It should be clear that the hairline fracture of racial division can still be shattered if hit hard enough or often enough. As a nation we have put so much energy into pursuing reconciliation, it would be a tragedy if we allow individuals who lag a little further behind to arrest the progress made by so many.
Perhaps more than many others, I am wary of the danger inherent in divisive behaviour. The internecine low intensity civil war that raged between members of the ANC and members of Inkatha in the late 80s and early 90s etched into our shared consciousness the destructive power of foolish words and bad timing.
In some ways it was revenge that cost us 20,000 black lives, because once the ball of hatred began rolling it demanded more and more destruction as recompense for whatever came before. I therefore thank God that the supporters of the AWB have retracted their threat of retaliation. It showed wisdom and discretion on their part, traits that I have come to value in the Afrikaner community.
Now it is up to our country’s leaders to show the same wisdom and discretion in putting an end to foolish words like "Kill the Boer". That song may have been sung during our liberation struggle, but singing it now is more than just bad timing. It is a call to greater destruction, greater division and greater pain.
Together with my Party, I extend my condolences to the families of Dr Sefularo and Mr Terre’Blanche. We share your sorrow and we pray for healing.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.