Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In the wake of the Marikana Mine massacre, we in the opposition have called for answers. During yesterday’s debate in the National Assembly, many pertinent questions were posed.
Who gave the order to shoot? Who authorised the use of live ammunition? At what point did the Minister of Mineral Resources intervene in the dispute?
At what point did the Minister of Police intervene? Why did negotiations break down between the mineworkers’ representatives and the management of Lonmin? Why were the striking workers carrying traditional weapons? Why were NUM and AMCU not given equal standing in talks with Government?
Beneath the many questions runs a common thread: how could this have happened in a democratic South Africa?
As our nation’s representatives grappled with this painful question in the National Assembly, the eyes of the world were upon us. We were also watched from the gallery by the Minister for Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration, Kalon Dicki Chhoyang.
Kalon Chhoyang is visiting South Africa to raise awareness of the human rights violations which continue in Tibet. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Kalon on Monday morning in Durban, where she kindly thanked me for my support of the Tibetan struggle for autonomy.
I have supported this cause because I believe that the democratisation and decentralisation of China can start from Tibet. But I also support Tibet because, despite the continued atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against them, Tibetans have pursued their decades-long struggle exclusively through the methods of nonviolence, negotiations and moral high ground.
Entrenched in their national psyche is a desire for peace. But no human being and no group of people can be oppressed forever without eventual disaster. Tragically, Tibetans have begun the terrible practice of self-immolation. Forty nine lives have already been lost to this expression of unbearable agony.
Our own national psyche is different. The Marikana Mine massacre has thrown into stark relief the fact that violence is entrenched in South Africa’s psyche. It has been evident in the violent municipal service delivery protests that have erupted across our country, in which property is destroyed and people are injured. It was inevitable that Andries Tatane be remembered during yesterday’s debate.
The Chief Whip of the ANC suggested that this culture of violence entered our country through Apartheid, which visited untold atrocities on our people. Yet when I look to the example of Tibet, I am convinced that it is not the human rights violations perpetrated against us that brought violence into our hearts. Instead, it was our reaction to those violations.
The culture of violence was entrenched in our nation’s psyche through the armed struggle against Apartheid.
When the ANC’s mission-in-exile began to embrace the idea of an armed struggle, contrary to the very founding principles of the liberation movement, they sought to bring Inkatha on board. I and a delegation of Inkatha met with Mr Oliver Tambo and a delegation of the ANC’s leadership-in-exile in London in 1979. For two and a half days we discussed the strategy of an armed struggle. But no matter how much we talked, I could not accept taking bloodshed home to my people.
Inkatha rejected the armed struggle as a strategy for liberation. We refused to make our structures available to the ANC to bring weapons, bloodshed and terror into South Africa. Inkatha chose to uphold the principles of nonviolence, negotiations and high moral ground. We were no less passionate about political liberation than those who planted bombs and birthed mayhem.
But our passion extended to more than political liberation. We wanted genuine freedom for all South Africa’s people.
That freedom could not be achieved by entrenching walls of suspicion, fear and hatred. Apartheid created those walls. The armed struggle fortified them. Through the armed struggle, the ANC taught a generation of black South Africans that violence is not only an option, but an answer. It is a justifiable response.
In the three decades that followed, nothing was done to change that perception and it grew into an acceptance of violence as the standard in response to injustice. The problem we face right now is that injustice is everywhere in South Africa. Not in terms of political oppression, but in terms of poverty and unemployment. Thus the reaction to hardship is violence. The reaction to a lack of jobs is violence. The reaction to poor salaries is violence. The reaction to poor service delivery is violence.
As we come to terms with the Marikana Mine massacre and ask ourselves how this could happen in a democratic South Africa, we will need to acknowledge the painful fact that violence has not been legislated out of our nation’s psyche. That aspect of our makeup was not written out by a democratic Constitution, nor did it automatically disappear when we won the vote.
Just as it was brought in, it needs to be removed. I do not believe that Africans are violent by nature any more than Tibetans are peaceful by nature. It is our principles that create our character. If we value respect, dignity and human life, we become peaceful. If we reject the value of human life and abandon respect for our fellow man, surely we become a people capable of violence.
I firmly believe that the ANC bears the responsibility of expunging the culture of violence from our national psyche. By allowing the South African Police Service to kill 34 striking mineworkers, our Government has done inestimable damage to that cause.
Based on South Africa’s reaction, it is hard to imagine this tragedy repeating itself, and surely the SAPS will never be allowed to shoot at striking workers again. But has Marikana changed the way our people perceive violence? Have we rejected violence perpetrated by the State against its people, or have we rejected violence on principle? Only the latter will prevent another tragedy.
As the Marikana massacre was debated in the National Assembly yesterday, South Africans asked why our country’s President was not in the House; did he not appreciate the depth of this tragedy?
I was quite taken aback by the words of Presidential Spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, quoted on the front page of the Sunday Times. With calls abounding for a judicial enquiry into Marikana, Mr Maharaj said, “The first question is under what conditions in the law is (Zuma) empowered to appoint a commission. if it’s judicial, what are the requirements? The President. has set in motion all the necessary legwork, investigating in law how to do it.”
As a response to a tragedy of this magnitude, that hardly inspires confidence. What South Africans needed was a bold statement that the President will do what needs to be done as the Executive Head of our country. Not that the President is hard at work trying to figure out how to do what his position both enables and demands.
If the IFP could offer some advice, the Presidency should look beyond the Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1947 to the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation Act of 1991, which appears to have been ignored for several years. That is the legal paradigm under which results will be found.
But we have offered good advice before that was not heeded. During the Budget Vote Debate of the Presidency on 30 May this year, I warned the President that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is detrimental to our country. I urged him to fill the position of National Commissioner of Police with a trained policeman, not a comrade of the ANC. Unfortunately, he ignored me.
Corruption has already ended the careers of two National Police Commissioners, and South Africa bears the cost in terms of our international image and our fight against crime. For the sake of our country, I called on the President not to repeat costly mistakes. Following Marikana, the National Commissioner is again under fire.
Let me answer one last question, before it is asked. Where was Buthelezi when the Marikana massacre was being debated in the National Assembly? I was in Johannesburg at a previously scheduled meeting with the President and General Secretary of FEDUSA, the Federation of Unions of South Africa, to discuss the youth unemployment crisis.
Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb. People will not endure the injustice of joblessness and poverty forever, without eventual disaster.
Knowing that our nation is trained to react to injustice with violence, I am determined to do everything in my power to end injustice.
I have already done everything in my power to expunge violence from our nation. I paid a high price for rejecting the armed struggle and the mind set of violent protest that it brought into South Africa. Despite constant provocation and pain, I never embraced violence as a justifiable response.
May the Marikana Mine massacre be a wake-up call to those in power. South Africa’s rampant poverty and inequality have created brewing tensions within our society which should not be underestimated, and can no longer be ignored.
On Monday, the IFP sent a member of our National Council, Mr Nhlanhla Msimango, to visit the mineworkers and families in Marikana. Expressing the sentiments he heard on that visit, Mr Msimango said, “People have lost their lives here. The President should have at least spoken to these workers and offered his condolences directly. We know he went to visit those in hospital, but we think it would have been much appreciated around here if he addressed the workers.”
As the unanswered questions slowly begin to be answered, many missed opportunities to intervene will no doubt be revealed.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP