Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Surveying the debris of the final act of the disintegration of our once great neighbour Zimbabwe into the category of a "failed state", I have reflected on how we came to such a desperate situation on our borders and how SADC’s ineffectiveness to intervene has been left so miserably exposed.
I venture to suggest that there was a clue in KwaZulu Natal last weekend which I will return to in a moment.
For too long, we have blindly chanted the mantra "African solutions to Africa’s problems" as we have stood by and witnessed widespread genocide, ethnic cleansing, pillaging and looting, corruption and nepotism and voter gerrymandering on a grand scale across our continent over the last two decades.
Yet one sometimes feels that Africa is somehow allowed an exemption – a compensated pass if you will – for failing to meet the same standards as everyone else.
Considering that the phrase "African solutions to Africa’s problems" has become so clichéd (and yes, my party and I have used it, too), do any of us bother to question what we actually mean by it?
Well, it is elementary that Africans should run their own affairs rather than allow their former colonial masters to do so. It follows from this that institutions are established, such as the regional SADC, the continental AU with its Peer Review Mechanism, to be the architecture of governance, but they, in themselves, are not solutions – as SADC has just so ignobly demonstrated.
And what exactly would an African solution to the Zimbabwean crisis be?
There is either a solution or there is not! There is, in my book, no such thing as a "made in Africa" solution. Zimbabwe either holds ‘free and fair elections’ like those recently held in America, or it does not.
Zimbabwe either adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which it is a signatory) or it does not. It happens to do neither and no amount of pontificating about "African solutions" can disguise that fact. Her people are starving, the hyperinflation is running sky high, there is a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions emerging with the cholera outbreak and the country is, for all intents and purposes, not being governed.
It is time to call a spade a spade.
Why, for instance, when Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s, did we not hear any voices calling for "Balkan solutions for Balkan problems"? No one said "ah let the people of Kosovo sort it out" or it is "an internal matter for the people of Bosnia". Yes, it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? In the end, Bill Clinton reluctantly intervened with his European NATO allies.
I believe we have fallen prey to the notion of relative standards: we are expected to hold ‘free and fair elections’ like everyone else, but there is an unspoken bargain that we will be given a bit of leeway. A "bit" of voter fraud or a "few" acts of intimidation – even murder – will be overlooked as long as the election is held and the result expresses the will of the majority.
As an African, who shares the joy of millions of people across the globe at the election of an African American as the leader of the free world, I believe it is time to say that we – as Africans – should be expected to adhere to the same standards as everyone else.
Going back to the question of how Zimbabwe could unravel so fast, I ventured earlier that there was a clue in KwaZulu Natal last weekend. The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) announced that they would "join" the ANC’s election campaign in the province in the 2009 election. They also recently called for a "political" strike in support of ANC President Jacob Zuma.
It is, of course, the right of unions to be ideologically aligned, but they have no business, at all, of becoming actively involved in the democratic process.
This is why the IFP this week called on the Independent Electoral Commission to state unequivocally that political office bearers, activists and trade unions be barred from acting as presiding officers or as electoral staff.
The key word in the IEC’s name is "independent". By allowing a special interest group (since that is what unions are) to preside over the democratic process undermines the very foundations of free and fair elections as a vehicle for unhindered public participation.
We have seen what has routinely happened during Zimbabwean elections.
First, independent observers from the West (who would have been able to spot electoral fraud and irregularities) were barred from the country. Then came the infamous war veterans who either directly intimidated voters into supporting the ruling Zanu-PF or, more discreetly, "assisted" rural and sometimes illiterate voters with their ballot papers.
Is this really what we mean by African solutions to Africans problems?
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 555 7144