Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I have disagreed with the ANC before, at great personal cost.
Necessity calls on me to do it again.
I have said in Parliament and on the record that there is no place in our national discourse for a debate on nationalization. Our economic vision cannot withstand the uncertainty this debate is stirring, just as our economy would not withstand the execution of this socialist ideal.
There is therefore grave danger in the ANC’s ambivalence. The nationalization debate has gone unchallenged by ruling Party leaders, and now finds itself in the Resolutions of the ANC Youth League. And the stakes have been raised, for now it is tied to intimations of whether a second term for the President will be supported by the Youth League and the alliance partners.
The sparks of a devastating fire have been lit.
Across the world, the debate on nationalization closed decades ago. It was part of the socialist agenda that had the youth of my generation starry eyed. Even I, cutting my political teeth in the ANC Youth League in the fifties, was enthusiastic about nationalization and socialism. But I and most of my comrades matured.
As young politicians, we all admired Tanzanian President Dr Julius Nyerere for his policy of Ujamaa, an African version of socialism. In the early seventies, I visited President Nyerere in Dar es Salaam and he gave me a copy of his book titled "Ten Years After Arusha" which contained his thoughts on socialism. Even then he already had second thoughts about socialism or Umajaa.
I was honoured to receive him in my own office in 1994 when I became Minister of Home Affairs, and we had opportunity to discuss socialism again.
By that time, I had rejected the ideology and I was fascinated to hear what President Nyerere had to say.
He told me that when President Robert Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of a democratic Zimbabwe in 1980, President Nyerere had congratulated him on inheriting a jewel in the Zimbabwean economy. But he had also warned him, "Don’t do what I did; don’t destroy it."
History records how socialism destroyed most of the Eastern Block countries.
When I was Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, I was visited by youths from Russia who wanted nothing to do with socialism because of the destruction it had wrought on their country. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were two Germanies; East Germany which was socialist and poor, and West Germany which was practicing free enterprise and well to do. Just a few months ago, President Zuma wrote off R1.1 billion worth of debt that Cuba owed South Africa.
When former President Nelson Mandela was the Head of Government, he abandoned socialism and embraced the benefits of the free enterprise system.
I was part of former President Mbeki’s Cabinet when he introduced the macroeconomic strategy of Growth, Employment and Redistribution, and I welcomed this tremendous step in the right direction.
But the ANC’s alliance partners vehemently rejected GEAR and South Africa’s macroeconomic strategy was derailed. Since then no one has been able to pinpoint where the ANC stands, and this uncertainty is compounded by the nationalization agenda.
The ANC needs to make its position clear. Senior leaders ought to be saying what I am saying here; that nationalization would effect the destruction of our economy and the loss of investment, and we will not do it.
I have no doubt I will draw criticism from the ANC Youth League and from the ANC. I have spent a large part of my life confronting vilification and alienation because of the stand I took in 1979. At that time, the ANC-in-exile sought Inkatha’s support for international sanctions and disinvestment in South Africa, but we could not give it.
I knew that sanctions and disinvestment would devastate the poorest of the poor more that it would touch those with a means of livelihood. Thus an ideological rift opened between me and Mr Oliver Tambo, and Inkatha and the ANC were split. When we rejected the armed struggle, the rift could not be breached.
I am surprised that the ANC now rejects sanctions and disinvestment against Zimbabwe for the same reasons Inkatha put forward in 1979. Again one wonders where they stand.
So I risk being vilified again, but I have no regrets. The debate on nationalization has become a burning issue. It is the senior leaders of the ANC who should be taking this stand. In their absence, I reject nationalization. There is no place for this debate. The matter must be closed.
As the President of the IFP, for the sake of our country, I unequivocally stand against nationalization.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP