Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
On the 5th of November 1605, the infamous Gunpowder Plot was foiled.
Since then, in remembrance of the failed conspiracy to destroy the King and the leaders of Britain, effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned each year and the safety of the King is celebrated.
This is perhaps the foremost historical example of burning someone in effigy. It speaks of high treason and low motives. The practice has been replicated in violent political discourse throughout the ages. But in today’s world, it receives little support among liberals and conservatives alike.
Take for instance the American public’s disapproval last year of the Tea Partiers intention to burn effigies of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a Congressman. More recently, a Florida pastor’s intention to burn copies of the Qu’ran to protest the building of a mosque at Ground Zero met with international outcry. In both instances, wisdom prevailed and the fires went unlit.
I wish I could say the same about the group of angry protesters who burned pictures of me on Sunday in Estcourt. Unfortunately, wisdom did not prevail and the base motives of a few people were exposed. The anger directed at me was fomented by former uMtshezi Mayor, Maliyakhe Shelembe, who recently faced the IFP’s National Disciplinary Committee and was removed from office.
It is interesting that President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle, that saw several key Ministers removed from office, was warmly welcomed and even lauded in the media. It was seen as evidence of a commitment to make changes where changes are needed, in the interests of service delivery and good governance. The IFP has been engaged in the same exercise. But our decisions are seen as somehow suspicious.
Media reports of the IFP’s reshuffle in municipalities and the expulsion of some members is feeding into the delicious lie that the IFP’s leadership is persecuting certain people. This is a convenient way of shifting the focus away from the indiscipline, violence and selfish ambition that has characterized the present ructions.
Mr Shelembe has deliberately misled the community by calling a meeting to report that he has been asked to step down and is seeking the community’s guidance. He has not been asked to step down. He has been fired. The IFP gave him the position of mayor and the IFP has removed him from this position based on his mismanagement of the municipality.
This decision has been vindicated by his response. Clearly Mr Shelembe believes he is bigger than the Party he promised to serve, as he has stirred up community members not to vote for the IFP since his dismissal.
Nevertheless, he vows to continue to support the IFP’s National Chairperson.
One wonders how driving away votes for the IFP supports the IFP’s National Chairperson.
There is much one could speculate on regarding the current situation in the Party, and I know that my newsletter is being carefully watched for any remark made out of turn. It pains me that the IFP’s internal ructions have been brought before the courts. But now that the matter is sub judice, it would be unwise to speak about it.
I note that our National Chairperson has not kept silent. Yesterday, outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court, she spoke openly about being "ill-treated", having "suffered" and "persevered ill-treatment for a long time" at the hands of the Party. This contradicts all she has said before.
I also note that her supporters again lit fires; this time to burn IFP logos. Clearly, in their minds, the IFP must be destroyed in order for their plans to come to fruition. They do not support the Party. In fact, they don’t care for this Party one bit. They support a person, not a cause.
But let me stop there. Since all of this is before the courts, it falls to me to find a different topic to write about. I must admit that there is little else on my mind beyond the 2011 Local Government Elections and the strength of the IFP to contest those elections.
I noted with interest that the citizens of Brazil, who have now elected their first female President, are obliged by law to vote. Even so, Brazil experienced around 20% voter absenteeism. This reflects a human inclination that political parties throughout the world battle against. How do we stir up people to vote; particularly at local government level?
I am always amazed that so many South Africans fail to exercise their right to vote on election days. Particularly when I consider the years of struggle, the pain and the lives my generation gave to secure political enfranchisement. I do realize that, for many people, getting to the polling stations is an undue hardship and the queues can be torturous.
In this respect, I must commend the Independent Electoral Commission for its continued efforts to streamline the voting process and make voting stations efficient. But I think there is more we can do to advertise the fact that local government elections are just as important, if not more important, than national elections.
At local government level, you elect the people you will call upon when a road needs to be built, or a school needs support, or a clinic is understaffed. These are the people who will interact with you on the everyday issues of life. They are not distant and uninvolved policy makers; but neighbours with influence and authority.
Local government elections are the opportunity for voters to effect change that is immediate and real. Even if you only vote to express your dissatisfaction with the status quo, it is a valuable vote. I hope that in
2011 South Africans will speak through the ballot box. For your silence may be misinterpreted as acquiescence.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP.