Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In terms of South Africa's Constitution, "every child has the right not to be required or permitted to provide services that place at risk the child's well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development."
That right was trampled this week when members of the Congress of South African Students stormed into classrooms in Thokoza and demanded that learners go to Johannesburg. Without parental consent or knowledge, education was disrupted and learners were bussed to Luthuli House to swell the numbers outside Mr Julius Malema's disciplinary hearing.
The learners' physical safety was placed in jeopardy as ANC Youth League members became violent, attacking journalists, damaging property, burning ANC flags and looting stall holders. Police responded with rubber bullets and water cannons. In the midst of this, the learners - both boys and girls - were unsupervised and unprotected.
This is a recipe for disaster. As a father and a grandfather, I would have been furious to discover that my daughter was not in school where I believed her to be, but rather on the streets of Johannesburg in the middle of a large and volatile crowd of strangers. And not because she chose to be there, nor because I agreed that she could, but because she had been intimidated in her classroom and no teacher or principal had intervened on her behalf.
The disruption to education for the sake of ANC Youth League leaders, whether forced upon learners or due to truancy, is unacceptable. Let us not kid ourselves and say that learners should be applauded for standing up for a cause. Servicing Mr Malema's ego or sending a message of bravado to the ANC is not on par with protesting for child rights or for service delivery.
This is not a noble cause.
But even if it were, political action that involves children should never compromise their education or physical safety.
The ANC is reaping a culture it created decades ago, when its mission-in-exile urged students to burn their schools and textbooks in protest of the degradations of apartheid. They chanted, "Liberation First, Education Later."
Inkatha met that call with the exhortation, "Education For Liberation", and demanded that our youth stay in school, work hard, and learn how to liberate their minds from the ignorance that breeds chaos. While schools across the country were burning, schools in KwaZulu opened on time.
I was vilified for this principled approach, but I knew we were creating a culture that would survive far into our democratic future. What we taught our youth to do then, would be what they did in a liberated South Africa.
Thus, when young people burn flags and images of our country's President, the political commentators should not assume that they were taught this behaviour on the road to Polokwane. Rather it has been part of the ANC's culture since apartheid, since the call to make South Africa ungovernable, since the first ANC youths were called "young lions with iron in their heart" for being willing to kill for the ANC.
Let us not perpetuate this culture into the next generation. I urge COSAS and the ANC Youth League to get our learners back to school.
What kind of society are we creating when the ruling Party's Youth League publicly defaces images of the President? When Mr Malema addressed the crowd on Tuesday, he hinted that the violent incidents of the day were perpetrated by agents provocateur, much to the amusement of the media who recalled the press briefing in which he called a reporter "a bloody agent".
But Mr Malema did nothing to silence nor correct the crowd when they began chanting "Zuma, Zuma, Zuma" when he pointed out that they should be targeting the real enemy, and not the press. Indeed, throughout the day some youths were heard singing, "Zuma is as much a factory fault as Buthelezi", building on Mr Malema's insult that I am a factory fault of the ANC.
I shall not pontificate over the possible outcome of the disciplinary hearing, for I have said before that the ANC's internal party matters are for the ANC to sort out. If only the ANC Youth League had the maturity to do the same, instead of dragging my name into their own problems.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Liezl van der Merwe
Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
on 082 729 2510