Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last Sunday evening, as the leader of the IFP, I participated in a moderated live debate about the political climate ahead of the general election with the leaders and representatives of the ANC, COPE, DA, IFP and UDM on SABC 2. A panel of analysts also participated and we took questions from members of the audience.
A recurring theme of the debate and questions posed by members of the audience was the need to avert pre-election violence and acts of intimidation. Last October the Independent Electoral Commission warned that there were signs of violence emerging ahead of this year's election. Independent in an online poll asked readers: "Do you predict countrywide pre-election violence?"
Of the 412 readers who responded to the poll, 58 percent (239 votes) said 'Yes', 35 percent (143 votes) said 'No' and 7 percent (30 votes) said 'Who cares?'. It is clear, even from this snap poll, that members of the public are concerned about the political climate.
All party leaders have paid notional lip service to a commitment to non-violence, but it is clear that not all parties have done enough to ensure that supporters at the grassroots level adhere to this commitment. There is a disjuncture between word and deed. The IFP and other parties have already asked what specific measures the Independent Electoral Commission will take to monitor and prevent political intimidation and violence in the run-up to the 2009 election. Our concerns have not yet been allayed.
In this febrile atmosphere, supporters of the ANC realise that, for the first time since 1994, its grip on power might be slipping. Some of its members and supporters have embarked on a campaign of ZanuPF-style intimidation and violence against their political opponents.
In my newsletter last month, I referred to the acrimony surrounding the launch of the Congress of the People (Cope) which, in my view, demonstrated, we still have far to go to place non-racialism and a genuine respect of diversity (including political choice) at the heart of our public discourse. You will recall how it was the ANC Youth League that led the verbal assault, labelling the leaders of the new political formation as "traitors" and "snakes".
And then last week, one of the IFP youth brigade leaders, Mr Bonginkosi Dube, 27, was murdered. A member of the ANC has confessed that the murder was politically motivated. I cannot but fear a return to the violence of the not so recent past.
On 29 January 1991, a joint ANC/IFP communiqué to end the "killing talk" went unheeded. Despite the establishment of a monitoring committee and joint accord to end the violence between supporters of the ANC and IFP, four hundred people were killed alone in the following three months as the reprisals and vendettas exacted their bloody toil. We must never let this happen again.
Without pointing fingers or apportioning blame – for we all share a responsibility to ensure that the elections are truly "free and fair" – I call upon all parties to act now against rogue elements in their membership. Those who do not adhere to the basis principles of democracy, free assembly and free speech must be strictly disciplined. Prevention is always better than cure. Let us act now.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 555 7144