Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As the dust settles after last week's Local Government Elections, it was good to be brought together again today in a Joint Sitting of Parliament to celebrate an event that emphasizes our unity.
Africa Day reminds us to lift our eyes from local issues to regain a wider perspective. It encourages us to look beyond our differences, which have been so keenly focused on in the last few weeks, to see our commonality; our shared identity as sons and daughters of Africa.
It is right and fitting for our national Parliament to lead the debate on what unites us on this continent and what role we, as South Africans, can play in the success of Africa. Success in Africa relies on our ability to create peace, foster sustainable development and enable true democracy to flourish.
South Africa's position as the economic powerhouse of our continent places on us a unique responsibility to support the success of our neighbours, both near and far, and to ensure that our policies are never detrimental to the peace and prosperity of others.
I have spoken in Parliament before about the damage we are doing through our Government's policy of quiet diplomacy. Our continued silence on Zimbabwe has made us somehow complicit in our neighbour's woes.
Likewise, our Government was slow to speak out on the crisis in Libya, while the international world was swift to react and engage the problem. I struggle to accept the anomaly of the international response to Libya as compared to the enduring inertia towards Zimbabwe.
We know that there are debts to pay, some of which remain from our troubled past and some which are more recent. Some question the ruling Party's choice of friends. But the real issue is the responsibility that rests on friends to step in and get involved when a wrong course of action is taken.
I do not think South Africa could be seen as interfering, when we on this continent have a long and shared history of struggle for freedom.
It does not enhance solidarity to remain silent when one of us falls.
Indeed, it breaks solidarity to say that a government can rule our fellow Africans in whatever way it pleases, while we all turn and look the other way.
I acknowledge that there is a sense among our neighbours that South Africa could easily move from being Big Brother to being a bully, and even the role of Big Brother is resented to some extent. But that does not absolve us from our responsibility of offering leadership. Indeed, it compounds our responsibility, demanding our vigilance against our own arrogance and self-interest.
South Africa is part of Africa. Indeed, we must applaud President Mandela's Cabinet, in that when it adopted our national anthem, we eschewed saying "Nkosi Sikelel'i South Afrika, rather saying "Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika.
Our borders are porous and the dynamics that move people into and out of our country are many and complex. At any one time, we host millions of Africans of other nationalities, benefitting from their presence, their skills and their culture. Yet we see them as foreigners, rather than friends.
When I was the Minister of Home Affairs during the first ten years of our democracy, my Department was confronted with the inadequacies of migration legislation that was forged in the crucible of apartheid.
Our migration policy reflected our isolationism, referring to foreign nationals as "aliens" and "illegal aliens". This captures the mindset we were mandated to change.
But a legislative transformation, although ponderous, is faster by far than a transformation of mindset. Even now, 17 years into democracy, and recognizing our shared African-ness, South Africa still struggles with xenophobia.
I am pleased that part of this year's celebration of Africa Day is a campaign to redress xenophobia within our communities. It is a campaign I launched more than a decade ago as the Minister of Home Affairs; and one that must still be pursued with vigour.
On behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party, I am proud to support Africa Day. Our country is uniquely positioned to be a leader on our continent. The time has never been more ripe for a national debate on the quality of our leadership.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Liaison Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP. 082 729 2510.