Inaugural National Dialogue Of The National Foundations Dialogue Initiative
“Why Does South Africa Need A National Dialogue?
A Call To The Nation”
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
We are privileged this morning to receive the wisdom of our former Deputy President Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former President Thabo Mbeki, and former President FW de Klerk. It is difficult to imagine a more authoritative introduction to the state of our country.
As we engage this inaugural dialogue, I am pleased to support the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative. It has had what one might call an auspicious birth, for its parents are all protagonists in the narrative of democracy, and it comes at a particularly important time.
South Africa has reached a crossroads, economically, politically and socially. We cannot move blindly into the future, accepting the present trajectory as fixed. It is not. We are, after all, masters of our own destiny. We can change course; which means that we can, as the NFDI’s motto says, reclaim the South Africa of our dreams.
The Foundations behind this Initiative certainly represent a diversity of ideologies, which is good. But they also share a common goal of equipping South Africans to solve our present problems non-violently, through dialogue. And that is even better.
I have been a champion of negotiations and non-violence for several decades. My convictions in this regard were cemented in conversations with Inkosi Albert Luthuli when I was a young man, just out of university.
My commitment to inclusive dialogue, where everyone is brought to the negotiating table, is particularly well-known by former President de Klerk. He will recall my refusal to negotiate bilaterally and my firm precondition that Mandela be released before real dialogue could begin.
Mrs Helen Suzman, a dear and trusted friend, also knew my commitment to dialogue; even when talking to people was, in her words “too dangerous”. I remember her asking me not to go to Soweto during the 1976 unrest. The Police Commissioner himself had ordered me not to go. But to me, dialogue is imperative. When we stop talking to each other, violence starts.
I remember when I was in the ANC Youth League, at Fort Hare, our Chairperson, Mr Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, warned us that “a doctrine of hate can never take people anywhere”. We must attempt to understand one another, and that requires speaking and listening.
Indeed, dialogue is not just about having a voice and expressing a view. It’s also about listening.
Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles we face at present is the apparent deafness of many of our country’s leaders. They are no longer attuned to the cry of the nation. They don’t want to listen.
Because of this, citizens are turning up the volume, through marches, protests, movements and, ever so slowly, through the ballot box. While this is inherently necessary, it also holds certain risks.
The greatest risk in rising social upheaval is, of course, violence. We must guard against a subtle turning from the goal of building a better, stronger and more equal nation, to the goal of simply destroying perceived enemies.
I appreciate the long-term perspective taken by the NFDI. We must ask ourselves how we can secure a future in which constitutional democracy is strengthened, our people are more united, our society is more equal and our economy thrives.
We can only answer that question through dialogue. Talking and listening. These are the foundations of nation building.