The New Age
Via email: [email protected]
REPLY TO DR STEVEN FRIEDMAN
BY DR BV MTHETHWA
ACTING NATIONAL CHAIRPERSON OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
In your 9 June edition, Dr Steven Friedman recognized the vital contribution of the IFP and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in securing democracy. His accolades could have extended post-1994 on issues like HIV/Aids, labour legislation, traditional leadership, migration, education and industrial development.
On the other hand, he then makes the statement that the IFP is bound to an exclusively rural constituency and dedicated to serving rural interests exclusively. From this assumption it draws the conclusion that our role will be diminishing as, in his opinion, rural constituencies become increasingly more urbanized. He then drew the further conclusion that whether Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi leave the IFP or not it will not matter because the IFP itself will increasingly become less relevant on account of people being less interested in pursuing a traditionalist or rural agenda.
How does he not see the contradiction in his argument? Everything we have done in the past 35 years, the very things he has listed, are not at all specific to rural constituencies but are in the greater interest of South Africa as a whole. I do not think anyone can identify in anything the IFP has ever espoused or advocated something which would be limited to the interest of Zulu people in general or rural Zulus in particular.
For example, in the 1980s Prince Buthelezi established the Buthelezi Commission, which set the basis for the KwaZulu Natal Indaba of 1986 in which the representatives of the people of our country, from all race and ethnic groups, came together to work towards bring about social, economic and political justice. These joint efforts were in total defiance of both the laws and the culture of apartheid, and yet they were so forceful that the apartheid regime was unable to stop the formation of the KwaZulu Natal Joint Executive Authority, which was the first interracial government of South Africa.
All these achievements were in the greater interests of South Africa as a whole, not the limited interests of a few, and all were accomplished on the strength of Prince Buthelezi’s leadership. Strange then is Dr Friedman’s conclusion that his continued leadership is irrelevant and that the IFP will continue to shrink regardless.
The IFP will be no less relevant in the future than we have been in the past, for our relevance is not based on size, but moral authority. We have been at the forefront of recent parliamentary battles ranging from our opposition to secrecy legislation to the point of threatening a filibuster, to many court applications challenging the constitutionality or legality of actions of Parliament and Government.
Based on the electoral result, our role of opposition is bound to increase. Indeed, the best is yet to come as far as showing the IFP’s capacity to provide moral leadership in a country that has lost its moral compass.
Democracy and the very notion of an independent and impartial state are disintegrating under corruption, inefficiency and the crumbling divide between the ruling party and the State apparatus. The government machinery is reducing itself to a waffling circus of pretence, incompetence and deception, which has betrayed the spirit and objectives of our liberation struggle.
At this time of national crisis it is not our role to be popular; it is our duty to be right. No one sets that standard higher than Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The IFP is set to become a radically democratic party engaged in a new struggle for the rule of law, democracy and integrity; no holds barred.
Within this critical mandate, how and when Prince Buthelezi leaves the leadership of the IFP matters a great deal. As the founder of the IFP, he is the originator and custodian of the dream. Unlike other leaders, he was not made by the IFP, but was already a force in the country with an established support-base when he founded Inkatha. Hence surveys have proven that he is more popular than the party and most people who are the die-hard members and supporters of the IFP do so because they support him as a person.
The timing of his exit will depend on the stability of the IFP. In the end, the rank and file will decide when it is time to hand over the reins. Twice Prince Buthelezi announced his intention to retire and twice the rank and file begged him to stay.
Then, in 2008, Prince Buthelezi announced he would retire at the next Conference. Fearing his continued overwhelming support, a few agitators began poisoning the IFP from within, with the aim of foisting their own candidate on the Party. The ensuing ructions prompted National Council to again plead with Prince Buthelezi not to leave until stability had been restored. This was echoed by IFP structures, including the Youth and Women’s Brigades and SADESMO.
The IFP owes its survival to Prince Buthelezi, and its revival will come on the strength of his legacy. In its first ten years, Inkatha was the largest liberation movement in the history of South Africa with support throughout the country. But after the IFP’s ideological split from the ANC in 1979, a campaign of isolation and demonization of Prince Buthelezi and Inkatha gained ascendancy, climaxing in fierce conflicts and violence. Millions were spent on trying to destroy the indestructible Buthelezi. As President Nelson Mandela himself admitted in April of 2002, "We have used every ammunition to destroy him, but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him."
The flow of money into this campaign did not stop in 1994. Dr Ziba Jiyane received assistance from the ANC to form NADECO, just as the formation of the NFP was bankrolled by some senior ANC leaders. Greedy ambition forced some leaders out of the IFP before their time. The late Dr Oscar Dhlomo was not one of them. He would not have destabilized and divided the IFP for the sake of leading it.
The IFP has survived treachery. We have survived in competition with the vast resources and international networks enjoyed by the oldest liberation movement in Africa. We have survived a hostile media. We will survive the electoral result because we are good at opposition politics. And we will survive the exit of Prince Buthelezi because his legacy will continue.
So Dr Friedman is right to praise the contribution of the IFP and Prince Buthelezi. He is right to acknowledge our role in the liberation struggle and how we caused the demise of apartheid by refusing to take independence for KwaZulu and refusing to negotiate a democratic constitution bilaterally with the National Party. He is right to applaud our vital role in the constitution-making process, where we single-handedly succeeded in securing provinces for South Africa after the National Party and the ANC had agreed to have none.
But Dr Friedman is dead wrong to assume the IFP’s role will diminish in the years ahead, with or without Prince Buthelezi’s leadership. While he remains, our role will keep evolving towards opposition. And when he leaves, his legacy will inspire us from strength to strength.