The Sunday Times
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Last month Onkgopotse Tabane pontificated about African politics and South African leaders, drawing an absurd comparison between IFP President Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the UCDP’s Mr Lucas Mangope and some of Africa’s dictators.
Denying the record of history, Tabane claims Buthelezi and Mangope played “horrendous roles” during apartheid. Strange, then, that Presidents Mbeki, Motlanthe and Zuma have paid public tribute to Buthelezi’s role in our liberation struggle and the birth of democracy. Strange, too, former President de Klerk’s admission to the TRC that Buthelezi’s rejection of independence for KwaZulu toppled the grand scheme of apartheid.
Tabane then claims that the IFP and UCDP “(sit) in the back benches of legislatures not being taken seriously”. But of the 21 seats held by the nine smaller opposition parties in Parliament, 18 belong to the IFP. It is the fourth largest political party in South Africa and the Official Opposition in KwaZulu Natal, where it controls the majority of municipalities.
Complaining of Buthelezi’s age, Tabane argues that the “entire world is moving to younger leaders”. That does not make it necessarily wise or beneficial to shed leaders of integrity and experience. Buthelezi’s indispensible leadership qualities have stood the test of time and are still sorely needed.
Unlike a dictator, he is neither corrupt nor power hungry, but has served at the behest of his supporters, who have twice unanimously refused his intention to retire. It is said that power should never be given to those who seek it. Buthelezi is unique; for rather than seeking to lead, he has chosen to serve.
A true critique of South African politics would have noted that opposition politics is on unsteady ground. If Cope and the IFP both fail, the opposition will lose almost 12 percent of voter support. The balance of power will irreversibly swing to the ANC, giving it the power to do as it pleases; even change the Constitution. Our democracy will be dead and buried.
The proliferation of smaller parties is not a good sign. But neither is baseless criticism of established leaders.