MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Whilst I was in London last week, the political drama of Tony Blair's imminent departure was unfolding. Newspapers and television programmes were full of in-depth analysis and comment evaluating the record of this most talented man who is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest political communicators of our time.
It was therefore no surprise that Mr Blair himself has been busy giving a number of valedictory speeches and interviews. One really struck me.
He candidly spoke of how, in the early years of his premiership, he did not realise the importance of the key role of the family; and more specifically, the importance of the family in inculcating a culture of respect amongst young people to fight lawlessness.
And, responding to one of Mr Blair's cabinet colleague's speeches, one of the tabloids last week had the word "Respect" splashed across its front-page. This was in response to anti-social behaviour which is blighting the quality of community life in Britain, especially in the country's more deprived or disadvantaged communities. Disruptive behaviour, drug-peddling, vandalism and group intimidation in public spaces are some of the manifestations.
The challenges that South Africa faces are, of course, quite different from those of the United Kingdom. The need for a "respect agenda", despite our vastly different circumstances, is one that we share. I would like to take this opportunity to propose that we inculcate our own respect agenda in South Africa, one that is boldly championed by government but led from the community upwards.
I suggested to Parliament, during the State of the Nation debate earlier this year, that "at a deeper level, we need to go back to basics and inculcate a respect agenda amongst our youth". "A transforming society", I said, "need not be an uncivilised society. The seeds of crime and lawlessness are often sown at a young age. We must bring back a sense of respect in our schools, communities, townships and cities."
There is no doubt that anti-social behaviour ruins lives. In the case of the insults hurled at the President during the celebration of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of Satyagraha or the interment of the late Moses Mabhida, our democratic process itself is brought into question. This behaviour, I lamented at the time, is alien to our African culture which has always been rooted in a strong sense of respect. This is not a nostalgic backwards glance; it has regulated our society for generations.
Nor should we be surprised that crime can take hold when we consider the widespread rioting in Khutsong and Phumela municipalities or the vandalism and strife during the SATAWU strike in Cape Town. Anti-social behaviour, as Khutsong illustrates, can prevent the renewal of disadvantaged areas.
In last month's CDE Focus publication, Voices of Anger, it was reported that the scale and intensity of the unrest in Khutsong allowed very little service delivery to take place. Service delivery deteriorated when municipal officers could not enter the area to maintain infrastructure. All payment points were burnt down and all community projects came to a standstill. The impact on local business was equally catastrophic. In late 2005, Eskom provided electricity to 126 small and medium-sized businesses in Khutsong. By June 2006, this number had decreased to 35.
Whilst policy-makers must interrogate the interrelated issues of unresponsive bureaucrats and poor governance, public discord about their town's provincial incorporation to the interplay between national, local and provincial government, the breakdown of respect is, perhaps, the most alarming and pressing policy challenge.
Rioters' concerns might be legitimate, but their practices never are. Our fragile democracy, which will be tested as never before by the looming succession in the ruling-party, requires the active promotion of respect across society.
I would suggest the creation of a government-sponsored interdepartmental respect programme, spearheaded by the President. A respected (excuse the pun) respect tsar could coordinate and lead the programme. Local communities, non-governmental organisations, the police and the three tiers of government need to work together to nurture and, where needed, enforce a culture of respect. When I was Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I ensured that classes in ubuntu were incorporated into our children's curriculum. From an early age, children need to learn the values of tolerance, acceptance, consideration and showing humanity towards the people around them. Should we not have dedicated respect classes?
At the level of local government, we need to strengthen communities by promoting an ongoing dialogue between local people and local services. In addition to decentralising the police service, neighbourhood policing provides a major opportunity to bring the police, local authorities and public closer together.
Where neighbourhood policing has been rolled out in the UK, public outcry about anti-social behaviour has receded and confidence in the police has risen. The success of the programme has been based upon the notion that it listens and responds to local problems. Such an approach in South Africa would be timely.
I believe success in inculcating a modern culture of respect could lay the foundations of success in so many other aspects of our nation's life. Not everything is a question of resources and wealth. Let us not be a nation that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP