Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
On 27 April 1994, millions of South Africans voted for the first time. They had waited for generations for this opportunity, steadfastly clinging to the hope that it would be achieved in their own lifetime. It was a moment of jubilance, a moment of solemnity and a time of overwhelming enthusiasm for what was to come.
It was their first vote. But inexplicably, for some, it was their last.
Despite having struggled with such courage, in the direst of circumstances, to achieve the right to vote, they stayed away from the polls in 1999, 2004 and 2009. For twenty years they have forfeited their power and their voice to a leadership that in most cases has drastically changed and in some cases no longer exists.
It is difficult to understand why, and one can only speculate. Is it a case of misunderstanding civic responsibility? Is it despondency? Apathy? Or the conviction that whoever they voted for in 1994 knows better than they do and should just be allowed to keep leading?
The political landscape has changed since 1994 and the party that took the helm is almost unrecognisable when compared to its former self. The leadership of today is a far cry from the leadership of Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu and Luthuli. Dignity has shuffled out of politics, following the quiet exit of integrity.
There is likely no South African who would proffer the view that all is well in our nation. We have seen the broken promises and the endless scandals. We have seen the rape of babies and old women. We have witnessed Marikana, Nkandla and the decay of genuine democracy as leaders are not held to the standard of honesty or legality.
The list of troubles plaguing our nation is long, and we have all heard it enough times to balk at the idea of talking about it again in the absence of solutions and hope.
But I believe there is hope, and there are solutions, and it is time to talk about this. The IFP is carrying a message, as we approach the 2014 elections, that resonates with every South African. For almost forty years we have been talking to the people of goodwill and encouraging them to rise up and drive a new revolution in our country.
This is not a revolution built on criticism or lawlessness or the radical overthrow of governance. It is a revolution of goodwill, intended to resurrect the spirit of ubuntu botho in our nation and reinstate integrity in leadership and the rule of law in every sphere of society.
The IFP has a vision for a different South Africa; one in which everyone can make their contribution and find their role, and one in which every individual is respected and afforded dignity. My Party is pursuing that vision relentlessly, but we understand that it can only be created in partnership with the electorate.
It is up to the electorate to give a mandate to those who stand for election and to empower the party that carries a message they can believe and has a vision they can run with.
It is therefore critical at this stage of South Africa’s journey that the voters of 1994 return to the ballot box in 2014 and elect a new leadership for our country.
I was surprised by an IPSOS survey towards the end of last year that asked anyone over the age of 18 who they would vote for in 2014. 7% of respondents said they would not vote. Ahead of the last elections, that number was 2%.
Why are an increasing number of South Africans who are eligible to vote choosing not to?
A further 5% responded that they did not know which party they would vote for; they are, as yet, undecided. 1% is not registered to vote.
It is interesting to note that if all those who intend to stay away from the polls joined all those who are undecided or unregistered, they could form one of the largest parties in South Africa. So the argument that keeps many away – that one vote can’t make a difference – is clearly flawed.
One vote can make a fundamental difference.
I therefore want to encourage those who have not yet registered to vote to visit their voting station this weekend, and register. At least give yourself the option of voting in the next election. If you don’t register now, you will forfeit your right to vote before the election has even happened.
This weekend is the final Voter Registration Weekend of the IEC. This weekend, the IEC is coming to you. I invite you to make an event of it.
Bring your family and friends, and tell your neighbours to come along. Let’s give this moment the spotlight it deserves. For this is the moment of preparation before we, as South Africans, change the course of our country.
I want to make an offer to all those who are apathetic or undecided, or just plain angry. Come to the IFP. Choose a different solution, a constructive opposition. Choose a party that will get things done, with integrity.
Ours is a leadership you can trust, and we may be the only party that has not changed its heart, or identity, since 1994. We are still in it to serve and we are still the party driving a revolution of goodwill. I hope you will join us.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP