The ANC in general and the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee on Constitutional Affairs have engaged in an active campaign of misinformation and untruths. Since the beginning of the constitution-drafting process in KwaZulu-Natal, the IFP made it clear that we would not be part of a process which is not all inclusive, is manipulated and shortcuts public inputs, participation and debate. I advised the media to go back to all our past statements and position papers on the matter to see how consistent we have been on this point.

Time and again we have seen this type of manipulation at work and objected to it, but to no avail. We objected to the instruction given to the panel of experts which, against the experts' own best judgement, was forced to work in isolation and outside the usual parameters of submission from, and interaction with, the parties concerned. This is a clear example of how he who controls or manipulates the process, will determine its outcome. In fact, the Report of the panel is very clear in stressing both in its introductory paragraph three, and in its conclusions as well as in seventeen other places in its midst, that the experts were forced to adopt an extraordinary and cautionary approach exactly because they were forced to work in isolation and with no submissions.

Therefore, the IFP made it clear that in order to have an all inclusive constitution, which is negotiated on a level playing field, it is essential that the same two thirds majority required to adopt a constitution should be employed to make any significant process decision. The ANC rejected this approach and instead undertook to resort to a campaign of lies and vilification. It is a clear repeat performance of the World Trade Centre negotiations in which the notion of "sufficient consensus" did not require the IFP's contribution, and when we were sidelined we became the object of vilifications aimed at portraying us as the spoilers and the fly in the proverbial ointment.

The ANC's repeating such a strategy became clear when Mr Xaba, Chairman of the Portfolio Committee dishonoured a previous agreement that all members of the Royal House would be offered an opportunity to present their views. With no justification, he stopped a group of Senior members of the Royal House from submitting their viewpoints on April 6, during the hearing organised to receive His Majesty's input. He then refused to schedule for them another opportunity to be heard. In this week's Mail &Guardian he justifies such an autocratic decision by arguing that such members of the Royal House "are drawn largely from IFP ranks" and sought to put forward "an alternative view to the one presented by the King". Such statements, if correctly reported, are indeed self-incriminating as the Chairman is indeed saying that he has abused and usurped his powers as a Chairman to prevent a specific view to be heard and acquired to the process, because such view did not suit his political party. There could not be a clearer example of manipulation.

Mr Xaba has also gone out on a campaign of vilification based on untruths. The same article in the Mail & Guardian reports his statement that the panel of experts "ruled that 80% of the IFP constitution is unconstitutional". If correctly reported, this statement is an outright lie. In the first place, the panel did not rule anything as it made it clear time and again that its report is incomplete because it did not receive the benefit of submissions, and upon receiving party submissions it would be revisited.

In the second place, it is absolutely not true that the Report takes exception to 80% of the IFP Constitution. In fact, even the concerns expressed in the Report affect only a marginal portion of the IFP draft constitution. Because of the IFP's pressures and demands it was agreed that parties would have the opportunity of submitting responses to the Report by Friday last week. In its response, the IFP addressed or responded to all the concerns raised by the panel in their Report. We feel confident that in the dialogue with the experts, consideration will be given to our arguments which support the constitutionality of our proposals.

Only in one respect have we indicated we would be abiding by the advice given by the experts in their Report and change the text of our proposal, namely in respect of our proposed House of Representatives which the panel suggest be provided with consultative rather than deliberative powers. We indicated that we accept, in principle, such a suggestion but wish to interact further with the experts on this matter. Therefore, Mr Xaba's statement is not only out of order and unbecoming of somebody in his position, but it is also an untruth.

It is obvious that his behaviour is not longer dictated by any rule of decency and that he has become unfit to maintain the office of Chairman of the Ad-hoc Portfolio Committee. In fact, even before our answer to the Report of the panel of experts could be delivered to and read by the experts themselves, and the other political parties, Mr Xaba leaked a copy of our submission to certain members of the media giving to it a negative connotation.

This follows on the distribution by his Committee and under his auspices of a mysterious document which purports to be a base document for negotiations amongst parties and purports to collate all parties' proposals. In fact, for no reason, big chunks of the IFP proposals were omitted from such document and the framework it used in such document is totally inadequate and serves only the purposes of the ANC's minimalist approach to constitution-making. Moreover, this document jumped the gun and effectively shortcuts full discussions on the issue of legalities raised in the Report of the panel of experts. We did not agree for such a document to be compiled at this juncture.

All this proves that the process is being manipulated. The IFP wishes to be part of a real process of constitution-drafting, not a mockery. It urges the ANC to engage in party to party discussion with us to ensure that the chairmanship of the committee pays equal respect to all participants, to which end it must be replaced and that all process decisions are adopted with the same majority required for the adoption of a constitution.

The same rule applies in all other committees where process decisions are taken with the same majority required to pass a Bill. We exhort the media to understand the real facts of the matter and resist ANC pressures to portray us as the spoilers. It is enough for the ANC to manipulate the process. They should not manipulate the media and the public as well. They have pushed us out deliberately and are trying to sideline our inputs to ensure that once placed in a bad light we may be forced to agree to what they want. They have misread the IFP and I hope that your attention to the true facts of the matter may prove that they have also underestimated your capacity to report truthfully.

Contact: Dr Lionel Mtshali, 083 256 4902