UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND
PRESIDENT, INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
OLIVE SCHREINER SCHOOL OF LAW, JOHANNESBURG OCTOBER 8, 2002
It gives me great pleasure to once again be amongst students. My political life began as a student at Fort Hare University. In fact, it was because of my commitment in politics and mobilisation for the liberation struggle, that I was rusticated from that University. Since then, I have been in politics for almost half a century, carrying the burden of the responsibility of government at the highest levels. I have endured a long and arduous journey in which I have had to make difficult decisions which have had a significant bearing on the shaping of our country. I thank God Almighty for having inspired me to make the decisions which, with the benefit of hindsight, have turned out to be the right ones.
Yet throughout this journey, I never left my point of origin, which was within the crucible of student politics. It is at the time of student politics that one shapes not only one’s outlook on life, but the nature and features of the fundamental commitments which will take one through the rest of life. Some people forget those original commitments. Some people forget the idealistic enthusiasm, the principled righteousness and the intellectual motivation which drives us when we are students. That is indeed one of the worst crimes that a man can commit against himself. Wordsworth once said that the child is the father of the man. If that is the case, I am almost tempted to paraphrase by saying that the politically active student is the father of a politician of integrity.
I felt I had to express this premise to what I have to tell you today, because I wish to underscore the importance which I ascribe to your applying your minds to public policy issues. I wish to urge you to become involved. Do not sit on the sidelines. Public policy issues are your issues and the country is only going to be as good or as bad as your participation in public affairs will enable it to be. Shape your opinions at this juncture, when your mind is inspired by a strength of spirit which only the youth possesses. Hold on to your convictions, because without them a man is nothing but debris carried up and down on the waves of turbulent daily events and circumstances.
In my youth, I committed myself to the original principles of the founders of the African National Congress, which were based on non-violence, negotiations and the type of struggle for liberation based on the seizing and maintenance of the moral high ground and the pursuance of a long-term goal of transformation in South Africa. I remained faithful to that dream, which I still hold, in the hope that one day the whole of South Africa will be able to enjoy the type of progress, social development, economic prosperity and social stability which were once the exclusive prerogative of a privileged ruling minority. Let us make no mistake: the new South Africa is still to come, and my dream for it is that of a country which is at the forefront of human progress, civilisation and awareness.
I dream of a country which has overcome its internal social imbalances, having developed the areas which were bypassed by development during the apartheid era, as well as the people who during that period were not able to receive the training, education, knowledge and exposure which enables people to grow and develop into the full measure of maturity which has now been achieved in the most advanced segments of mankind. I also dream of a society which is caring, nourishing of all its members, gentle with its people and tolerant of any view, religion, style of life and form of individual and collective expression. I dream of a genuine flourishing of an African civilisation which excels and equals all others.
To me, the notion of an African Renaissance is not about going backwards, but indeed about trying to set in place an accelerated process of human development, economic growth and social upliftment which can build the premises on which a future African civilisation can be based. As I say this, I wish to stress that I talk about South Africa. I am not oblivious to the responsibilities we have towards the rest of the continent, nor of our being an important part of the hopes and aspirations of our continent. I fully endorse the dream of a continental dimension to development, as embodied in NEPAD. However, as those dreams may develop and unfold, I feel that we should not allow South Africa to miss the opportunities for growth which it might have above and ahead of those offered to any other country on our continent, simply because we feel that we have to walk at the same pace which our brothers and sisters in Africa may maintain or are willing to endure.
Ours is a special country. I love South Africa and to that love I have dedicated my entire existence. Because I love South Africa, I know that we must move at a much faster pace than anyone else may be willing to endure. Ours is a very special country. We have achieved a type of democracy which is not present in many other regions of the continent. We are enriched by the plurality of ethnic components, ways of life, religious outlooks and social dynamics which we must all recognise and allow to be expressed on an equal standing, so that together they may provide their respective contribution towards the forging of something which has not yet been seen anywhere else on the continent.
We have economic, industrial, physical and intellectual infrastructures which have no equal in the rest of the continent, and this University is one of them. It is not a matter of being egotistical. It is a matter of recognising that because we have greater opportunities and larger assets, we have the responsibility to do more with them, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the rest of the continent. We must accept the discipline and the sacrifice of enduring a hard journey ahead, on an uphill path and at a very fast pace. We need to provide the country with a credible and legitimate leadership which can motivate it towards taking this direction, and maintaining and enduring the difficulties it will involve.
The notion I am suggesting is that of leap-frogging from a past of under-development, to a future of advanced development. I have often spoken in Parliament of leap-frogging and, while the concept has captured some interest and prompted some hilarity, as people mock a man of my age trying to mimic a jumping frog, the truth of the matter is that the notion has not opened new horizons of imagination for many of my parliamentary colleagues. I suspect that when people have achieved status, a position in life and a role in society, they tend to be less daring and forget the imperative mission of anyone who takes it upon themselves to walk the corridors of politics; which is the duty of continuing to dream the dream.
For this reason, I firmly believe that in South Africa we need the intellectual leadership which only young people can provide. We need young people to forge the dream which can carry us towards our rendezvous with the destiny of prosperity. Economic prosperity and social stability will not happen by themselves, and the chances are that we are already set on a course for that target to be missed. Let us make no mistake: things are not going well. Unemployment has grown beyond measure. Crime is rampant. The economy has not grown and developed at the rate expected by GEAR, which in itself was not benchmarked on any notion of leap-frogging. GEAR was based on the notion of keeping the country plodding along the way it has thus far, while being able to generate a sufficient amount of wealth barely capable of financing the social programmes presently undertaken. GEAR reflected no notion of leap-frogging by which we could force the growth of the economy at a much faster pace and raise much greater resources to finance social programmes in a context where we can no longer wait to redress the plight of millions of our people who are suffering and who live in abject and degrading social and economic conditions.
We need to diffuse the powder keg on which we are sitting and which, I fear, has already been ignited. I do not know how long the fuse might be or how much longer it will take before the conflicts between rural and urban areas and the despair of the growing masses of urban proletariat which are pressurising our affluent communities, and many other contradictions present in our society, may remain under control. The fact is that the present situation is not sustainable and what we have in place does not have the capacity to redress it. Some people feel that these types of contradictions are endemic to a developing society in general and to an African country in particular, and we should just continue to plod along because that is the way the world goes. I find this view not only short-sighted, but indeed devoid of any love of country or pride.
We must believe that we can create in South Africa a country which is capable of solving these contradictions and which does not need to cope with crime, under-development, ignorance for lack of education and abject social and economic conditions as permanent and endemic features of its society. In a rapidly globalising world these types of disparities are no longer acceptable, even on an international basis. We can no longer accept pockets of under-development, despair, barbarism and dictatorship in the world because, as we saw on September 11th, it takes a small group of desperate people inspired by hatred and hate for democracy, progress and civilisation, to tear apart the entire fabric of an established and civilised society. The same consideration applies with much greater emphasis to the dynamics within any given country.
Technology is forcing the pace of development, creating an ever-increasing divide between those who are technologically clued up and those who end up segregated into being technologically clueless. We cannot even think of maintaining the country with large pockets of under-development, ignorance and poverty. This means that we must have a serious, credible and committed plan to develop the whole country and develop all its people within the next 25 years. This is a massive undertaking which cannot be the responsibility of government alone, but must cut across all segments of civil society. It must be promoted by government and must become a national priority. Leap-frogging from the past towards the future must become not only a slogan, but a mind-set which applies and controls life and dynamics within families, work-places and communities.
If one looks at the history of mankind’s change and progress, it can be seen how in the past 200 years most revolutions have been promoted and conceived on university campuses. Dreams must originate with the thinking young people. For this reason, whenever I speak on university campuses, I urge young people such as yourselves to become the promoters of a revolution of goodwill, predicated on your taking a direct interest in what the country will be like in 25 years, and conceiving a dream which can fulfil your expectations. The ideology of communism has finally been discredited throughout the world and has proven to be the source of the greatest human sufferings and oppression experienced during the 20th century. There are no short-cuts to fulfilled dreams. There is only an uphill and arduous march which requires a nation to become committed to work harder, grow faster, and become more productive and more competitive in trying to change.
Governments have few opportunities to make fundamental decisions which carry long-term consequences. I am on record as having stated in Parliament and in other public fora, that I feel our government has failed to make some of the right decisions when it had the opportunity. We should have lifted exchange controls in 1994. There is no reason why they are still in place. Since 1991, I have urged that we should walk the full measure of the path of privatisation. Privatisation should have taken place in a matter of months and not years, and should have involved each and every service, product or enterprise which can be handled by the private sector. Whenever I have spoken about privatisation, I often emphasised the need to couple it with the deregulation of the relevant market segments so as to increase economic efficiency and avoid handing over a public monopoly to a private operator.
The present debate on privatisation is somehow off the mark of the type of goals which I feel we ought to be pursuing, as it is limited to an extremely small number of assets to be partially and not entirely privatised in a process which does not bring about effective deregulation. We have also failed to promote competitiveness of our markets, including the labour market. The failure to create maximum flexibility within the labour market has created a sluggishness within our productive cycle and effectively reduced employment opportunities. It is a common misconception that flexibility in the labour market creates unemployment. Indeed, at the macro level it merely creates a better allocation of employment opportunities and ensures that all those who are employed are in the right jobs and may move from one to the other if they are not satisfied.
There are many other aspects of our macro-economic policy which should be considered if we are indeed pursuing a dream of accelerated growth and development. One of them which is germane to the venue which hosts us today as well as to the nature of your studies, is that of the rule of law. All citizens share the responsibility of ensuring that the rule of law is not only preserved, but indeed enhanced. However, you as law students today and as future law practitioners, have a special responsibility to protect and promote the rule of law. We should make no mistake: in our country the notion has not yet sunk in that the rule of law has substituted the rule of man. Too many of our people are still convinced that leaders are there to rule. The very notion of a state as an independent entity which provides services and benefits to its citizens, has not been fully accepted and recognised by the majority of South Africans. Too many of our people still believe that the services they receive are delivered to them by their leaders or politicians, instead of being something they are entitled to because of their relationship with the state.
The notion of state is essential to the working of democracy because it enables the majority of the people to see politicians for what they ought to be, namely administrators of a government machinery which needs to deliver to the best of its capacity, rather than providers of services themselves. One of the main difficulties in many African contexts is that people think that services are provided to them by those whom they elect, which makes it very difficult for minority parties to ever become the majority of the future, as the incumbents are seen as having provided to citizens everything they have received from the state, ranging from pensions to housing benefits and police services. There is a lot of work which needs to be done to consolidate the rule of law, not only within the dynamics of society, but first and foremost within the hearts and minds of the people.
We need to inculcate the notion that we ought to be ruled by law, not by man, and not only in respect of what government may or may not do, but also within the dynamics of the building blocks of our society. We need to transform power relations into legal relations in work-places and communities and, to a certain extent, even within the family context. The main unfinished agenda item of our fledgling democracy remains that of shaping our people into citizens who are aware of their rights and duties and understand their relationship with the law and the function of the law within their lives. As law students and future practitioners, you carry a special responsibility in this respect.
Just as the rule of law has not yet been fully consolidated in South Africa, we must accept that neither has the rule of democracy. In fact, the real test of democracy is not about holding an election which empowers a ruling majority. The real test of democracy comes when the ruling majority which was empowered through an original election comes under the threat of a minority which may become the majority of the future. The real test of democracy is whether a majority is willing to relinquish its power to a new majority, without changing the rules of the game or resorting to ways and means which do not comply with the fair rules and modalities which originally placed it in power. All democrats should ensure that South Africa indeed has the capacity to produce a democratic change. Without a democratic change, we will have no certainty that democracy has ever taken place.
Another essential element of democracy is that of ensuring that whoever is in power does not have the capacity to rule the whole country. Democracy is about limiting, and not granting, power. In our society there is a totalitarian subtle force at play which ought not to be ignored. There is a tendency for those who are in power to try to reach into and push their influence into the totality of social and economic phenomena of our country. A totalitarian government is one which, albeit democratic, controls or seeks to control the totality of phenomena in any given country. We need to put a halt to the tendency of a small circle of people controlling economic enterprises, NGOs, print and electronic media, ostensibly independent organs of the state which should perform the function of being a watchdog, and anything else which can be reached by deploying members of a ruling elite into the building blocks of our society. A real democratic society is one which is neither controlled nor owned by anyone, but which is kept in balance by the free interplay of dynamic forces in a plurality of interactions which take place under and in compliance with the rule of law. That is the type of society we should aim for.
Therefore, a democratic alternative is indispensable to stop the tendency to accumulate power in a ruling elite. For this reason, it is extremely valuable that whenever there is the opportunity, democrats should rise and challenge any attempt to depart from the rule of democracy and the rule of law. Democracy must be enhanced, not merely protected. Democracy is something one fights for and does not take for granted. I continue to fight for democracy with the same enthusiasm I had when I was your age, which got me thrown out of my University. It might be the case that I might get thrown out of my present position as well, but I will never stop fighting for democracy.
These are among the reasons which compelled me to challenge the legislation allowing elected representatives to cross the floor. Because I am in this shrine of legal thinking, I hope that I will be allowed the self-indulgence of taking enormous pleasure in the Constitutional Court judgement which was rendered last Friday on this matter. In fact, while all other participants in that litigation who objected to the crossing of the floor legislation took the position that the crossing of the floor legislation was intrinsically unconstitutional, it was only my political Party, under my instruction, which took a different approach, which was the one finally adopted by the Constitutional Court. I instructed our lawyers not to harp too much on the notion that allowing the crossing of the floor is unconstitutional or repugnant to democracy under all circumstances, because I knew well that such argument could not survive critical scrutiny, as in fact it did not.
I instructed them to go for something more basic and fundamental to the very notion of democracy. The argument which we put forward was that it was not reasonable to adopt legislation allowing the crossing of the floor by people who had already been elected under a system which did not provide for such eventuality. An election is the act which executes a contract between the voters and the political representatives, which political representatives ought not to have the power to change unilaterally in midstream. For this reason, we asked the Constitutional Court to interpret the controlling constitutional parameters requiring that such legislation could only be adopted within a reasonable time of the adoption of the Constitution, which was in October 1996. We requested the Constitutional Court to interpret this provision as requiring that such legislation could be adopted only before the 1999 elections, so that it could control the elections and the modalities on which representatives would be elected and serve their mandate.
This would have enabled voters and political parties to know beforehand that whoever was elected would have the opportunity to cross the floor carrying the votes they received and their seat to a different political party. This would have enabled voters and political parties alike to choose the right people to operate within such a system. It was just unconscionable and indeed unconstitutional to change the rules of the game in midstream. It is a fundamental subversion of democracy which was brought about for purposes of political expediency and not in the interests of the country. These are the type of things in respect of which all of us have the duty to stand up and object to. Any time we do not do so, anytime we allow the further deterioration of the ideal of democracy we wish to see implemented in our country, we allow enormous backward steps to be taken in respect of the realisation of our dreams.
There are now suggestions that that which could not be achieved through legislation, can be achieved through a constitutional amendment. The advantage of a constitutional amendment is that it is subject to no review. It can do what it wishes, no matter how bad and no matter how unconstitutional. We must resist this type of attitude, not only because of the danger that it contains in respect of this specific subject matter, but also because of what it means. If the Constitution becomes a tool on demand which can be used as one wishes, and amended or thrown away when it is no longer useful or becomes inconvenient, then our democracy is finished. The Constitution cannot be amended any time one wishes. The Constitution cannot be amended any time the Government loses a case in the Constitutional Court and does not get its way.
If that is what we are all about, we should just repeal the Constitution and do without it, and just have the country go back to the unfettered majority rule which characterised white governments during the colonial and apartheid eras. Let us crush our dreams, rather than let them die the death of a thousand cuts. We cannot allow the Constitution and our democracy to die the death of a thousand cuts. We must react whenever a small cut is proposed. We cannot allow any further deterioration of our democracy. It is essential that young people such as yourselves take responsibility, become voters and decide here and now whether what is going on in politics, in our country and in the management of public affairs, is what we want and what we wish for in the future. If the answer is in the negative, stand up and do something about it.
There might be a personal price involved in your doing so. I have not come to this University to be a rebel-rouser, but I cannot help saying that if my generation paid the price it did in all ways and forms to ensure that our dream could be fulfilled, your generation has an equal right and duty to do so. You can choose to sit, do nothing and dwell on your disappointments, spending time amongst yourselves sharing concerns and increasing your respective fears. Or you can join the army of those who decided to take the future into their own hands and work with true democrats to create a country blessed by the rule of law and clearly marching ahead on the hard and uphill path towards economic prosperity and social stability.