MEETING WITH IFP ELECTED COUNCILLORS


OPENING REMARKS BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
PRESIDENT, INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY AND MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

EMANDLENI-MATLENG : JANUARY 20, 2001

I wish to thank all Councillors of newly-established municipalities and district councils elected under the IFP banner, who are here today for having responded so readily to the call of our Party to meet to find a common direction. We are at the opening of a new chapter in the history of South Africa. New municipalities have been established under a new local government order shaped by our final Constitution of 1996 and the local government legislation adopted in terms thereof, especially the Municipal Structures Act and the Municipal Systems Act.

We are at the beginning of a new institutional cycle, which requires of us to have a clear understanding of our respective responsibilities to local government, to the Inkatha Freedom Party and to South Africa. We serve in different capacities as members of Parliament, the provincial legislatures or local government, and yet we serve the same people and are members of the same Party. We must constantly keep in mind that even though there may be three different tiers of government, there is only one tier of people whom we must serve, and one Party to whom we are accountable for the quality of the service we render.

Therefore, it is essential that we take the opportunity of this meeting to establish ways and means to co-ordinate our respective actions and aim them towards shared goals and joint objectives. We must have a new start in the right direction without carrying forward the mistakes and lack of co-ordination of the past. This meeting should ensure that what went wrong in the interim local government structure does not become part of a legacy of the newly-established municipalities. IFP Councillors should carry the legacy of the values, commitment and history of Inkatha, and not necessarily the lack of discipline and mistakes made by IFP Councillors during the interim period.

I have been very unhappy with many of our Councillors who were elected during the last local government elections. Their conduct has left too much to be desired. As soon as they were elected, they saw themselves as independent of the Party which put them there. Some even articulated the thought that now that they have been elected as Councillors, they have nothing to do with the IFP. They divorced themselves from any activities of the Party. They divorced themselves from all our Party structures. They even resisted paying the dues that all elected leaders have to pay every month towards the Party. This is the reason why I have called this meeting as early as I have done because there are some members who were elected on the 5th of December, 2000 as IFP Councillors, either in wards or through the P.R. list, whose recalcitrance and insubordination indicates that we are not free of these rogue elements amongst the new-elected Councillors.

There are Councillors amongst you who have made our very victory, particularly in this Province, a joke, just by the way they have conducted themselves. When elections were over on the 5th of December, I thought that I was going to have a little rest before we start working full-swing at the beginning of this year. But the truth of the matter is that ever since we started canvassing for votes right up to now, I have not had any rest because of the recalcitrant behaviour of some of you who have the temerity to call yourselves IFP representatives in these new Municipal Councils.

We had some very good IFP Councillors during the interim period, many of whom have now been re-elected. However, too often I have had to register my unhappiness with many Councillors elected during the interim period who failed our Party and failed the people who elected them. We must ensure that this meeting sets a sound foundation for the new process so as to avoid any such failures ever being repeated. During the interim period, some Councillors fell prey to the illusion that once elected, they became free agents acting in their own name, having nothing to do with the Party, as I have just indicated We shall ensure that this will not happen again.

I wish to give clear notice to all IFP Councillors that the IFP will not tolerate people breaking rank from the Party or failing to fulfil their obligations to serve the people who elected us. I want to make it clear from the word go that this time around, strict party discipline will be enforced and maintained. We have seen a clear example of this new attitude which our Party will maintain in the disciplinary actions which have been commenced against those Councillors who, in various municipalities, allegedly did not vote in accordance with Party and caucus directives when electing office bearers of municipalities. Those who violated Party and caucus directives stand to lose their membership in the Party, which would cause them to lose their positions in municipal councils. This should send a clear and loud message that the Party will not play around and is going to adopt a tough, disciplinarian approach to ensure that our Councillors abide by the highest possible standards of service delivery.

The Party is committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that none of our elected representatives lets the people who voted for us down. This is a responsibility that we all collegially share. The Party is not Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The Party is not the IFP National Council. Together, all of us, and all our members, are that which our Party comprises. Together we must ensure that none of those who are acting in the name of the Party or who hold their positions in the Party through the people who elected them, acts in a way that disappoints those who have voted for us.

The next elections in mid-2004 are just around the corner. 2004 may seem a long way away, but indeed there is no time to waste. Our success in that election will depend on how our local government and all our elected representatives perform and are evaluated by our people.

I am therefore proposing that each and every IFP Councillor signs a "Performance Agreement" and to this end a document will be circulated for discussion. As I have just said, we are expecting all Councillors to be disciplined and hard-working members of the IFP and to commit themselves to serving their communities with dedication and loyalty.

The last elections have opened a new page of history. It is clear that the electorate is becoming increasingly more willing to judge a political representative and to do so harshly, if and when required. We welcome this transformation as we have been the ones who, for many years, have gone to all communities encouraging people to judge the performance of elected representatives. We have been telling them that voting is not an act of allegiance and that they have the power to hire and fire those who represent them. We have seen how this message is beginning to take root as, in the last elections, many people chose not to vote for the majority party and joined a growing army of absentee voters. Some of them chose to express their negative assessment by shifting their preferences and voting for the IFP instead of voting for the majority Party as they did in previous elections.

It is up to us to ensure that in 2004 all those who intentionally abstained from voting finally realise that a better alternative exists, which is the IFP, and that more and more people shift their preferences away from other parties and vote for us. However, this goal will only be achieved if all our elected representatives project the image of a party genuinely dedicated to serving our people, and do so from the word go. Our people are looking at us. They want to know whether these IFP Councillors are going to be better and more dedicated than those who preceded them. The first impression the newly elected Councillors will project is going to be a lasting one. There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression and it is much simpler to make a good first impression than to change a bad one.

Therefore let us ensure that now that you have been elected, you do what we have promised the people we would do. You must now go back to your communities and make yourselves known, felt and visible. Don’t wait until the next elections draw close. Act today as if the date of your re-election were just a month away and do next week the type of things you would do on the eve of your re-election. It is essential that all IFP Councillors go back to their communities to thank those who have elected them, to establish contacts, mandates and connections. This is the time to strengthen the dialogue with our people.

We must project an image of governance which empowers the people to become participants in local government. This approach will also assist IFP Councillors to perform their tasks more effectively and more efficiently. Your tasks are often difficult and complex and require a great deal of knowledge and expertise. Many of you do not have this knowledge and expertise and will need to do everything in your power to gain it. It is essential that each of you accepts the need to read and study and receive training about various aspects of your job. You must become familiar with the laws, the regulations and the by-laws regulating local government in general, and your municipality in particular. A good example has already been set by Councillors from the uThukela Region, who have already made arrangements to have a think-tank discussion or seminar in order to train all their Councillors. I applaud the leadership of Mr Stanley Dladla, the Chairperson of uThukela and also Indlove'ncane Malakoana.

The more knowledgeable you become about laws and regulations and the various aspects of the problems confronting your municipality, the more effective you will be as a politician. In achieving this goal, there is no substitute to studying, studying and studying. I hope that our provincial government will assist in making opportunities available to train all elected Councillors. However, whatever opportunity of training is made available to you, it cannot replace your constant study and hard work. The uThukela leadership got sponsors to assist them with the financing of their seminar. They did not expect the IFP to do this for them. That is what leadership is about. That is a demonstration of the twin pillars of our philosophy - self-help and self-reliance in action.

You must accept the discipline of reading all the information before you and doing so ahead of meetings. I hope that you will not mind my stating matters of this nature. Having been in government for more than forty years, I have learned the hard way that there is just no substitute for hard work and thorough preparation. Unfortunately, I know that often those involved in politics tend to shy away from studying issues and analysing the details of situations. It happens everywhere. For instance, I am appalled when I often receive reports that our own members of Parliament in Cape Town are not well-prepared when they go to their committees, not having read the documentation beforehand. This prevents them from participating actively in the meeting and forces them to spend most of the time in the meeting merely reading the documentation. People must go to meetings well-prepared and, in order to prepare themselves, they must liaise with communities. Liaising with communities is the only way of becoming empowered and the only alternative to having to rely exclusively on your officials.

You must look around in each of your communities to identify available human resources and skills which may assist you. There are many people, institutions and organisations willing to assist in improving the governance of our communities. They must be roped into our efforts to make local government work. By doing so we will promote our revolution of goodwill and we will fulfil our electoral promise of empowering communities to participate in local government. This approach will also facilitate your work, because it will not be possible for you to know all that there is to know to perform your duties and function at your best. You may not be in a position to know all that there is to know, but you should place yourself in a position to be able to access those who do and who can help you.

It is also important to establish these connections on issues so as to be able to receive mandates and ensure that actions and decisions taken are those which the people wanted. You should not be waiting until the day of the next elections to discover that the people were displeased by what you did or failed to do. My advice to all of you is to maintain and grow a constant dialogue with your community. The greatest virtue of a good politician is not that of speaking well, but rather that of being able to listen, listen and listen.

We have run our campaign on the issue of development and we must now deliver on it. We are the Party which stands for development, development, development, and our mission in local government is that of ensuring that government structures become sensitised to this priority. We will not achieve this goal by relying on your strength alone, but will need the constant inputs of leaders within your communities and dialogue with your people.

Government has the natural tendency to administer itself and become a centre of administration of its own structures, programmes and activities. It often takes a superhuman dedication and patience to redirect government towards new priorities. It is difficult to make government jump over the threshold which divides mere administration from actual management of issues and priorities. It requires constant stimulation and pressures in the right direction. This is the job to which you have been called. It is your responsibility to monitor that local government is properly administered and that rules and regulations are followed. However, it is also your responsibility to transform local government so that it becomes more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs and aspirations of our people. Simply put, we must ensure that local government becomes an engine for development.

In conducting this action of liaising with communities and local government, it is important that each Councillor does not operate in isolation, but remains closely tied to our Party structures. We cannot have lone Don Quixotes charging against windmills. We must move as party structures in a well-co-ordinated and efficient party machinery. Our caucuses must begin working and must become the centre where policies are formed and liaisons with our other party structures maintained. Our Councillors must work as a team and the caucus must be the centre where we pull it together, bring it together and keep it together.

One of the reasons why IFP representatives in the KwaZulu Natal Legislature were not as effective as they should have been, even though we had a majority in the Legislature before the 1999 general elections, was because of the irresponsible behaviour of the majority of our members of Parliament not attending caucus meetings. It was their irresponsible conduct in not attending Portfolio Committee meetings, a habit that some of them find difficult even now to discard, after behaving irresponsibly as they did for five years since 1994. Although there has been a slight improvement in the conduct of the KwaZulu Natal Legislature as far as this is concerned, I would be deeply hurt if this example was followed. I must quickly add that IFP Councillors in the previous life of local government behaved much worse than the KwaZulu Natal members of Parliament. Most of the IFP Councillors in Regional Councils and in TLC's were so grossly irresponsible that they just did not attend caucus meetings. As a result, even where we were in the majority in Councils, the show was run by other parties which were in the minority.

I have come to say that this Party will now not tolerate this kind of conduct from IFP MPs and IFP Councillors. I want attendance registers to be kept in each Council, and that we should regularly be informed by having photocopies of each attendance register sent to the Secretary of the National Council, so that we can be in a position to end membership of Councillors who do not attend meetings.

There must be clear leadership within each structure and the leader of the IFP caucus must be able to exercise a role of leadership in respect of other Councillors. Caucuses also cannot operate in isolation, but must liaise closely with IFP regional structures. I know that our regional structures are not working properly and that, in some areas, they are completely absent. However, the establishment of properly functioning municipal caucuses should offer the opportunity to revamp IFP regional structures, which are the natural forum through which our Party can hold municipal caucuses accountable.

Through this type of liaison, it is essential that we utilise the opportunity of the establishment of municipalities to revitalise our Party. A new class of political leaders has now been elected and is coming into the fold. You have a vested interest in ensuring that regional party structures are functioning and powerful. They will assist you in liaising with your communities and performing your job better. They are your natural point of political reference and political growth.

This is a unique opportunity to cure a chronic weakness within our Party which, in the past ten years, has seen a progressive disintegration of its grassroots structures because of the transformation which intervened within the political system. This transformation is now complete and has led to the institutionalisation of local politics with municipal councils throughout the territory, both at the local and the regional level, which will produce IFP caucuses. From this base, we can now create a new system of grassroots structures which feed within the new political dimension opened by municipal caucuses and, in turn, liaise such caucuses with the rest of our Party and our National Council.

This is the time where we need each of our political representatives to join in a collegial effort to strengthen our Party. Each of us must go flat out in building our Party. We are not a rich party and we do not have sufficient financial resources or skills available to us. We must rely on the contribution of our political representatives and office bearers. Once elected, IFP Councillors must begin working for the Party to the fullest measure of their capacity. Not from next year, not from next month, but from this very moment. If people are not willing to accept this responsibility they should consider their position and perhaps bow out with dignity at the very outset, rather than finding themselves in an impossible position which would force the Party to take action which may lead to their disrepute.

The future of our Party depends on the work you will perform, and if you are not willing or able to pull your weight into a collegial effort, you should do the honourable thing and bow out. We have had excellent results in our local government elections, most of which have been the product of the image of the IFP created by me and the rest of the IFP national and provincial leadership. Our next electoral victory must be built primarily as the product of the hard political work of Councillors and we cannot allow those who are willing to contribute to this victory to suffer because of those who do not want to and cannot make an equally valuable contribution.

As IFP Councillors, we will also need to deal with some politically difficult and thorny issues in respect of which we must provide special leadership and example. In addition to the paramount issue of development, development and development, the most important of such issues is that of traditional leadership. Each of our district councils, and even the Durban Metro, comprises several traditional authorities. Traditional authorities exercise a broad list of powers and functions which, in terms of local government legislation and the Constitution, should be the exclusive priority of municipalities.

Traditional authorities operate in terms of indigenous and customary law and apply a different system of customs and traditions in respect of the way they administer their powers and functions and do business. Our people are accustomed to these laws and customs. Our traditional leaders are the centre of the operation of our traditional authorities and the functioning of the laws, customs and traditions of our people. On the other hand, municipalities can only operate in terms of statutory law, which is uniform across the country, and must deal with our people only as prescribed by a law which, especially in rural areas, is often foreign to them. Therefore, there is both a clash of powers as there is a clash in the way things are done and functions administered.

Repeatedly, President Mbeki has promised that he will address this problem and provide the solution which would surely require legislative amendments and, most likely, also constitutional amendments. He repeatedly promised that such solution would be formulated and implemented before elections and before the new municipalities were established. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. We are now in the middle of a clash between municipalities and traditional authorities which will become increasingly relevant as municipalities begin operating the full measure of their powers and functions and, in pursuance of their developmental mandates, reach out for the most needy of our rural communities in amaKhosi areas.

This will generate conflicts of unforeseeable dimensions which may generate violence and even cost lives. We must ensure that under no conditions will we set in place anything which may lead to violence and the loss of lives. We must ensure that lives are protected as the most important value of our action in governance. For this reason, it is essential that in a meeting such as this, we develop firm parameters which may direct municipalities in their dealings with traditional authorities, pending a resolution of the clash of powers between municipalities and traditional authorities.

I plead that all IFP Councillors do everything in their power to ensure that their municipalities recognise and do not interfere with the powers and functions of traditional authorities. At times, this may collide with the prescripts that municipalities will receive from the national Minister for Provincial and Local Government, or even with the laws which local government is called upon to execute. However, we cannot put laws before our people and it might be necessary that, at certain times, we do not give the full implementation to laws or even that we refrain from applying them when they collide with the interests of traditional authorities. It is essential that municipalities do not infringe upon the prerogatives of our amaKhosi and those who exercise authority in their name, such as their Indunas.

Unfortunately, this result cannot be achieved merely by not doing anything. The restraint of action may not be sufficient because, under current laws, all the resources and capacity will be given to municipalities and not to traditional authorities. Therefore, if any municipality merely refrains from exercising any of its relevant powers and functions in a rural area in order to respect corresponding powers of a traditional authority, the people will suffer because traditional authorities do not have the resources to do for their people what a municipality could.

I think that in view of the promises that the President made concerning legislation and amendments that he promised would be passed in order to prevent the obliteration of the powers and functions of traditional authorities, that our Councillors must not be eager to start functioning before this definition and separation of functions of traditional authorities and those of municipal councils is made. Prevention is always better than cure. Let us not allow ourselves to be used as pawns of those who want to emasculate traditional authorities by taking a plunge before government fulfils the promise that President Mbeki made to traditional leaders.

The blood-letting that this Province has seen in the 80's and 90's still not only haunts us, but incidents of it occur even now. Surely we cannot allow people to set us up against each other for their own entertainment. This will destroy the future of our country and eliminate any chances of any investments coming into the country. Our people need jobs and our people live in abject poverty. If we therefore allowed a situation which will be created if this definition and separation of functions between traditional authorities and municipal councils is not done as a matter of urgency, we will never be able to address these problems in the foreseeable future. We are fortunate in this Province because the majority of us believe in the continuing existence of the institution of the Monarchy whose pillars are these very traditional authorities in our rural areas.

Traditional authorities are an important component in the development of rural communities and if they are undermined, development will be undermined and our people will suffer. Traditional authorities will be strengthened by our Councillors taking the right step from the word go. This Councillors will do through resisting being used to ignite a conflict which will be inevitable, if the definition of powers and a distinction made between the powers and functions of traditional authorities and those of our municipal councils, is not done as a matter of urgency. Remember that there was general agreement between the President and amaKhosi that it was imperative that this be done through legislation before December 5, 2000 ahead of the elections. Now that this legislation and constitutional amendments were not made prior to December 5, 2000, for various reasons, it is Councillors in my view who can save our country from a blood bath. It is our Councillors who can in this way lay the foundation for the enhancement of development in rural areas.

This is a great opportunity for the IFP to prove to the whole of the country that we have the wisdom and vision to do things better than our detractors. It is also a great challenge and opportunity to prove that our vision can deliver on the promise of development. I plead with you not to let me down and not to let our people down.

There are many matters that we need to discuss during this meeting which are equally challenging and equally demanding. I know that when I call on the IFP, the IFP rises to the challenge. I hope that this occasion will be no exception. May God assist us in rising to these challenges so that, from now on, we can fly the IFP flag high and continue to fly it with pride and glory until the 2004 elections.

 

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