Launch of the Parliamentary Institute of South Africa

Remarks By

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

 Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town: 25 November 2011


It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak to colleagues and friends, not as the president of a political party, but merely as a Member of Parliament who meets with other Members of Parliament to speak to one another in confidence – but with candour and openness – about the problems of our country. Perhaps the experience of speaking in confidence might be a new one, but you all know that for the past six years I have spoken as candidly as any man can, and constantly paid a cost for the unpopularity that comes with it.

The initiative of establishing the Parliamentary Institute of South Africa is both timely and overdue. Our country has numerous and very severe problems. We need a venue such as this in which we may discuss these problems, without fearing the immediate public relations consequences of what is being said. We are meeting within a framework of confidentiality, but not in secrecy.

This meeting, like all the others which will be held by the Parliamentary Institute of South Africa, is open and transparent, as is attested to by the presence of the media, academics and opinion-makers in our midst. Obviously, those who participate in PISA make a similar undertaking of subscribing to the Chatham House Rule.

The Chatham House Rule is not about secrecy. Anything said here and anything that happens here can be freely reported; but without ascribing who said what and without listing the participants. This will be the case whenever a meeting is held under the banner of PISA. It is open and transparent, but civilized.

It is unfortunate that many of those who should be with us tonight are not with us. Somehow the controversy that certain people have sought to create in the hope of preventing us from meeting here tonight to launch PISA attests to the enormous importance of what we are in fact launching.

Our colleague, Inkosi Patekile Holomisa, should have been here to rightfully claim co-paternity for this initiative and receive our collective appreciation. He is one of the founding members of PISA, and he led the PISA delegation which was invited by the German Government to prepare for this launch and for the symposium on climate change which PISA will hold tomorrow.

Since the passing of Professor Kader Asmal, Inkosi Holomisa has been the driving force of PISA, together with Professor Wilmot James and my party colleague, Dr Oriani-Ambrosini. We should have been here, on the same podium, holding hands to give birth to this important institution. But he was prevented by a direct order of his Chief Whip.

This must force us to pause and reflect. I asked my office to research when, ever before, in any parliamentary democracy, a chief whip has ordered Members of Parliament of his party not to attend or speak at a conference of an NGO, as PISA is. We could find no precedent. One may ascribe this to political immaturity. But that would not be satisfactory. The fact is, what is happening here tonight and what may spring out of this initiative is of enormous importance for those who are true democrats and those who aspire to greater freedom within Parliament.

Therefore, it ought to be no surprise that those who want to control what happens in Parliament dictate to the minds and conscience of Members of Parliament and assert the rule of a few over the freedom of the many. They indeed fear a space of freedom and liberty as PISA promises to be. PISA promises enhanced freedom of speech and the possibility of exchanging ideas following only the dictates of one’s own conscience and intellect, without having to toe party lines or recite pre-prepared political directives of secretive political directorates. This is bound to reverberate into how Members of Parliament will behave in the future, when outside PISA. It will expand our consciousness of what we are capable of thinking, and will give us better insight into ourselves.

Therefore, there is something here that the enemies of freedom have reason to fear. We are rolling forward the frontiers of freedom and in so doing we will find the resistance of those who feel that politics is not about liberation, but about self-enrichment through the control of society, the economy, and the minds and initiatives of others. This should be food for thought.

The juxtaposition in today’s politics is not between political parties. It is between people with intellect and people with greed. It is between those committed to serving the welfare of others and those who seek power to enrich themselves and their immediate friends. The two types can be found in every segment of society and every building block of our country. Throughout all aspects of our social and economic construct, there are good people of sound intellect who are dedicated to the welfare of others, and bad people with a different agenda.

PISA is predicated on the belief that when good people come together, only good emerges. PISA also emanates out of the conviction that good people can and must come together irrespective of different political views, race, responsibilities in society and origin. I have dedicated my entire life to upholding the truth of this fundamental statement.

In defiance of all the laws of Apartheid and at a time in which the mindset was that people of different races were so separated that they could not work together, I launched the Buthelezi Commission in 1980. We began work not knowing what people across the racial divide were all about. But within a matter of hours we recognized our shared humanity and found one another on the basis of common values and equal intellectual commitment.

I have never forgotten that lesson, and that is why I believe with all my essence in the value of this initiative. I lament the fact that a man of the stature of Inkosi Holomisa was prevented from providing to it his own leadership, after having spent two years of hard work to make it possible for all of us to be here.

Our country has problems. Some of these problems are difficult to talk about. I have always been very outspoken about the existence of the problems afflicting our country, because I felt that the value of truth outweighs any other consideration. But it takes strength to be a detractor of one’s own country. There is no beauty in being the proverbial fly in the ointment. It is much simpler to join the crowds who cheer on the emperor with no clothes.

In a venue such as PISA, we need to have the courage of speaking about the ugly reality of the worst aspects of the problems confronting our country. When we do it here, we know that we are not doing it for purposes of scoring political points, pointing fingers or making accusations. Doing it here has the only purpose of analysing an ailment to try to find adequate remedies to cure our country and move forward for the sake of our posterity.

In so doing, it is important that we focus on another commitment that PISA elicits from us and enables us to fulfill. That is the commitment of rising above the needs and limitations of today to look forward to the future. The old cliché espoused by Prime Minister Harold Wilson that a week is a long time in politics happens to be true. Politics moves on a short-term basis and the longest perspective ever considered is often limited to the hiatus between two elections.

Governing a country and nourishing its people within present society means being able to adopt a fifty year perspective and make personal and political commitments to implement that long-term perspective, in spite of the ever-changing winds of daily politics. There must be a place which holds the moral compass of leadership and maintains direction in spite of changes brought about by elections and the vicissitudes of daily politics.

PISA also wishes to address many other shortcomings of our democracy. Today’s event proves its capacity to do so. We all know our Parliament is constantly shedding capabilities and skilled people who, especially from the ranks of the ruling Party, are attracted to positions in Government and in the parastatals, which are much better remunerated and often offer greater opportunities to make a difference than by being a Member of Parliament.

Many Members of Parliament also leave politics to go into rewarding business activities, often opened to them through the ever-increasing connection between the political and economic apparatus fuelled by empowerment programmes. This leads to loss of capacity within Parliament, as well as loss of institutional memory. By bringing together former and serving Members of Parliament, PISA re-establishes the necessary equilibrium of knowledge and integrated expertise, while creating a venue where institutional memory can be preserved and enhanced.

The second leg of PISA is in respect of the partnership with civil society. In Parliament there is a great deal of talk about Parliament being open to the inputs of civil society. However, this interaction often takes place in ad hoc circumstances, often relating to the passing of a specific bill. There is no parliamentary venue for a structured and continued discussion on the long-term direction our country ought to take.

As a politician, I have always maintained an intense dialogue with all the components represented here today, who are meant to be the associate members of PISA. I have maintained a constant partnership with academics and captains of industry. I have listened carefully to what foreign diplomats have to say. My relationship with the media has not been easy, but just by counting the number of letters to editors I have written over half a century one can see that it has not been a one-way street and has surely been extremely intense. I could not conceive of how any politician could perform their function without this type of partnership.

Again, exchanges of this nature often take place in the corridors of Parliament in ad hoc situations, or around dinner tables. Today we are creating a venue under the dome of which this type of interaction, which we all know to be essential to our work, can be maintained and nourished into ever-increasing growth. This will be of benefit to the new generation of politicians who will replace those of my generation.

Personally, I am very concerned that the necessary change which is taking place in politics is bringing to power new leaders without sufficient experience, with limited perspective and with narrow horizons. It does not help levelling such criticism, but we need to create a venue where they can be addressed, and we can pass on to them the legacy of what we have experienced, understood and achieved.

I see here today many veterans whose wealth of knowledge and experience is very well known to me. As they come into contact with younger Members of Parliament who will seek PISA membership to broaden their horizons, they will bestow the opportunity to learn from their experience.

In the end, PISA will be what we make it. It is even possible that after the symposium tomorrow PISA may disappear. Like any other institution, it can only flourish if people are committed to it. That means financial commitments and personal commitments of time, energy and intellect. I urge you all to make sure that, through your efforts, commitment and dedication, PISA will not become yet another item on the ever-growing list of our country’s lost opportunities.

For this reason, I pray that God Almighty might bless this moment of commencement and invoke on PISA His guidance and leadership. May PISA begin from its inception and always maintain its work on the side of God, for only those who walk on the side of God and do His work on earth will eventually be rewarded through recognition, appreciation and blessings.