Pepper Club Hotel, Cape Town: 25 November 2011
There has been great public interest and
speculation about the reasons for a meeting which has brought
together all the leaders of the main parties which are not in
government. Somehow, we ourselves are confronted with the same
questions about the significance of our meeting and what we can
expect from it.
The starting point of our reflections must be found in the fact
that we are all here. We came here because we all felt that it
is politically necessary for us to begin a dialogue on matters
of importance. We all know that the people of South Africa
expect us to generate something which can change the stale
politics of South Africa. The people of South Africa know
instinctively that the country is not doing well and is in the
process of becoming worse. They know that they cannot look to
those in power to address the many issues afflicting them.
There is serendipity in this meeting taking place just three
days after the National Assembly voted on the most controversial
piece of legislation since our liberation. The Protection of
State Information Bill, which I, like many others, refer to as
the “Secrecy Bill”, has coagulated public perceptions on
something which could be a watershed change of political events.
The entire opposition was united in opposing this Bill. The
country saw our unity and appreciated it. On this occasion the
united opposition has acted as the legitimate representative of
the South African people in respect of a fundamental matter of
principle, when those in power acted against the will of the
We must build on the momentum created by this event. As a party,
the IFP subscribes to the joint call to challenge the
constitutionality of the Secrecy Bill by means of a petition to
the Constitutional Court to be signed by one third of the
members of the National Assembly. We need to do this as soon as
possible. But we must also give to our action a more profound
and general meaning.
The country wants moral leadership which it can trust.
Unfortunately, this is not coming from the ruling party. We are
swamped with never ending reports of corruption, incompetence,
maladministration and blunders; all this against the backdrop of
a government which lacks both vision and leadership.
There is something we have in common which brought us here
today. We must explore what that is and reflect upon whether it
is something which can respond to the political needs of our
people and what our country needs. Undoubtedly, there are many
and real differences amongst our parties, which accounts for the
fact that we are different parties, with different histories,
different policies and different takes on many issues. We must
acknowledge and respect these differences because they reflect
differences within the electorate. We would not be furthering
our electoral fortunes nor would we be serving the will of our
people if we suddenly were to become a single party.
Yet, we do have something in common which is bestowed upon us by
the present circumstances of history. Without wanting to blow my
own trumpet, I dare to say that we represent leaders sustained
by principles and with a deep sense of respect for the
Constitution, the State and the public interest. Our common
platform is that of leaders who wish to protect the public
interest and juxtapose themselves to leaders in government who
have been seen by the people for what they are, namely, people
in the extravagant and relentless pursuit of their own personal
We are leaders who hold dear the values on which our liberation
struggle was commenced more than 100 years ago. We abide by the
values which inspired our liberation and forged the new South
Africa. We hold in our hands the moral compass which the ANC
dropped a long time ago. How do we convey this to the people of
South Africa in a manner which is both effective and credible?
For me, it is not a matter of creating a new church, no matter
how broad a church that may be. For me it is matter of bringing
together several churches in a coalition or alliance of people
of values to juxtapose our commitment to the Republic to those
who have no church, no god but their own self enrichment, no
values but their survival and no vision, but that which can be
reached a few inches beyond their noses.
Just by standing together we are beginning to project a new
image which places in better focus our values for the country
and its people. Our track record is known. Most of us cannot
reinvent ourselves. Surely there is nothing I can do now which
may reinvent what I have done and all that I have been in my
past 65 years of my political career. Yet, my sense is that each
of us will somehow be different in the eyes of our people if we
cooperate more closely.
We cannot speak of unity of the opposition, but about
cooperation. Our goals should be that of providing an
alternative to the people of South Africa. After all, the
President is elected by Parliament and not at the elections. If
the ANC is cut below the 49% threshold, we all get an
opportunity to participate in the election of the President.
Under the present conditions, the best thing that could happen
for South Africa is to have a President elected by Parliament
through a process of negotiations which forces the ANC to put up
somebody who enjoys the confidence of the opposition.
However, for this scenario to be credible in our own eyes and in
the eyes of the electorate, we must commit ourselves here and
now not to contribute to propping up and supporting the ANC when
it needs it. Unfortunately there are many dimensions to
corruption, and one which we have witnessed of late is the ANC
offering political bribes to bring political organisations
within its fold. We must make a commitment not to break ranks as
the ANC increases the price of these political bribes, whether
they are ambassadorial positions or Cabinet posts.
In this respect, a crucial test will relate to whether we can
stand together, as a matter of principle, in not giving the ANC
the required majority to amend the Constitution. We are all
opposed to the 18th Constitutional Amendment, for good reason.
But we must bring this commitment beyond this specific
constitutional amendment. We should assert the rule that the
Constitution ought to be amended as little as possible and, if
it is to be amended, this needs to take place within the process
of annual review of the Constitution contemplated by the
Constitution and conducted by the Constitutional Review
Committee. This avoids the piecemeal amendment of the
Constitution which has thus far deteriorated several of the
guarantees negotiated during the constitutional settlement.
The success of any political initiative aimed at giving the
country a government not controlled by the ANC is predicated not
only on ANC voters not voting for the ANC, but also on
significant ANC leaders joining our ranks. Therefore, we need to
create a broad-based political space which may enable leaders
and constituencies which subscribe to ANC principles to come
into our midst, recognising that those principles are now better
protected here. We need to send a message that those leaders are
welcome if they are committed to the rebirth of our Republic and
share our values.
It is a reality of our country’s politics that people follow
leaders, and we should not be naïve in thinking that we can
always reach the electorate without bringing on board their
chosen or traditional leaders.
It is important that we maintain the momentum and do not let the
press dictate our agenda. I suggest that a Coordinating
Committee be established to identify other initiatives which we
can take together.
The Honourable Lekota and I have challenged the Government’s
refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama. Our application will
be heard on the 6th of December by Judge Dennis Davis. I am told
that many groups are trying to organise a presence outside the
courthouse on this matter, which has had such great
international profile. It would be nice if they could be
assisted with the relevant logistics, such as getting a permit
from both the Police and the courthouse. Many more of these
initiatives can be taken to assert in a visible manner our
capability of working together.
However, our main attention must be placed in rural areas.
Undoubtedly, the discontent against the ANC is going to be
growing at a much faster rate and be more visible in urban areas
as social and economic conditions deteriorate because of the
recession. However, one must not underestimate the growing
discontent of people in rural areas.
We need to find initiatives which make it clear to rural people
that we recognise their importance and we, collegially, can
produce a plan for development in rural areas. In this respect,
my suggestion is that we task the Committee to look specifically
at the issue of rural development and the thorny issues of land
affairs, land distribution and traditional leadership.
Much more could be said. But I know that in processes of this
nature we need to take one step at a time without putting too
much on the agenda. I know that the time between now and the
election is short. But we cannot force the pace, even though we
must move without hesitation and with consistency of both action
First and foremost, we as leaders must be able to trust one
another. I have walked on many paths with many fellow travellers
of convenience. My long journey is nearing its destination. I am
the eternal optimist. I am the eternal enthusiast. I will give
100% of my energies to anything that can serve the future of
South Africa, even though I may not be around to reap the
benefit of my actions. I hope that, as I do so, I can find an
equal measure of commitment on the side of all those I travel