Guest Column

With Buthelezi departs the last of our moral leadership

2017-11-02 08:44
Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (File, Netwerk24)

Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (File, Netwerk24)

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Bantu Holomisa

The decision of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader to step down as the leader of the party and from active politics is both a challenge and a lesson for the South African political landscape. 

It is a challenge because he departs at a time when our nation desperately longs for leaders of high and unquestionable moral standing. 

Prince Buthelezi has over years distinguished himself as a statesman in his own right as he led the IFP for 42 years. On the occasion of the opening of his museum and documentation centre in August 2015, I said: 

"You have lived a life that indeed should be shared with the present and future generations … today, I join others in confirming and appreciating the role you, as an individual continue to play in building our democracy. I am exited in knowing that this contribution will not disappear but will be kept in this museum for consumption by all."

His political career includes his early cooperation and collaboration with other liberation movements, in particular the African National Congress (ANC). This relationship was, however, to be compromised later, resulting in violence in the KwaZulu-Natal area. His astute leadership qualities became evident as he helped resolve the situation. Tirelessly working with the leader of the ANC, the late President Nelson Mandela, he realised within a short space of time peace and reconciliation. 

His leadership experience and expertise could not go unnoticed after the dawn of democracy as the first democratic president of South Africa would unsuccessfully wish to appoint him as his deputy president. Nevertheless, his appointment as the first democratic Minister of Home Affairs presented another opportunity for South Africa to learn and gain from his knowledge and wisdom. 

Shenge was very influential at the negotiating table during Codesa. His vision and commitment could not be ignored. His committed service to the people of South Africa in the Government of National Unity (GNU) was acknowledged when President Mandela appointed him as acting president of the republic at one time.  

Today, his stepping down from leadership responsibilities is a great challenge for our country. We are a country at a crossroads. We need experienced expertise, knowledge and wisdom that can guide us through this chaos. His role in the National Assembly has been undisputedly strategic, formidable, fatherly and inspirational. 

Shenge has been an integral part of the evolution of our constitutional multi-party system of democracy. We hope that he will continue to offer guidance in future democracy related processes.  

He has made an immense contribution with regard to pressing matters facing our nation such as unemployment, poverty, inequality, the electoral system, the political party funding system, the collapse of state institutions, to name but a few.      

His departure from political office poses vexing questions to all politicians of whether their time in the political arena has contributed to upholding the values and principles that the people of South Africa have entrusted to them. 

A great lesson left by Shenge is that society requires leaders who are able to drive its progressive goals ingeniously and without fear. To achieve this, leaders must look beyond their narrow party-political goals. 

The political life of Mr Buthelezi teaches us that to be a formidable leader you must never shy away from your responsibility to the nation in exchange for empty populist slogans.   

Prince Buthelezi is now handing over the responsibility of leadership to a younger generation. The global political landscape is attracting ever-increasing attention from the youth. Leaders should mould younger future leaders to carry values of a nation and to be able to engage fully with the grassroot level issues. 

The nation, and in particular his political party, must take advantage of the wisdom he possesses for guidance in building a strong national fabric. Guidance can be found at his museum, which holds deep knowledge of our cultural origins and the meaning of societies' transformation. 

During all my encounters with uMntwana wakwaPhindangene – be it in Parliament, during his visits to the Transkei at the Mandela house or at the Zulu Kingdom in KZN – he has always been a humorous and charismatic teacher of his tradition, customs and culture. I also directly and personally benefited from his free lessons. 

On my behalf and in my capacity as the leader of the UDM I wish Shenge a well-deserved rest and his successor all the best. 

- Bantu Holomisa is leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM). His authorised biography Bantu Holomisa: The Game Changer comes out later this month.

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