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The road to chaos can be stopped in Kwazulu Natal

26 January 2003

Recent political developments in KwaZulu-Natal have refocused the attention of South Africans on the province. Many a political pundit have commented on these political developments often without understanding the recent background. Here we are trying to assist the reader by presenting facts to allow the reader to have an informed opinion of what is happening or what should not happen in KwaZulu- Natal. Admittedly, the author is one of the key players in these developments and as such may not be objective. But one hopes that the reader will overcome that.

The ANC 1997 Mafikeng Conference adopted a resolution to forge closer working relations with Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) at all levels. The Conference was addressed by the IFP National Chairman, Lionel Mtshali. In 1998 the IFP Conference reciprocated by adopting a similar resolution. The IFP Conference was addressed by the ANC President, Thabo Mbeki.

These two resolutions epitomised a long process of behind the scenes convincing of each other of the need of working together between the ANC and IFP. As early as 1992 during the height of political violence, the ANC Natal leadership, including the late Harry Gwala, had adopted a document calling for peace in the province. That document was later accepted by the then fourteen ANC regions. At a government level it meant working together at national, provincial and local government levels beyond the 1999 elections irrespective of the number of votes each party received.

After the 1996 local government elections in KwaZulu Natal, the ANC in the province had already extended an olive branch to the IFP by including IFP councillors in ANC-controlled local government executives, such as Sipho Ngwenya, then IFP leader in Durban who became the Deputy-Mayor. This was not reciprocated by the IFP in local councils under their control.

During the 1994 elections, the balance of forces in the eighty-one strong KwaZulu Natal legislature were as follows: IFP 41; ANC 26; Minority Front (MF) 1; DP 2; ACDP 1; PAC 1 and NNP 9. According to the provisions of the Interim Constitution, the IFP had a premier and six Cabinet members; the ANC had three ministers and the NNP had one. When the NNP decided to quit the Government of National Unity at both national and provincial levels, the ANC was supposed to get an additional ministerial post. The IFP refused and instead reduced the executive from ten to nine just to spite the ANC.

In the meantime the IFP leadership of the province had changed hands. Dr Frank Mdlalose had been replaced by Dr Ben Ngubane. Mr Lionel Mtshali replaced Dr Ngubane in February 1999. Granted, that was the prerogative of the IFP. In November last year, Premier Mtshali explaining this change of leadership said that he had come "to sort out the ANC because my predecessors failed to stand up to the ANC."

The 1999 elections changed completely the balance of forces in the provincial legislature. The IFP majority was reduced from 41 (more than 50%) to 34; the ANC increased from 26 to 32; the ANC ally, the MF, increased from 1 to 2; the DP increased from 2 to seven while the UDM and ACDP had one member each. The PAC vanished.
Consequently both the ANC and IFP could command thirty-four votes each. In political terms the provincial electorate had decided that both the ANC and IFP must work together in the provincial government. At national level, the IFP was almost wiped out while the ANC received almost a two-thirds majority. Yet the ANC, true to the spirit of co-operation, appointed IFP ministers to its national executive. After 2 000 local government elections, the IFP decided to form an anti-ANC alliance with the DP in all sixty-one local councils.
After the 1999 elections a process of negotiations between the ANC and IFP to form a coalition government started. But as the IFP negotiation team led by Rev. Musa Zondi was negotiating with the ANC team led by S`busiso Ndebele, another IFP team was negotiating with the DP.

Finally an agreement to form the coalition government between the ANC and IFP was reached. The obvious composition of the executive was supposed to be 50% ANC and 50% IFP with either the IFP or ANC leading either the executive or the legislature since both of them were forty percent parties. The IFP pleaded with the ANC that it had a problem of "warm bodies" meaning IFP ministers from the previous government who, if that formula was followed, would need to be axed whereas the ANC would appoint three new ministers since Minister Jacob Zuma had been appointed Deputy-President of the country. The ANC finally agreed that it would get four cabinet posts while the IFP would get the premier, Speaker and six ministers on condition that a provincial constitution would immediately be drafted to allow the province to expand its executive and therefore achieve a balance between the ANC and IFP in the executive. A solemn agreement between the ANC and IFP was signed by Sibusiso Ndebele and Lionel Mtshali of the ANC and IFP respectively. This agreement was approved by the legislature as its own resolution. It says:

"1. To form a coalition government from the IFP and ANC as the two parties deriving from the most disadvantaged communities.

2. That each of the participating parties shall contribute no less than forty percent of members of the Cabinet, and such a proportion will guide the allocation of parliamentary officers and chairpersons of different parliamentary committees.

3. That such a government shall be based on the terms, principles and spirit of co-operative governance.

4. That on-going negotiations proceed to speedily resolve outstanding matters of importance such as the drafting of the provincial constitution to address, among others: (i) the position of the monarchy (ii) the balance in Cabinet and other matters of co-operative governance.

5. That, in order to promote stability and good governance, this agreement shall be binding on the parties in government till year 2 004 unless a decision supported by two-thirds of members of the Legislature is taken to reverse its effect."

The legislature was convened to elect the Premier and the Speaker. Inkosi Nyanga Ngubane of the IFP proposed the name of Mr Lionel Mtshali for premiership. The name was seconded by Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, ANC provincial leader. The DP proposed the name of its provincial leader, Roger Burrows. Mtshali received 67 votes made up of 34 from the ANC/MF and 33 from the IFP, Roger Burrows received 7 votes, with the remaining spoilt. It is not the electorate that voted for Mtshali to be the premier of the province but Members of the Legislature. The IFP Speaker, Inkosi Bonga Mdletshe, was voted in a similar manner.

It was agreed that the provincial constitution would have been completed by the end of August 1999. The ANC and IFP have the necessary majorities. The month of August passed without any movement on the constitutional front. No meeting of the Constitutional Standing Committee chaired by the otherwise capable Prof. Nhlanhla Khubisa of the IFP was held. A KwaZulu Natal Cabinet workshop was held at Hluhluwe Game Reserve. It was agreed that the drafting of the provincial constitution would be completed by October 1999. The Cabinet agreed that in its public pronouncement the end of December 1999 would be put as a deadline for this exercise. Peter Miller, IFP Minister for Finance and Dumisani Makhaye, then ANC Minister for Housing drafted the public statement to that effect.

Again, October and December passed without even an attempt to draft the provincial constitution. Pressure was put on the IFP to no avail to move on the drafting of the constitution until the very Constitutional Standing Committee was dismantled. Clearly, the IFP was reneging on the solemnly signed agreement.

Various efforts were put in place to resolve the impasse. Among these was the formation of the Three-a-Side Committee constituted by the ANC Deputy-President, Jacob Zuma, Kgalema Mothlante, ANC Secretary-General and Mendi Msimang, ANC Treasurer General on the side of the ANC and IFP National Chairman, Lionel Mtshali, Rev. C.J. Mthethwa and Rev. Musa Zondi on the side of the IFP. The ten-a-side Committee at provincial level was led by Sibusiso Ndebele and C.J. Mthethwa of the ANC and IFP respectively.

The IFP changed its ten-a-side committee frequently and most of its members would not attend. At some meetings IFP members would come to meetings with an instruction that only one of them would talk. In one meeting that was held in Ulundi, only Rev. C.J. Mthethwa attended on behalf of the IFP. The meeting later issued a public statement to the effect that the meeting was attended by all members of the ten-a-side. We apologise to the public for that. The three-a-side committee later came up with a document largely explaining the role of the IFP and its president in the liberation struggle. The document was extensively workshopped at the ten-a-side meeting and later at the meeting of both ANC and IFP members of the legislature. A decision was taken that the peace process must filter down to lower structures of the two organisations. A proposal to have a one thousand-a-side where ANC and IFP provincial leaders would jointly tell their respective leaders at local level that the war between the ANC and IFP was over, was made. This proposal was accepted enthusiastically by both the ANC and IFP.
This meeting was convened in Durban. One thousand and eight ANC local leaders and only eighty from the IFP attended the meeting.

The meeting led by Mr Sibusiso Ndebele and Rev C.J Mthethwa started with delegates singing complementary songs about Ndebele and Mtshali. Mtshali had not arrived at the meeting. When he arrived towards the end of the meeting he took the podium and contrary to the friendly spirit prevailing meeting at the meeting he went on to attack by name certain ANC leaders and was booed.

This meeting had been called partly to arrange for the mass meeting that was to be addressed by Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Inkosi M.G. Buthelezi of the ANC and IFP respectively. Obviously, that meeting failed in that task.
Continued efforts were made to find each other. In August 2001, a meeting of the African contingent of the provincial cabinet agreed to convene a meeting of the five-a-side which had originally negotiated the coalition government in the first place. On the 29th of November 2001 Mr Lionel Mtshali in his capacity as IFP National Chairman responded as follows:

"Dear Colleague, I suggest that we expedite the convening of the meeting of the 5-a-side teams that participated in the coalition government negotiations. We should discuss the assignment of functions to political office bearers against the background of the final agreement which was concluded by the 3-a-side."

On the 5th of December 2001, the Premier wrote the following letter to Mr Ndebele:

"Dear Colleague
As a follow up to the letter I sent you on 28/11/2001 ( N.B. the date of the first letter was given as 29 November and not 28 of November), I hereby confirm that after consultation with Hon. Rev K M Zondi we suggest that the five-a-side meeting be held in the Premier`s boardroom at Truro House on Monday 17 December, 2001 at 10h00. I hope that this arrangement will suit you."

The ANC 5-a-side arrived at the venue as scheduled. Indeed, cars of the IFP 5-a-side were parked in the parking place. The ANC 5-a-side waited until 10h00 when it received a message from Mr Lionel Mtshali that the meeting would be postponed for an hour because he was still busy with an urgent business. We later learnt that Premier Mtshali was actually meeting with taxi operators without the responsible minister who happens to be Sibusiso Ndebele. When the meeting started after this delay, only Lionel Mtshali and Rev C.J. Mthethwa arrived. We prayed. Lionel Mtshali informed the meeting that there was not going to be a meeting of the 5-a-side because, according to the IFP, the 5-a-side was long disbanded. I hope dear reader you are still following the road to chaos in KwaZulu Natal.

There was an agreement between the ANC and IFP that the emotive issue of the capital of the province of KwaZulu- Natal would be avoided to be discussed in public. Indeed, when the DP in a provoking manner raised this issue in the legislature, the author of this note, was asked by the ANC KwaZulu-Natal caucus to shoot it down during the debate on the issue. But Mr Lionel Mtshali, unprovoked, on the 31st of May 2001 at a police parade at Ulundi had this to say: "When the new dispensation came into being in 1994, those who were in power became jittery and failed to take a resolute and decisive step of making sure that the rich historical area of Ulundi became the provincial capital."

He vowed that `he would ensure that during his reign the dual capital (would end and) Ulundi become the sole fully-fledged administrative and legislative capital`. Surely, the agreement on the issue of the capital was being violated.

The road to chaos has affected levels of service delivery in the province. In 2001 the national government embarked on a programme to facilitate development in rural and urban areas. Accordingly it appointed national ministers to champion this programme in the provinces. Dr Ben Ngubane, Minister of Science, Technology and Culture and IFP Deputy-Chairman and Thoko Msane Didiza, Minister of Land and Agriculture were appointed as champions of this programme in KwaZulu Natal.

In this regard Premier Lionel Mtshali responded as follows to the Minister of Provincial and Local Government, F.S. Mufamadi:

"This province finds it very difficult to convene meetings between assigned national ministers and local government councillors. The impasse on the powers and functions of amakhosi vis-a-vis those of municipalities bedevils the process. The Inkatha Freedom Party councillors have taken two resolutions in this regard and the Provincial Minister of Traditional and Local Government Affairs transmitted these resolutions to the national minister. Amakhosi in this province have endorsed the resolutions taken by the Inkatha Freedom Party councillors. The intervention of the KwaZulu Natal Church leaders group has not been successful. We are concerned that there does not seem to be any willingness on the Minister`s part to discuss this potentially explosive matter with Archbishop Ndungane and Bishop Dandala.

In the light of this unresolved impasse it will serve no purpose for all concerned to convene meetings between assigned national ministers and councillors in this province." This letter dated 21/06/2001 was copied to Dr MG Buthelezi, KwaZulu Natal Chairman of the House of Traditional Leaders and Inkosi NJ Ngubane, MPP and KwaZulu Natal Minister of Traditional and Local Government Affairs. Up to today the assigned national ministers have not been able to perform their tasks in KwaZulu Natal.

The ANC KwaZulu Natal understanding the need for closer co-operation between the ANC and IFP crafted as early as 1997 a document entitled The Proposed ANC Peace Package for KwaZulu Natal. In part it says: "KwaZulu Natal having lost about twenty thousands of its people in the last fifteen years through the internecine political violence, has both the moral and political responsibility to achieve peace in the province. We owe it to the victims of political violence whose remains lie strewn on the hills and valleys of KwaZulu Natal. We owe it to the widows and widowers. We owe it to the orphans and those who were maimed in this political violence. We owe it to the humblest among our people. We owe it to our ancestors and izinyanya. We owe it to generations to come. We owe it to our King." It further says: "The ANC believes that the tension between His Majesty, King Zwelithini and Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi does not contribute to peace in KwaZulu-Natal.

The ANC also believes that the current relations between His Majesty the King and amaKhosi also do not contribute to stability and permanent peace in the province...."

"The ANC recognises that the President of the IFP, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has an important role in the national politics and in ensuring peace, stability, national reconciliation, nation-building and prosperity of South Africa and therefore has a special contribution to make. The ANC believes that Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi`s stature befits that of a national leader. His role is national and therefore a position and a responsibility needs to be found for him at a national level. That would be a special contribution of KwaZulu Natal to South Africa."

Unfortunately, even after five years the IFP has not yet responded to this proposal even although it was handed over to it in 1997. Indeed, even some leaders of the IFP are not aware of the presence of this document.
Then followed the floor-crossing saga. That legislation was approved by about 86 percent of national Members of Parliament and nine provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal which is supposed to be led by the IFP. The Constitutional Court approved the principle of the legislation. At local level, councillors used the legislation to cross the floor even to the IFP. The IFP gladly accepted them into their ranks. It did not reject them on the ground that they used the so-called immoral legislation to cross to it.

On 29 November Premier Mtshali without even the courtesy of informing the ANC leader in the provincial government fired two ANC ministers and replaced them with two DP ministers. From four ministers the ANC was reduced to two in a Cabinet of ten plus the premier. The DA-IFP alliance threatened to dissolve the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature even although there is no legislation that allows provincial elections mid-term thus precipitating a constitutional crisis.

In the meantime in December, the provincial ANC leadership had requested the ANC national leadership to delete a clause in the amendment of the floor-crossing legislation which would have allowed a retrospective effect. The reason for this was not to compromise to the IFP but to avoid long-drawn litigation which would prolong uncertainty that was scaring investor confidence. Real patriots will think beyond the narrow partisan interests.
The pre-emptive proposal by the ANC averted a crisis and KwaZulu-Natal legislature is not dissolved. But the floor-crossing legislation will pass without a serious challenge in the Constitutional Court. This is not just a result of the dint of political strategic grasp by the ANC alone. There was a visible mass rejection of the strategy of brinkmanship and political blackmail especially from the business and labour movement.