Ugu District: 1 May 2010
I am delighted to be here in the Ugu
District to celebrate May the 1st with people who know the meaning
of hard work. In our national calendar we have many days of
commemoration and celebration. Once a year, we celebrate women. Once
a year, we celebrate the attainment of democracy. Once a year, we
remember the Sharpeville Massacre. And once a year, we commemorate
reconciliation. But the celebration of Worker's Day is perhaps the
most inclusive, because - from the cradle to the grave - we are all
required to work.
I have reached an advanced age but I am
working at the same pace at which I worked 40 years ago. There are
many reasons why I feel my work remains uncompleted. Whenever I
witness poverty, I know that I cannot stop working yet for the
development of South Africa's people.
Wherever I see corruption, disease, despair,
crime and a lack of basic services, I am convinced that it would be
wrong for me to stop working at the rate at which I worked more than
40 years go. This country still needs my contribution, just as it
needs the contribution of every South African of goodwill. I
find it difficult to lower my pace while we as a people are still
victims of so much poverty, unemployment, crime, HIV/Aids, poor
schooling facilities, corruption and more.
The Bible says that as human beings we shall
live by the sweat from our brows. That then is the lot of the human
race. That then is my lot as long as there is still life in me and
as long as my contribution is needed by South Africa. I do not think
it was God's intention for us to work between the ages of eighteen
and sixty, and then to do nothing. As human beings, our original
mandate has been to work; to cultivate the earth and subdue it. In
order for us to succeed as individuals and as a nation, we need to
develop a sound work ethic that accepts doing what needs to be done.
That is what is important.
That is the challenge for each one of us so
long as God has still blessed us with health and energy to fulfil
His purpose. And to make a meaningful contribution in tackling the
giants that I have enumerated above.
That is the work ethic of the IFP. This
Party is founded on the principles of self-help and self-reliance.
We believe in empowering people to give themselves a hand up, by
pursuing education, by working hard, by seizing opportunities and by
taking responsibility. From the school child to the pensioner, every
South African has a contribution to make which requires work in some
form or another. And make no mistake; one of the greatest blessings
one might experience is to be satisfied in one's work. One expects
no other reward than that. At my age there is no eminence or wealth
I am pursuing for myself. In any case it has never been my
motivation to pursue eminence for the sake of it or wealth for
myself except to serve others and my country.
Unemployment in our country is the root of
most of our society's ills.
When the present ruling Party acceded to
the governance of our country, the President announced in the state
of the nation address that the government would create 500,000 jobs
by the end of the year.
When he said this, it had already been
announced that the country was going into a global recession. And
what happened is that by the end of last year more than a million
jobs had been lost. There is no prospect that the situation is
likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Worker's Day is thus a day to be celebrated
by everyone, whether formally employed or not. In South Africa,
unemployment levels are high and many people struggle to enter the
labour market. Although Government has been strict in trying to
enforce fair labour practices through legislation, it has created an
environment in which the balance of power has shifted from the
employer to the employee, making employers hesitant to offer
When I was in government we tried to address
the rigidity of our labour laws. But the tripartite partners of the
ruling Party, COSATU and the South African Communist Party
threatened to roll out mass action if we did so. That was the end
of the matter. It is one of the reasons why some of the would-be
investors do not see our country as an attractive destination for
When our young democracy was deliberating
over the best way to regulate the labour market, I spoke as the
Minister of Home Affairs and advised Government to seek flexibility,
which would allow more people to be employed and see more people in
the job that is right for them. Government rejected my proposal and
today it is difficult to hire or fire anyone, which gives those who
are employed less incentive to work hard and makes those who seek
employment less likely to find it. I still call for flexibility in
the labour market. That was not the first time I had fought to have
our country's leadership move in the right direction in respect of
In 1973, as the Chief Executive Councillor
of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, I drafted a request for the
establishment of trade unions which the Executive Council delivered
to then Prime Minister Vorster.
Under my leadership, the KwaZulu Government
became deeply involved in the big strikes which took place in Durban
in 1973, which became a turning point in labour relations in this
I sent my then Minister of Interior, Mr
Barney Dladla, to support the strikers in Durban. The then Minister
of Labour, Mr Marais Viljoen - who later became the State President
- resented the role we played. He said Durban was outside the area
which government defined as 'KwaZulu'. I retorted to Mr Viljoen's
attack by saying that when the government set up the homeland
governments, such as the KwaZulu Government, they stated that they
were to regulate the affairs of "Zulu people wherever they are".
Most of the workers in Durban were Zulu and their rights, like the
rights of every worker, were a matter for my concern.
In the seventies, blacks were excluded from
trade unions because the definition of "worker" in the Industrial
Conciliation Act did not include black workers. In 1986, the
Director of the South African Institute of Race Relations, Mr John
Kane-Berman, noted that:
"Apartheid rests on the fundamental
absurdity that one can make use of blacks as labour, but deny their
existence as people." Mr Kane-Berman realized back then that
apartheid was being undermined by the growth of black trade unionism
which was asserting greater political power.
In Durban, I established the Institute for
Industrial Workers to assist black workers who had no union rights
with Professor Lawrence Schlemmer of which I was Chancellor.
Because of my efforts in support of black
workers I was awarded the George Meany Human Rights Award by the
largest trade union in the world, the American Federation of Labour
in the United States of America (AFL-CIO). I received it jointly
with a trade unionist who worked for black industrial workers in
Johannesburg, Dr Neil Aggett.
You may recall that the circumstances
surrounding Dr Aggett's death were quite suspicious. We were the
second recipients of the George Meany Award, the first being Lec
Walesa, the founder of Solidarity that big trade union in Poland,
and perhaps the most famous unionist of the last century.
When I formed Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe,
the National Cultural Liberation Movement in March of 1975, we
recognized that workers are at the forefront of any development of a
country. The preamble to Inkatha's Constitution read as follows:
"colonialism, racism, discrimination, intimidation, neo-colonisation
and the exploitation of man by man, pose a serious threat to the
whole life and existence of a people". We knew then that we were
going to have to work hard as a Party not only to achieve the
political liberation of this country, but to ensure that every
social challenge could be met and conquered.
Today the IFP has 35 years of hard work
backing us. We are not afraid of rolling up our sleeves and getting
the job done. In fact, we rolled up our sleeves in 1975 and have
never rolled them back down again.
Last weekend the wider body of the IFP's
leadership met in Empangeni to hold a second Extended Review General
Council. We worked until late into the early hours of the morning
taking stock of where we are as a Party and deciding what needs to
be done in order to prepare us for the Local Government Elections of
2011. These elections are just around the corner and the IFP has a
great deal of work to do before then.
We spoke as a Party about the Vukuzithathe
Campaign that we launched in June last year and we considered how
well we have implemented the plan of action we set for ourselves. We
stand a year away from the general elections of 2009, and we are
already back on the election campaign trail. There is no time to
stop and rest on our laurels. Now is the time for all IFP supporters
and members to express the IFP's strong work ethic by getting out
into communities and speaking to people wherever they are, about
what the IFP can offer South Africa.
Right now the electorate is being bombarded
with stories about a split in the IFP. There have been ructions in
our Party caused by the ill-discipline of a few members and the
selfish ambition of a few others. But the IFP is still standing and
we are still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to political
leadership. It is not that easy to brush 35 years of hard work under
the carpet or to overshadow the IFP's excellent track record of
governance with a few lies, a few text messages and few acts of
But the IFP's image is being affected and
this is a time when we can least afford for the electorate to be
misled. We need South Africa to see that the IFP is still a viable
alternative to the present system, in which corruption and poor
service delivery are the order of the day. We need South Africans of
goodwill to know that the IFP still maintains a vision for the
future that they can share, and the IFP still knows how to achieve
it. Even the antics of a few saboteurs within our ranks cannot take
away our vast experience as a Party.
Leading South Africa towards a future of
prosperity, stability and peace requires a leadership of integrity
and know how. Any leader that puts their own ambitions and their own
status before the interests of the Party and the interests of the
people is not worthy of support. In all my years of service, I have
never accepted the many temptations to elevate my own name at the
expense of the national good.
I refused nominal independence for KwaZulu
when I was Chief Minister, regardless of the authority that it would
automatically have bestowed upon me, because independence would have
meant the loss of citizenship for millions of black South Africans.
If I had fallen into that honey trap, the political freedom we won
in 1994 would have been meaningless, because many of us would still
not have had the vote. For the same reason I took the nationalist
government to court when they tried to portion off parts of South
Africa to Swaziland when they tried to excise Ingwavuma and give it
to Swaziland. Thank God, I won.
I did that for the benefit of South
Africans, not for my own benefit.
I say these things not to blow my own horn,
but to give an example of what selfless leadership looks like. I
regret that there are some people, even among our municipal
councillors, who have forgotten what true leadership looks like.
They mistake money for authority. They mistake treachery for power.
But I have warned our councillors and our leaders that if they
accept to become political pawns now for the sake of someone else's
career, they will always be pawns - even if the plan to weaken and
destroy this Party succeeds. That is the plan! We should not forget
how the New National Party was handed on a platter to the ANC by the
The IFP has never treated its members like
pawns. We have respected the contribution that every South African
has to make to the development and upliftment of our country. I know
that every IFP member has been attracted to this Party because it
expresses your own values and hopes. If you support the IFP, then
you agree that self-help and self-reliance are the twin pillars of
success. If you support the IFP, then you support a revolution of
goodwill that will see education, healthcare and development take
the place of ignorance, poverty and disease.
Support for the IFP is support for a better
future that is worth working for. The difference between the ANC and
the IFP is that we do not make promises we cannot keep. The IFP also
seeks a better future for all. But we do not suggest that it will
magically materialize if you just cast your vote the right way.
Voting for the right people is essential,
but you need to vote for the people who know that hard work is the
only way to make the dream a reality. We have a plan of how to get
there and our experience in governance has refined our plan to one
that works, and works well.
This is not the time to be scaring away
investors by talking about nationalization of mines. This is not the
time to be creating racial tensions with resurrected liberation
songs. This is not the time to pussyfoot around disciplinary action
against those who recklessly harm our national unity and drive a
wedge between South Africans.
Any worker knows that even one's best
efforts will fail when those around you distrust each other and
refuse to work together. This Worker's Day, I pray that our leaders
will have the courage to measure work ethic in terms of what is
needed to move South Africa forward.
It is not good enough for political leaders
just to do a job. The needs are too great and the challenges too
daunting for our nation to accept leaders who just do the bare
minimum. We need leaders who will give their lives for the struggle
of our nation. Any leader who says our struggle is finished is
walking around with their eyes closed. Our struggle continues for as
long as there is anyone in this country who cannot get a decent
education, or cannot find dignified work, or cannot feed their
family, or get medical attention when they need it.
Our struggle continues, and we need leaders
who are prepared to keep working. Not for their own bank balance,
but for the good of the people. Mere words are not enough. It is
time for our country's leaders to get to work. You might wonder, if
all this responsibility rests on our leaders, what role can ordinary
South Africans play.
Ordinary South Africans are the backbone of
our country. You are the reason we work so hard. You are the reason
we keep going, even in the face of hardship and challenges.
I stand here today and unashamedly ask you
for your support, because the IFP needs you. We need your support
and we need your vote. We need you to join hands with your Party and
pursue the vision of a South Africa that is better than what we have
right now. I ask you to go to the polling stations in 2011 and
declare through the ballot that your share the IFP's vision and you
support the IFP's cause. In the run up to 2011, I ask that you
accept the challenge of working hard to spread the message of the
IFP into all communities.
Our message is that there is still hope.
There is still a Party of integrity that knows how to get the job
done. There is still a Party that can pull our country out of the
mess it is heading towards and set it back on a course towards
success. We have worked in the direst of circumstances before, and
we have done it successfully. While the ANC was in exile, the IFP
remained in South Africa, in the trenches, side by side with the
workers of our nation.
We have seen obstacles before, but we never
use them as excuses. To the IFP, obstacles are there to be overcome.
They are there to urge us on to greater heights and greater efforts.
If you are facing an obstacle in your life, join hands with the
Party that knows how to put its head down and plough through. We
have not gotten so big that we have lost our sense of servitude.
Indeed, the IFP in a sense is becoming more streamlined, because we
know that those who support us do so wholeheartedly and with a full
commitment to stay the course.
You are IFP people. I can say that with
certainty because you have come here today through a sense of
patriotism to express your support for South Africa. And if you
support South Africa, you support the IFP. For as I have always
said, a stronger IFP is a stronger country, a stronger people and a
stronger hope for the future.
May God bless us as we keep ploughing
Liezl van der Merwe
082 729 2510