IFP Worker's Day Celebration
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

 


 

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 permanent positions.

 

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 their investments.

 

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 workers.

 

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 country.

 

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 treachery.

 

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 then leader.

 

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 through.

 

Contact:
Liezl van der Merwe
082 729 2510