IFP Kwazulu-Natal Provincial Conference
“One IFP, One Legacy, One Future”

Keynote Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

   

 

 

Esikhawini Campus, Umfolozi FET College: 3 July 2010

 

As I rise to take this podium, the thought that occupies my mind is that we are locked in a battle. I realize as I stand before you that many of us are angry, frustrated and tired, and for many of us, our spirits are flagging. But this is not the time to surrender. This is the time to regroup, refocus and recommit ourselves to a new strategy of war. I speak in these military terms because the soul of our Party is under siege. Our response must be passionate, for the very survival of the IFP is at stake.

 

As we meet for this provincial conference, there is great anticipation in the air. For one we hope that here, in the heart of our support base, we will be able to meet without disruption or violence. There have been incidents of fistfights and shots being fired at some of our meetings and we know that emotions are running high in KwaZulu Natal. But I trust that we can emerge from this conference without any incident. Let us serenely focus on the issues, debate the facts and reason together over what is in the best interests of the IFP.

 

The sense of anticipation is also heightened by the fact that we are just days away from our Annual General Conference which will be held towards the end of this month. There has been a great deal of pontificating in the media over what will happen at Conference, and rumours are rife within the Party over what the IFP will look like on July 26th. Will we still be one party? Will we still be united and strong? Will our leadership be altered?

 

When I spoke at the Gauteng IFP Provincial Conference on Sunday, I heard that someone in the audience was overheard chiding me for speaking about the so-called “friends of VZ” because this person felt that our National Chairperson should be present to defend herself.  Everyone disagreed with this sole voice because clearly when we speak about the so-called “friends of VZ” we are not speaking about our National Chairperson.  But we are speaking about people who have designated themselves as “friends of VZ” and also continue to wear special T-Shirts marked with those words.

 

Mrs Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi has repeatedly distanced herself from the “Friends of VZ” and has publically called on them to desist from their divisive and damaging behaviour. She has also made it clear that she will not be available to stand for election at our Annual General Conference and there should, in truth, not be any electioneering involving our National Chairperson. But the “Friends of VZ” have announced that they intend to cajole our National Chairperson into standing for election and many people believe that our Conference is going to see some kind of split in the Party.  “The friends of VZ” keep on saying that they already have a sown up agreement that when they propose her name from the floor she will comply with what is called “the will of the people”.

 

In the end, only time will tell what will happen at our Conference. At best we can hope that the genuine will of our members prevails. We are not blinded to the fact that our opponents employ dirty tricks and underhanded tactics to get what they want. We know full well that there are saboteurs in our midst who wish to weaken the Party so that they might snatch away its leadership. We also know that there are people from outside the IFP fuelling the divisions by funding the “Friends of VZ”, in the hope that they might destroy the IFP altogether.  Something that the ANC has attempted to achieve since 1979, after the meeting between me and Mr Oliver Tambo with our respective delegations in London.

 

We know that some of the branches that have suddenly been established are bogus, and we know that our opponents are famous for bussing people in to sway the vote. We are aware of the many bribes doing the rounds and of corrupt tender practices that have polluted loyalties of some of our members. We know about cheque book politics, intimidation and threats. The IFP is no stranger to the game. We have been around for 35 years; before liberation, before democracy, before coalition governments and before political splits.

 

We were here before President Zuma, President Motlanthe, President Mbeki and President Mandela. We were here before Malema became a loudmouth, and before allegations of corruption began to taint South Africa’s leaders. We were here before negotiations towards a democratic future, before the apartheid Government realized it would have to cross the Rubicon, and before the majority could vote. We were here for the 1994 elections, when slogans of a better life for all captured the imagination of our nation. And we were here in 1999, 2004 and 2009 when the same slogans began to ring hollow.

 

We are not political newcomers. We have weathered the storm of a low intensity civil war that pitted ANC supporters against IFP supporters in this province. We have weathered the storm of vilification as the lie was conceived that the ruling Party had won our liberation singlehandedly. We have stood through the economic recession, when we somehow had to compete with the ANC’s war chest of R200 million. We have seen strategic distribution of food parcels eat away at our support base, and empty promises lure away our voters.  We were here when ethnicity was used last year by some, even in this Party who told even our supporters to vote for Mr Zuma as he would be the first Zulu to be at the helm as President of the democratic South Africa.

 

But through all of this, we are still here. We are still standing. We are still strong. We are going into this Conference with a large constituency, mostly from here in KwaZulu Natal, and we are going to seek their mandate as we have always done. I have never done anything except with the mandate and support of my Party. There have been snide comments that I am clinging to power and trite suggestions that I should retire. But you know that I have come to our Conference twice and indicated my intention to retire, and twice I have been unanimously implored to stay. I will not do anything unless it is the will of my Party. But I can also not go against my Party’s will, however inconvenient that may be to me personally.

 

For 35 years I have given my time, energy and passion to the IFP. I have sacrificed a normal family life and subjected myself to the lies, accusations and defamations of people who hate all that we stand for. For 35 years I have been the lightening rod for every abuse that has been hurled at this Party, from the apartheid regime to the ANC-mission-in-exile, from the national media to the “Friends of VZ”. What is new in all this vitriol of the “Friends of VZ”? There is nothing new.

 

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that “Oppression destroys a wise man’s reason…” Yet at my 80th Birthday celebrations, my granddaughter dedicated to me the words of Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you… if you can wait and not be tired by waiting; Or being lied about, not deal in lies; Or being hated, not give way to hating… Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop to build them up with worn out tools…” then you are a Man, my son.

 

I recount these things because I want to make it known that I have taken the measure of what I can handle and what I am willing to do, and I have decided that I still have the passion to see the IFP triumphant. I still believe we are one Party, with one legacy and one future. I have seen what we are able to accomplish with very little, against great adversity. I am proud of the legacy of the IFP that has given to South Africa a party of integrity and discipline. We have shown the courage to speak truth to power. We have accepted the hard path towards development. We have worked hand in hand with our people and never left the fields and the trenches to serve from a safer distance.

 

I am committed to keep going, to stoop and rebuild the IFP with whatever tools are at my disposal. My question to this provincial conference is whether you are ready to work with me. Are you ready to elect leaders today who will take up the cause of a stronger IFP, or will you fall in with those who seek their own enrichment? Will you put our future into the hands of men and women of integrity who know the IFP’s legacy and are determined to carry it forward to strengthen the voice of the IFP in South Africa?   Or are you going to succumb to the flowing rivers of money which “the friends of VZ” are flaunting everywhere?

 

In February this year I spoke at Qhudeni in the Nkandla District and boldly said there is only one IFP and one cause. Am I still expressing the heart of my people? We were hit so hard by the 2009 elections that some of us began giving up hope and doubting the future. Our opponents have preyed on this doubt to raise the suggestion that the IFP may need to split in order to change. But I think we need to follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, so that the truth can guide us.  What happened to the ANC at Polokwane is no longer a remote possibility, but a possible probability.

 

If this Party is split from top to bottom, the two pieces will be smaller and weaker. The legacy of the IFP will be destroyed which means that all the goodwill that supports us will vanish and, along with it, the votes. Our voice will be wiped out in the National Assembly and in provincial governance, and the IFP will be relegated to the annals of history, where the lies and propaganda will slowly destroy even the memory of our contribution. If the “Friends of VZ” snatch away the leadership of a broken party, they will find themselves in the political wasteland.  By the time we have local government elections we run the risk of being just a sentence in the annals of history.

 

We are not talking about two potential paths towards the future IFP. We are talking about one path to unity, survival and growth, and another path towards destruction. It is vital that we see things in these stark terms, because we just do not have another moment to waste on talking about divisions and change and ructions and in-fighting. If we look at the results of the recent by-elections in KwaZulu Natal, it is obvious that we are still losing support. I have no doubt that this is because, in the mind of the electorate, the IFP has become all about internal battles rather than service delivery. We have wasted more than a year since the 2009 elections. Instead of electioneering and mobilising support, we have been disciplining members, explaining our Constitution and worrying about the latest antics of the “Friends of VZ”.

 

Our message is not getting out there. We are not assuring our supporters that the IFP has not changed its stripes; we are still champions of federalism and decentralized government, we are still fighting to stop the onslaught of HIV/Aids, we are still the frontrunners in the battle against unemployment, under-development and poverty, we still believe in justice and equal dignity, access to education, empowerment, self-help and self-reliance. We are still the Party that calls a spade a spade, and looks for the best way to use it to benefit the people.

 

Just now the media is full of controversies surrounding the ITHALA Bank which I founded as Minister of Economic Affairs and Chief Minister in the erstwhile KwaZulu government.  I founded it in order to give our poorest of the poor access to loans since commercial banks were reluctant to give loans to people who could give no security for the loans they needed. Today, this bank has been pillaged by an elite in the government of the Province.  We wish to hear louder voices within our leadership as this is something which I founded, which is today being destroyed by the greed of politicians and officials in the KwaZulu Natal government.  It amounts to daylight robbery of the poorest of the poor by the rich and privileged.

 

We are still the voice of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, the sick and the hungry. But we do not have much time left to make that voice heard, because we are just months away from the 2011 Local Government Elections, and these elections are going to be make or break for the IFP. If we fail to win the numbers game at the polling stations by getting the votes, we will have failed, full stop. If we are afraid for the IFP’s future after Conference, we should be terrified for the future after 2011.  If we continue to fail to implement our Vukuzithathe Plan and continue to concentrate only on the internal feuds led by “the friends of VZ,” we are likely to see the end of the IFP as we have known it in all the 35 years of its existence.

 

The best and only way to conquer this fear is to get out there and start campaigning. After the disappointing results in 2009, we as a Party came together in an Extended Review Council to consider where we had gone wrong, what we were doing right and how we could tip the scales back towards victory. We were honest with ourselves and frank in our discussions. By the end of that Council, we had agreed on the Vukuzithathe campaign and we had set ourselves goals, targets and timeframes in a plan of action that was sure to grow the IFP.

 

But in the months that followed, our attention was diverted by the ructions in our Party and we became slower and slower to implement Vukuzithathe. We therefore met two months ago in a second Extended Review Council to reconsider where we are and how we can get Vukuzithathe back on track. Since then, we have established specific teams and tasked them with driving our campaign, counteracting the negative publicity we have received and dealing with the “Friends of VZ”. We have freed ourselves up to do what is most needed right now; campaign, mobilize support, speak to the electorate, sign up new members, get people on board and win the votes.

 

It is no secret that we now have to double up and even triple up our efforts to grow in the coming elections. We have lost a lot of time and goodwill. But we have not lost our sense of purpose or our value. The IFP still has an important contribution to make in KwaZulu Natal and South Africa. There is still one IFP, one legacy and one future. We cannot afford to fail. Whether they are aware of it or not, every South African needs a strong IFP as we head into the future, because in the absence of a real and strong opposition, South Africa is headed for disaster.

 

We know what an uphill road we are travelling.  The media seems determined to do their damnedest to deliberately distort everything that we say or do.  For example, when I spoke at the Gauteng Provincial Conference on Sunday, I stated that we have now set up teams to implement the Vukuzithathe turn-around strategy of our Party. But one of our major newspapers in this Province deliberately distorted my statements that I stated that these teams were set up to sort out “the friends of VZ”.  The media knows that Mr Nhlanhla Khawula is no longer a member of this Party and yet a political editor of one of our major newspapers went to him to help him to propagate lies about the Party and about our plans for the general conference.

 

Neither the print nor the electronic media spares us. And this is not something new as far as our treatment by the media is concerned. Anyone who doubts what I am saying needs to read Dr Anthea Jeffery’s seminal work ‘THE PEOPLE’S WAR’ to see some of the dirty tricks that the IFP was subjected to during the low intensity civil war. One can only hope that we may yet survive the current onslaughts as much as we survived the past onslaughts directed against us from the time the UDF and COSATU emerged in the mid 80s when they joined the ANC-mission-in-exile in its campaign of vilification against me and Inkatha.

 

Anyone who disputes this can do us the favour of explaining why a prominent leader of the ANC, Mr Tokyo Sexwale, a Minister of State and a member of both the ANC’s NEC and of the Working Committee of the ANC, should go out of his way to attack the Party with a tissue of lies. You are all aware that Mr Sexwale made a statement in the media accusing the leadership of this Party of persecuting our National Chairperson, the Honourable kaMagwaza-Msibi. 

 

Anyone who doubts what I am saying can perhaps also explain why the Executive Committee of the KwaZulu Natal ANC Women’s League should go out of their way to accuse the IFP leadership of persecuting Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi and accuse us of not addressing the gender issue when we as the leadership of the IFP chose her as our candidate for the Premiership of this Province. Do we need any further evidence of where some of the money bags of “the friends of VZ” come from?  We are battling against quite a formidable block of enemies who are hell bent on destroying the IFP in cahoots with “the friends of VZ”. 

 

In addition, we have some of the activists of the ruling Party who masquerade as political analysts, spreading half-truths and blatant lies about us, under the pretext that they are providing political analysis.

 

It is sad that we have similar problems in COPE which, when it was launched, was hailed by all of us as a sign of hope for the strengthening of opposition politics.

 

This gives the measure of the real burden that rests on our shoulders. Today you are tasked with choosing leaders that have a vision that extends beyond Conference, beyond 2011 and even beyond 2014. The IFP needs men and women who are committed to preserving the legacy of our Party and carrying it forward. We need leaders who seek a stronger, more united party; leaders who can grow the IFP rather than dividing it.

 

The theme of your conference is; “ONE IFP, ONE LEGACY, ONE FUTURE”.  So when everything is said and done, that is the issue that this conference is supposed to resolve. Is the IFP still one Party and do we intend to keep it going as one Party?  Does the IFP have one legacy which is the legacy which I have bequeathed to this Party in the last 35 years? Is the best solution to the present impasse that “the friends of VZ” be given space to found another Party and build their own legacy based on their condemnation of all that the IFP stands for? Or do we still intend remaining and going on as one Party with one common future?

 

Are we aware of how we were devastated in the general election of April 22, 2009? If we are, do we agree that our only hope to reverse our electoral misfortunes of 2009 would be for us to implement our Vukuzithathe from today? Or is it time to conclude that the IFP has outlived its usefulness and should fold up and all of us close shop? Can “the friends of VZ” be open with us on whether they intend going on destroying our Party in their activities? If our discussions can give answers to those questions, this conference will have served the purpose for which it was convened.

 

Let us choose the path towards a future in which the IFP survives, thrives and grows. For the sake of our country, our province and our people, let’s get the IFP back on a winning track. We know how to do this. So let’s do it.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510