Elective Conference Of The IFP Women's Brigade
In KwaZulu Natal

Keynote Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

   

 

Eshowe Town Hall: 6 June 2010

 

 

The battle is on for the soul of the IFP. There is no longer any denying the fact that there is a group of people who want to destroy our Party and see it relegated to the annals of history. Those who began by spreading lies in the media more than a year ago about the leadership of the IFP, who held secret meetings and employed underhanded cloak and dagger tactics, are now openly declaring war on our Party.

 

I have come here today with a great deal on my heart, and I am pleased for the opportunity to speak to you. I feel that there may be few more opportunities to arrest the flow of poison into our Party and, before we reach our Annual General Conference, we need to turn the tide on the lies that are being sold to women of the IFP. Make no mistake; you as the women of the IFP are being targeted, because if one wants to break the back of our Party, the lethal blow is to our backbone.

 

Since I established Inkatha in 1975, I have recognised that women are the backbone of this Party. The majority of our members have always been women, and the majority of our women members have been here in KwaZulu Natal. Never in the 35 year history of our Party has the IFP Women's Brigade been in such a state of chaos and weakness. The strength of the Women's Brigade has always reflected the strength of the Party. If the Women's Brigade is floundering, it bodes very badly for the Party.

 

Not only are you as women the largest percentage of our Party, but you have always been our most active members. Women have a skill for taking up a good cause and running with it. You have a unique talent for conveying a message to others in a way that convinces them of its worth, its value and its importance. This is the very reason I have always made a point of listening to South African women and valuing their ideas. Women have been attracted to the IFP because here we have a Party that knows their worth.

 

It is thus a deadly blow and a deep insult to suggest that I and the leadership of the IFP are persecuting one of our women and standing in the way of her ambition.  When those who want to destroy the IFP forged their strategy, it was a calculated arrow to the heart of the Party to base the whole charade on a highly placed and respected woman leader. A great deal of confusion has been created to hide the real intentions behind the succession debate.

 

Today, I want to cut through the smokescreens so that we all might see the truth. As your President, I bear the responsibility for leading you towards truth. The things I am going to say today have nothing to do with any personal desire to continue leading this Party. They have nothing to do with campaigning for another term. They have nothing to do with trampling on anyone's ambition. What I have to say, I say because you, our backbone, need to be strengthened with the knowledge of what is really going on.

 

For more than a year we have been engaged in a struggle with a group of people calling themselves the "Friends of VZ". They have been slandering our leadership, sneering at our Constitution, spreading lies through the media, paying off people to join their ranks, manipulating our members, disrupting our meetings and campaigning for our National Chairperson to throw me out of the Party ? even when the National Chairperson castigated them in the media and distanced herself from their activities.

 

The question we must ask ourselves is why the so-called "Friends of VZ" continue with their shenanigans when the very woman they claim to support has publically admonished them to stop. Mrs Zanele ka Magwaza-Msibi has declared her unavailability to be nominated to the position of Party President at next month's Annual General Conference. 

 

So why do the "Friends of VZ" keep wearing T-shirts bearing her photo? 

Why do they keep exalting her and vilifying me? Why are our loyal members being pistol whipped? Why are we hearing about petrol bombs and stabbings?

 

Because the "Friends of VZ" are no friends of the IFP. They are pawns who have been bought by people outside the Party to destroy us. The lie these people have sold the "Friends of VZ" is that by weakening the Party, they will be able to snatch away its leadership, ensuring them high positions, big salaries and status. They have been led to believe that if they can disrupt our General Conference and split our members down the middle with lies and intimidation, they will emerge from Conference as the new leadership of the IFP.

 

What they are not being told - and what they somehow fail to want to see - is that if they succeed in dividing the IFP, there will be nothing left for them to lead. They have been set up to weaken our Party, so that the real agents provocateur can sweep in and deal a death blow to the IFP, to its legacy and to its future in South African politics. Let us not forget how the New National Party was handed to the ANC on a platter. Are we willing to do the same thing with the IFP?

 

Let us not forget the lessons of the low intensity civil war that claimed so many black lives in this Province just thirty years ago.  The ANC made it clear to us then that they were dead set on political hegemony after liberation and would not tolerate a rival party, particularly not one so widely supported by the majority of our people. Within a few years of Inkatha being established, we had the support of over a million card-carrying members. We were the largest black political organisation ever to appear in South Africa, and our Women's Brigade was the largest political body of women. We were a clear threat to the ANC's desire for hegemony.

 

When liberation came in 1994, the IFP became the third largest political party in South Africa, despite the years of vilification, slander and attempted assassinations against me. The people of South Africa supported Inkatha because we were the voice of the voiceless in apartheid South Africa. We did not leave our country to fight for liberation from a distance. We stayed in the trenches; that is in the fields, in the communities and the gathering places of ordinary South Africans who daily had to face the battle of discrimination, injustice and fear. I listened to the people. Inkatha listened when they spoke and took pains to express the will of the majority, rather than assuming we knew what was best.

 

Even after liberation and even after the ANC began rewriting history to portray itself as the sole liberator, the people of South Africa supported the IFP, because we continued to be the party that listens to the will of the people and takes pains to express their voice. We have never dictated to our people. We have served them. We have never used our youth structures to attack other leaders. We have never silently condoned corruption. We have never asked the people to accept the leadership of anyone whose integrity could be questioned or whose commitment to the interests of our country were dubious.

 

We have always been a threat to the ANC, from the moment I rejected the armed struggle and opposed the call for international sanctions and disinvestment. Our support may have decreased over the years since liberation as the political landscape of our country evolved. But we have not ceased to be a threat to the ruling Party's agenda of hegemony. They look at us now and think that we have become small enough so that they can finally destroy us.

 

It is not just coincidence that the ANC Youth League is boasting that it will have one million card-carrying members by 2011. Neither should we disregard the fact that  people such as Mr Tokyo Sexwale have began lending their voices to the lie that we are persecuting our National Chairperson. Mr Sexwale is not a friend of the IFP, but he is a man with a vast amount of money and a significant amount of power. Let us not be fooled into thinking that the problems the IFP is experiencing right now are just an internal debate on who should lead this Party after the Annual General Conference. There is something much bigger and much more sinister going on.

 

What frustrates me the most is that there are still some people who are either openly part of the "Friends of VZ" or secretly support their cause, who fail to grasp that they are being used to destroy the IFP. Not to make it stronger. Not to take it into the future. Not to give it a woman President. But to wipe it off the face of the political landscape. No one is going to support a party that is divided and chaotic, particularly not young people. We are at an added disadvantage in that the younger generation does not bear the memory of all that we suffered during apartheid.

 

My generation knows the history of South Africa and the history of the IFP because we lived through those terrible times. We have a foundation on which to build our understanding of what is happening right now. But young people are more easily mislead. Considering that South Africa's population is so youthful, it is critical that we make sure that the message of the real IFP reaches young people, because they constitute the largest portion of the voters.

 

Historically our women have been most active in mobilising support for the Party and recruiting members. But it is hard to recall any campaign of mobilisation recently initiated by our Women's Brigade.  While we cannot lay our poor performance in last year's elections at the feet of any one structure or person, I know that one of the key reasons we fared so badly was because our Women's Brigade is not as strong as it should be.

 

The sad fact is that our Women's Brigade has not become stronger since the 2009 elections, but weaker and more undisciplined. Indeed the reports delivered to our Extended Review Council this year show how some of the branches of the Women's Brigade are not credible. If we allow this state of affairs to continue, we will lose in the 2011 Local Government Elections more than we have ever lost before. We need a strong Women's Brigade that is committed to seeing the IFP protected from the predators now preying on our image, on our leaders and on our future.

 

I find it almost bizarre that any of our members could be taken in by the lie that we are persecuting our National Chairperson, when the IFP's legacy is founded on respect for women. I have promoted the agenda of women emancipation before it became topical and popular in Africa. In the seventies, I repealed Zulu laws which were making married women minors and under the custody of their husbands. This freedom came for Zulu women a decade ahead of the repeal of similar provisions which were subjugating white women in this country until 1994.

 

I also enabled women to hold title deed to their land after their husbands had passed away, which was an extraordinary departure from our indigenous and customary law and a first in South Africa.

 

I made history when I promoted the first female traditional leaders within the Zulu nation and appointed the first woman within my Cabinet in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government. I had the largest percentage of women in my delegation at the World Trade Centre when we negotiated the constitutional transition from apartheid to democracy.

 

I mention this because all such actions were taken when it was not politically required to do so, and all the women appointed to positions were chosen because of their skills and the contribution they had to make. To me this is the most important element to making gender parity a reality, rather than a slogan.

 

It is not just a matter of filling a quota or doing something which is politically correct. One needs to enable women to compete for positions on the same level as men and recognise that they have the capabilities to achieve what men can, if not more. I have often said that this must start from within schools, through universities, the workplace and the political system. It requires a change of attitude which eliminates the visible and invisible hindrances within society which prevent women from achieving and reaching their goals.

 

The most important reforms are those which take place within the mind, heart and soul of people. A change of culture is necessary to eliminate the low ceiling placed above women's growth, which is often made of psychological oppression, prejudice, harassment and belittling role models.

 

In South Africa we have passed extremely progressive legislation which has eliminated all forms of discrimination between men and women. In law, men and women are equal in all respects and nothing stops women from achieving anything they wish within society.

 

But this is not sufficient. The hindrances to their development take place within their own minds, within the minds of their fathers, mothers, husbands and children, within the culture of their communities and within the unspoken mindset of workplaces. All this needs to be changed and for more than half a century I have championed the cause to change it. It is a deep insult to me and to this Party that our opponents now choose to attack us on this front, pretending that we have no respect for women and are simply trying to prevent a woman from taking leadership.

 

When the National Council took the decision to redeploy the National Chairperson from her position as Mayor of Zululand to being a member of the Provincial Legislature, our opponents used the "Friends of VZ" to twist our motives and call this decision a demotion. But if one moves from the third and lowest tier of Government to the second tier of Government, how can that be anything but a promotion? No matter how you want to view the world, a move up is not the same as a move down.

 

During these stressful times in our Party, I am often reminded of the scripture that warns that where selfish ambition exists, confusion and every evil thing will be evident. The confusion being generated about the IFP's leadership and the IFP's future has now turned into violent conflict. Just look at the level of security we need at a provincial conference of the Women's Brigade. Too many of our elective meetings have been disrupted with the throwing of chairs and the hurling of obscenities; a culture which is new and foreign to the IFP.

 

The IFP I established and have led for 35 years is a party of integrity and discipline. Our legacy is that of orderly meetings, respectful behaviour and free debate, without fear of intimidation or violence. I am sickened to the pit of my stomach to see this Party being turned upside-down by one group of people who want to promote themselves and another group who want to destroy us. As I said at the outset, the battle is on for the soul of the IFP, and as distasteful as I find being caught in the middle of it, my love for this Party is being stoked more and more.

 

With all the insults being hurled at me and all the damage being done to my legacy, one would think that I would be ready to just walk away.  But I have given life to this Party, and I have given the Party my own life. I love the IFP and I love the people we serve. I love this country. I am not ready to step aside and see the IFP being destroyed, because I know that South Africa still needs the contribution of our Party. There is no other party that can offer the integrity that is our legacy. We remain the moral compass of this nation, and if we allow our opponents to destroy us, and our own members to deliver us into their hands, we will have done this country a grave disservice.

 

I have differed with the viewpoint of the ANC many times over the years. Now I am differing with them again. I do not believe the time has come to wipe out the IFP's legacy and rob South Africa of our contribution. I believe the IFP still has a remnant of faithful patriots who are not willing to stand down and watch this Party be destroyed. I know that there are many women among us here who are witnessing the divisions being sown and saying to themselves, "This is not the IFP". It seems this is not the IFP you joined or the IFP you fought for. It is to these women that I wish to speak as I close my remarks today.

 

Please, I urge you, do not give up on our Party. Don't surrender to the frustration that all these ructions are causing. Rather, let them stir you to righteous anger - not to violence, but to work. Let them reignite your passion for this Party and let us again work together, hand in hand, the way we have always done to overcome the challenges that circumstance, history and opposition have always placed before us.

 

This is the time for the Women's Brigade to begin serious initiatives to mobilise support ahead of the 2011 Local Government Elections. Let us not be so distracted that we lose sight of the goal. I encourage you to get out into your communities and recruit members. Tell people about the IFP, about its legacy and what it can do for our country. Use your negotiating skills to reason with them. Help people see the importance of a strong IFP for effective service delivery and a local government that works. Right now, the Women's Brigade needs to be focussed on building support for the Party.

 

I remain in awe of what our women can achieve. I have seen your strength time and again. Now it is time to gather your strength again and use it to reunite our Party. South Africa needs a strong IFP and the IFP needs a strong Women's Brigade. Let us cut through the smokescreens and lies, and jealously protect the legacy of this Party.  I am fighting for our survival. I ask you to stand with me and fight.

 

Let us reunite the IFP through the strength of its women.

 

I thank you.

 

 

Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.