National Elective Conference of
the South African Democratic Students' Movement


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

 

 

 The Mangosuthu University of Technology: Umlazi: 6 August 2011

 

 

I wish to thank the President of SADESMO, Mr Ntuthuko Majozi, and the National Council of SADESMO, for inviting me to address this elective conference. As we reiterated earlier this year, SADESMO is a structure of the IFP and serves the interests of the IFP among South Africa's students. The IFP's successes are therefore the successes of SADESMO, just as the challenges the IFP faces are the same challenges faced by our Student's Movement.

 

Like the threshing basket, this organization has been agitated and shaken. In so doing, the wheat has been separated from the chaff, for the chaff has been blown away on the winds of division and deceit. 

What is left seems like less than what we started with. But what we have now is far more valuable. What we have in SADESMO now can be turned into political bread to nourish and strengthen.

 

But I must still add a warning that SADESMO is still facing elements who are determined to undermine it or even destroy it.  So there must be no time for relaxation.  As long as you are operating as the principled organization that you are, accept that you will have enemies that will crop up even within your own ranks.  This has been the story of my life.  This has been the story of the IFP.  Accept that this will be the story of the life of SADESMO.

 

Any organization would be severely tested by the kind of storms the IFP went through in the past two years, from the first ructions caused by the "Friends of VZ", to the failed court case of Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi in which her treachery was exposed, to the split she created and the formation of the National Freedom Party mere weeks before the Local Government Elections. Then the election results, which proved the destructiveness of the NFP splitting the vote, and the NFP-ANC coalition that proved the NFP was a surrogate of the ruling Party.

 

The IFP weathered all these storms with resolute faith in our principles, our legacy and our supporters. There is no question that we were bruised and damaged by what transpired, particularly by the election results. But after all this; after the consistently negative media coverage we received; after the escalation of brown envelope journalism and biased reporting; after the pundits repeatedly penned our obituary; and after we struggled to compete with the flush flow of funds in the ANC and NFP; the IFP emerged with the support of so many South Africans that we regained the position of third largest political party in this country.  Those who were gleeful about what happened during the local government elections must accept the fact that while we are bruised by the ANC/NFP onslaught, they are far from done with us.  Let me remind them of the famous words of President Mandela in April 2002; "We have used every ammunition to destroy 'Buthelezi, but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him."

 

We did it because we never stopped working when the odds were stacked against us. We never gave up and we never gave in. Ironically, through this storm we have proven ourselves perfectly cut out for the role that has now been thrust upon us; that of opposition politics. The election result has shed us of the responsibilities of governance in most municipalities and given us the mandate to pursue a no-holds-barred opposition role. The tensions between being in government and being a watchdog over government have been removed, enabling us to focus all our energy and resources on being a vigilant and vocal opposition.

 

This is a role the IFP is well-equipped to play, and it is a role that politically active students are naturally drawn to. History proves that ideological revolutions are born on university campuses. 

Institutions of higher learning are the crucible in which social change is forged. This is not because students become presidents and ministers, but because students become the voice of dissent, demanding that what is wrong in a society and a government is put right.

 

As the IFP takes on the role of opposition, we rely on SADESMO to ignite a new passion within students for opposition politics. In some ways, that is not hard to do, because opposing the many inefficiencies, corrupt practices and inadequacies of government is easy. We do not need to look far for a fight, or a cause to adopt. But opposition politics is about more than complaining loudly. It is about serving the interests of our people by protecting and promoting first the Constitution, then the institutions that uphold our Constitution and the values that support them.

 

The task ahead is made more difficult by the handicap we suffer in the IFP of being a cash-strapped party. There are not enough resources for us to accomplish all that we envision, and often our good ideas cannot be implemented for lack of finances. I know that SADESMO has suffered because of this. It is frustrating when you know what needs to be done, but you cannot do it. One of the areas in which we will need to develop our skills is that of fund-raising. We have no other choice.  

We in the IFP are unfortunate in that unlike what happens in the ruling Party, for instance, hardly any of our entrepreneurs ever think of giving the Party any financial assistance.  So SADESMO as part of our movement suffers the same fate as we do, as a Party.  That is why we see some of our unprincipled Tenderpreneurs leaving the IFP like rats who think the ship is sinking.  It is sad that we find these even amongst people of your age group.  You have no idea of the clandestine meetings similar to those meetings which preceded the birth of "the friends of VZ" which these elements are attending with the top leadership of the governing party.  They continue to plan and plot my downfall and the destruction of the IFP.

 

If we are to build up our support base once again, we will need to find creative ways of commanding attention and making our message heard. One of the rich veins we have not yet tapped into is that of high school learners who will be 18 years old at the next elections. 

SADESMO has gained ground in many tertiary institutions, but we have made no in-roads at high schools. This is a mistake. We need to take full advantage of students' organizations, linking up with them and promoting the IFP's message of strong opposition to all that is wrong in the present system.

 

The voters of 2014 are in Grades 11 and 12 right now. They are already aware of the challenge they face when they finish school, because poverty and high unemployment levels threaten their future. They are already familiar with social challenges like HIV/Aids, crime and substance abuse. They already know that housing is a problem, and food is expensive, and there is too much corruption going on in politics. 

They have already been exposed to ANC Youth League slogans and ideas. 

At an age when they are most easily influenced, their opinions are already being formed.

 

We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to match their ideals to the sound principles of the IFP right now, hoping instead to change their minds when they reach tertiary level. We need to reach them now, in high school, and show them a political home that expresses their passion, patriotism and concerns. This is the challenge for SADESMO in the coming year.

 

We face this challenge in the full awareness that students are questioning the value of joining the IFP in the light of all the divisions and ructions we have gone through. We lost several SADESMO leaders and members to the split in the IFP and some of them defected to NASMO, believing the NFP to be a better option. When the NFP climbed into bed with the ANC, several NASMO members wanted to come home to SADESMO, for they were disenchanted by the truth about the NFP. They had believed a lie, but their eyes had been opened.  

Whenever I sound warning bells, I never do so lightly.  When I warned about "the friends of VZ" and later the NFP being birthed through funding from some of the top brass of the ANC, I knew what I was talking about.  I had all the evidence.  The present coalition between the ANC and the NFP has proven that what I said was by no means just sheer idle talk.

 

We welcomed these people back to SADESMO, for we cannot hold a lapse of judgment against anyone and leave them out in the cold. We are a grassroots movement; a movement of the people. We will never exclude anyone who aligns themselves with the principles and values of the IFP. But we demand that those who join SADESMO accept the responsibility of representing the IFP and the IFP's values. Too much confusion has been sown about SADESMO and NASMO, about the IFP and NFP and the role of the ANC in fomenting tensions. We cannot expect to move forward if confusion persists.  The Constitution of the IFP provides that those who return to the Party must be accepted, but that a cooling off period be observed before they are given positions of trust again in the Party.  Remember what happened with Mr Sikhumbuzo Khanyeza.  Others were opposing his election as chairperson of the Youth Brigade in the Province, because he had just joined the IFP from the ANC.  Just look back now and think of how right they were about this gentleman, when we think of how he denied that he was joining the NFP and the amount of crocodile tears that he shed, as he made these denials in the NEC.

 

Confusion is often created on the ground by internal conflicts. The kind of conflict we are still seeing within SADESMO is not acceptable, for it threatens the stability and the future of the movement. We cannot grow in the midst of conflict. Who would want to join an organization that is riddled with tensions and squabbling? We cannot offer a political home to students when our message is diluted by our behaviour. When students look at SADESMO, they need to see the principle of unity reflected in the unity of our structures and the cooperation of our members. They need to see a movement that is functioning well; is disciplined, cohesive and focused on the goal.

 

In order to create that kind of movement, SADESMO needs sound leadership. This conference is important to the future of the IFP, for it is here that you will decide the future of SADESMO. It is here that you will choose the leaders who can rebuild our students' movement into a vibrant, unified and focused structure. I urge you to choose leaders who can work in a team, as part of the team, for the benefit of the team. This is not the time for lone rangers and status-seekers. 

This is the time for leaders who can draw people together around a common goal.

 

The leaders you choose today will also represent SADESMO in the IFP's elective Conference in October this year. They will be responsible for carrying your mandate to Conference.  As you know I was asked by the National Council, backed by the IFP Women's Brigade, and the IFP Youth Brigade and the Executive Committee of SADESMO to continue leading the Party until such time as we may have a smooth leadership transition.  

I have neither said yea or nay to that. The ructions created by the "Friends of VZ" and the treachery of our former National Chairperson made it impossible for me to step away from leadership, for I could not abandon our Party to disorder and division. Now that the NFP has been formed and the Local Government Elections are over, some commentators think it is time I leave.  I would welcome an opportunity to do so as long as the Party is not wreaked by the interferences from the ANC's leadership.

 

Of course, that has been the old refrain for years; that it is time for Buthelezi to retire. I have tried to retire on two occasions, and we know that Conference unanimously asked me to remain. Our detractors like to pretend that I am somehow clinging to power, as though I have anything to gain at this stage in my life from titles or positions. 

This lie that I refuse to leave is painful to hear, for I have remained at the behest of my Party and have sacrificed the reward of rest that people my age have earned. When the ANC continues as it is doing at present, to undermine and destroy the IFP, I have a great dilemma as to what to do.  Should I run away or rather be destroyed with the IFP?  I pray that God finally guides me.

 

Securing the future requires continuity of leadership. That does not necessarily mean electing the same people, but it means supporting people who are committed to upholding the legacy of the IFP. In terms of this conference of SADESMO, it means choosing leaders who seek to unify our Party and grow our support base. As the President of the IFP, I leave it in your hands to ensure continuity of leadership.

 

I have not yet had the opportunity to thank you in person for the hard work you performed during this year's Local Government Elections. We were disappointed with the results, but not with our efforts. Many of you worked passionately to keep our supporters and to get them out to vote. For that, I thank you. I hope that you will build on that work and learn from those experiences as you continue to recruit and mobilize students to support the IFP in 2014. That is not a task for some future date. It is the task at hand. I urge you to start now, become more active and keep going.

 

We have a lot of ground to make up and a lot of organizing to do. We have fires to put out, and fires to light. The conflicts and divisions must be quelled, and a new enthusiasm must be ignited. I know the difficulty you have faced due to the lack of resources. We feel it everywhere in the Party. Cost-cutting measures have affected our reach. But a lack of resources does not affect our message. We cannot attract students with fancy events and costly festivals. But we can draw them into debate, get them thinking and show them a political home that shares their hopes, their concerns and their values.

 

If, at the same time, we can model a movement that is unified, focused and undeterred by the fickleness of political fortunes, we will grow our support base. Our voice of opposition will increase in volume and strength, and SADESMO will be heard at the vanguard of change in South Africa. That is where you should be. That is the birthright of the legacy we have created in the IFP. But you will need to fight hard for your birthright, for there are those in the ANC and in the NFP and even in the media who are all too ready to strip it away. By rights, SADESMO should lead the call for change in our country.

 

As you emerge from this conference, I pray that SADESMO will be equipped with the leaders and the mandate to take up this role. I thank you.

 

Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510