Memorial Service for Ms Hleziphi Myeni

Message of Condolences By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP


Msiyane Hall, Jozini: 8 September 2011 



In 1932, a young woman, moved by her friend's bereavement, penned these words:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there; I do not sleep."

When I received the sad news of Ms Hleziphi Myeni's passing, I recalled these words, because I know that, while she is no longer with us, Ms Myeni is alive in Christ. Thus, as we mourn our loss today, let us also celebrate the life of a strong and faithful woman that continues in eternity.


I am honoured to stand as the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party to sing the praises of our late sister. Our Party was such a significant part of her life that she will be remembered whenever the IFP is remembered. She was one of our most powerful women leaders, because she was outspoken and direct; passionate about the IFP's principles and determined to uphold them in the political arena. Her death leaves a void in our Party that will not easily be filled.


As the many graves scattered across the world attest, no one is indispensible. The world still spins, even when we lose people that seem pivotal to our lives. Ms Myeni was a former Deputy National Chairperson of our Women's Brigade and was the Speaker of the Jozini Municipality when that municipality was under the leadership of the IFP. Since the Local Government Elections, she served as an Exco Member of Jozini Municipality.


She was a rare kind of leader. Even in the midst of great treachery and political subversion, none of us could doubt the loyalty of Hleziphi Myeni.

Her home was the IFP and she defended our Party's legacy, policies and values with her every breath.


She was an unusually blunt lady, making no apology to anyone for her forthrightness. But this allowed everyone to know where they stood and, more importantly, where she herself stood. It is a testimony to her character that the ANC Women's League issued a message of condolences upon her passing. Her loyalty and leadership commanded respect.


But Ms Myeni was not merely a politician. She was a teacher first, and she was good at it. Many children passed through her hands as they received an education. For someone so young, she managed to create a legacy that will continue for many years. Indeed, her youth makes her death harder for us to bear. Ms Myeni was one of those who had a bright future ahead of her. It is painful when a life so well lived is cut short so early. But we must submit to the will of God, for in the end we are mere pilgrims and God alone knows when our time is up. So let us not mourn the years our sister did not have, but rather remember with gratitude the years she used so wisely to make her mark.


If there is anything we can do to honour her memory, I believe it is to revive the structures of the IFP here in Ingwavuma. Let us be inspired by the life of Hleziphi Myeni and remember the legacy she worked to protect. I am often surprised that so many people in Ingwavuma have forgotten the history of this place. You have forgotten what the IFP did to protect the status of Ingwavuma as part of South Africa when the Nationalist Government threatened to give it away to Swaziland.


On 18 June 1982, the Apartheid Government announced that it had repossessed Ingwavuma. It was going to give away people and land to a foreign country, as though they were mere pieces on a chess board. They had not consulted the people of Ingwavuma, nor the KwaZulu Territorial Authority. As Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, I opposed this vile plan.


Through the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly and through the Inkatha Freedom Party, I took the issue to the Natal Supreme Court. Within less than a month the court ruled against the Government, cancelling its plans. Ingwavuma and part of kaNgwane, which they had also tried to give away, would remain part of KwaZulu. If the Government had succeeded, everyone in Ingwavuma would automatically have lost their South African citizenship. You would not be South African today, were it not for my opposition to Government.


Of course, the Apartheid Government appealed the ruling, but the Appeals Court in Bloemfontein upheld the Supreme Court's decision and Ingwavuma remained part of South Africa. This is part of the legacy of the IFP. It is a legacy that Ms Myeni dedicated her life to protecting. I am surprised that our memories are so short that we do not remember these intrigues of the previous era. And I am disappointed that those of us who remember our past do not pass it on to the next generation.


This history inspired Hleziphi Myeni, as it should inspire all of us, especially here in Ingwavuma. I am saddened by the fact that she died with all that knowledge. More so because she has died in the same year as Mr Eric Ngubane, who was involved in the litigation that secured Ingwavuma. I hope that these stalwarts of our Party will remain an inspiration to us for whatever is left of our own lives. While Ms Myeni has passed on, the memory of her courage remains.


Many words of praise will be spoken about Hleziphi Myeni. She was a fearless fighter, a strong and resolute leader, a tireless campaigner for justice and equality, and a defender of the principles of the IFP. She was also a beloved member of the Myeni family, a fondly remembered teacher and a faithful child of God. She cannot be replaced. I do not know how we will find someone to fill her shoes. At best, we can continue her work, sharing her passion and being inspired by her example.


I am sorry that I will not be able to attend our sister's funeral on Saturday, as it coincides with the annual Reed Dance ceremony of His Majesty the King. But I am glad I had this opportunity to honour Ms Myeni and to remember the outstanding service she gave to the IFP. I wish to thank her family for lending her to us, for I know the kind of sacrifice it takes to be politically involved, and I know that that sacrifice is made by one's family as well. Thank you for your generosity.


May the Lord comfort and uplift us as we mourn our loss. I thank God that we do not mourn as those without hope. As Believers, we live in hope of the resurrection. Even though we lose our loved ones, we believe we will meet them again as we too step into eternity. We recall the gospel of St John in chapter 11, where our Lord assured Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."


So we know that our sister is not dead, but alive in Christ. Her passing has shocked us, for she was young. Her life has inspired us, for she was courageous. But her faith is what will remain. After speaking to Martha about eternal life, Jesus asked, "Do you believe this?" None of us can avoid answering that question.


In closing, allow me to return to the words of the young lady who wrote -


Do not stand at my grave and weep


I am not there; I do not sleep.


I am a thousand winds that blow,


I am the diamond glints on snow,


I am the sun on ripened grain,


I am the gentle autumn rain.


When you awaken in the morning's hush


I am the swift uplifting rush


Of quiet birds in circled flight.


I am the soft stars that shine at night.


Do not stand at my grave and cry,


I am not there; I did not die.