The Masters of Ceremonies, Mr Mandla Malakoane and Mr Archie Khumalo; Inkosi of the Sithole Clan, Inkosi N.W. Sithole; Inkosi of the Thembu Clan, Inkosi N.E. Mthembu; Members of the National Parliament and members of the provincial Parliament; the Chief Magistrate, Mr B.M. Mchunu; other senior officials from all Departments of both the national and provincial governments; the Chairman of the Regional Council and other Councillors present; Indunas present; distinguished citizens of our country, ladies and gentlemen.

Today is an important day for South Africa. This is an important day for the IFP. It is not the first time that we come together to celebrate National Women’s Day. However, every year the celebration of Women’s Day acquires a new meaning. Each celebration, every year, builds on the many efforts that the men and women of our country have jointly accomplished to improve gender equality and increase prosperity and stability in South Africa.

I take the opportunity, in celebrating National Women’s Day 2000, to stand in salute of the women of South Africa. Hand in hand, standing strong, you have made South Africa what it is today, and, hand in hand, you are forging for our country a new vision of what we should be tomorrow. I take great pride in the fact that the Inkatha Freedom Party has walked with the women of South Africa for 25 years, working constantly to ensure that women may take up their role within our liberation struggle, within our democratic transformation, within our historic transition and in the building of our future. The IFP has remained a trusted companion and an undaunted voice speaking up for the rights of South Africa’s women.

The cause of gender equality is not new to the IFP. We were the first to embrace it and to secure tangible successes for its advancement. We are now faced with the challenge of building on our track record to ensure that we remain ahead of anyone else in recognising both the role, as well as the aspirations of women. Since its inception in 1975, Inkatha recognised the important role that women had to play in our liberation movement. As much as 25 years ago, we formulated a holistic concept of liberation. We recognised and advocated that no one can be liberated for as long as someone is still shackled with the chains of oppression.

We recognised then, as we recognise now, that oppression exits in all building blocks of our society and that genuine liberation can only be brought about if all aspects of our lives are freed from oppression. Since our inception, we have realised and advocated that one cannot struggle for liberation only against one type of oppression, without concomitantly fighting against all forms of oppression of the human mind and spirit. We fought against political oppression which deprived the majority of South Africans of their God-given political rights, and the entitlement to govern themselves through their chosen political representatives through free and fair elections.

However, since our inception we also declared that the object of our struggle and the purpose of our fight, was that of abolishing the oppression which flows from poverty and the oppression which flows from discrimination, as well as the arrogance built into any type of unnecessary power relations. It is for this reason that, for the IFP, the struggle for liberation is far from being complete. We never even conceived that the struggle for liberation could have been declared completed six years ago, when the first democratic elections were held. For us, the struggle for liberation will never be over for as long as people are oppressed by poverty, unemployment and ignorance for lack of education. For us, the struggle for liberation will never be over for as long as women are oppressed merely on account of their gender and are regarded, within any block of our society, as lesser citizens than their male counterparts.

We were the first to promote the liberation of women, and we will continue to go ahead of others in ensuring that the liberation of women becomes one of the engines through which prosperity and stability are finally achieved in South Africa. In order to achieve economic prosperity and social stability, we must promote widespread economic growth, human upliftment through training and education, and massive developmental infrastructure and services. However, even this is not sufficient unless we develop the human condition and free all our people from every form of oppression.

Women are often the weakest link in the social chain, because they are the most susceptible to oppression. It is only when we free all women from any type of oppression, in their families, work-places and communities, and wherever else women express their personalities, that our society will finally be free. The liberation of women can change the way our families, work-places and communities operate on a daily basis, and can make them better building blocks of our society while enhancing the contribution they can give towards the pursuit of our final liberation.

The IFP was the first to promote the liberation of women when we recognised their role within the leadership of Inkatha since the time of its inception. As the ruling party of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, we took unprecedented legislative initiatives to remove the discrimination of women entrenched in law. We amended the Natal Code of Native Law to enable women to own property like their male counterparts, thereby eliminating forever the legal presumption that adult married women were minors throughout their life. We did so while in the rest of South Africa, married women were regarded as minors under the custodianship of their husbands, even in the affluent sections of white society. We went even further by opening the institution of traditional leadership to women and we allowed for the first female traditional leader to be installed.

During the process of constitutional negotiations, we took an initiative which would have enormous consequences for the future of the liberation of women in South Africa. The full import of that initiative has not yet been appreciated by our history, and yet it was the real beginning of a revolution which the IFP can rightly claim to have set in motion, to improve on the condition of women. The IFP realised that in the Negotiating Council at the World Trade Centre, the constitution was being negotiated and eventually written only by men. Given that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, its provisions would influence any future legislative and social development. Any constitutional shortcomings in respect of women would forever be reflected in their social advancement for years to come.

For this reason, we successfully fought to have an additional representative in each of the delegations negotiating the drafting of the constitution, who had to be a woman representing the cause of women. It is from this original strategic initiative of the IFP that our Constitution was so framed as to become one of the most progressive in respect of the cause of women’s liberation. The Constitution began a process which now must be carried forward at all levels of our society. The struggle for the liberation of women from all forms of oppression cannot be conducted only at the legislative level. Women are not only oppressed by discriminatory laws, but also by discriminatory attitudes and practices.

In order to free women from all forms of oppression, we must change attitudes in families, work-places and communities. We must recognise that in work-places women are as capable as their male counterparts. We must ensure that the principle of equal pay for equal work done is strictly adhered to. We must also ensure that work-places are transformed to register the contribution that women can make and to become more suitable for women. The time has come to relegate sexual harassment in work-places to the ugly memories of a bygone past. The time has come to bring South Africa on a par with the standards of genuine civilisation and liberation, which ensures that women are not the constant object of harassment on account of their gender or sexuality.

The history of the 20th century clearly registers that as soon as women became part of the productive cycle and were able to be treated on the same level as their male counterparts, the whole of society made a huge leap forward both in terms of economic growth, as well as in terms of quality of life. Both men and women are necessary to ensure quality of life within a family. Similarly, both men and women are necessary to ensure quality of life within society. Their contribution, status and role must be regarded with equal respect, recognition and appreciation.

The time has come to appreciate what women do within families, and ensure that their position is protected. The time has come to stop domestic violence once and for all. We must change our families to ensure that their own homes are safe places for women. Women should not fear being oppressed by those who have the responsibility of loving, nourishing and protecting them. The State must take a hard attitude against anyone who perpetrates domestic violence. However, this cannot be the responsibility of the State alone.

Each of us has the responsibility of condemning instances of domestic violence within our own immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. Too often, domestic violence is simply condoned or easily forgiven. Our communities must change to develop a different perception of what women deserve and how they should be treated. People who depart from these higher standards should be isolated, rather than having their behaviour condoned, and they should meet social condemnation. Our communities must talk about these problems and expose the many tragedies which are often consummated in families behind closed doors. Silence becomes a contributing factor to the climate which enables perpetrators of violence against women to remain untouched by social condemnation and reproach.

There is still only so much the law can do to liberate women. The rest must be done by the people themselves, by virtue of improved attitudes, greater dialogue and increased social responsibility. The liberation of women into the next stage of our struggle depends on the revolution of goodwill, which must transform our families, work-places and communities. The liberation of women is one of the major objectives of our revolution of goodwill, because only when all women are free from oppression will South Africa be prosperous and stable. We must change the hearts and minds of the people, both men and women. The liberation of women must work on both sides of the equation.

Destructive habits, wrong attitudes and the vicious cycle of violence are often entrenched within the culture of both men and women. We must educate our women for them to realise that they indeed have the right to be free, and that they are not by any means lesser people than their male counterparts. Women themselves must accept the challenge of growing and realise that there are no natural impairments to their performing within society at the same level as their male counterparts. The world is filled with examples of women who became heads of government or heads of state, who have achieved Nobel prizes in all fields of arts, science and technology, and have often outperformed their male counterparts.

Each of these success stories begins with a small revolution of goodwill which took place within the hearts and minds of the women concerned. None of us has the power to unilaterally change the world which surrounds us. However, each of us has the power to change and improve upon the world which is within ourselves, the way we feel about reality and how we see our position within the social environment surrounding us. Behind the success of most women, was a revolutionary statement of goodwill which they made to themselves when they assured themselves they could do it. They believed they could do it, not in spite of being a woman, but because they were a woman, thereby recognising that contrary to social conventions, being a woman is a factor of greater strength, rather than an element which carries weaknesses and impotence.

When people talk about women power, they refer to the inner realisation that being a woman does not carry the implication of being powerless, but rather that of being powerful; powerful within a family, powerful within a work-place and powerful within communities. The power of women is a power for good and it is the power of goodwill. Women have the task of bringing a new dimension to our social living, which highlights the constructive element over those destructive elements which are unfortunately latent within human nature. I remain convinced that the stronger the influence of women within our society, the better life will be for everyone.

For this reason, whoever puts a woman down on account of her gender, whoever silences a woman thinking that she is not as good as a man, and whoever prevents a woman from fulfilling the full measure of her God-given potential, is really setting the whole of our society a few steps backward. Women should be allowed to speak up, for there is a great contribution of honesty, openness and sharing to be given by South Africa’s women. Indeed, the ability of women to express their feelings and share compassionately is one of the greatest tools we may use in getting people to start talking about issues that need airing. The most challenging among these is the ongoing fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. I believe that women have a unique role to play in winning this battle.

We need to cultivate a deserved respect for the way in which women can open dialogue. From the heart of the family and the pulse point of our communities, when women start talking about a subject, the facts begin to emerge for the benefit of all. The HIV/AIDS issue needs to be spoken about. Information on how to prevent its spread, on how to treat those who have contracted HIV/AIDS, on how to cope with the loss of a loved one, on warning signs and symptoms, on precautions and respect within intimate relationships, and on the need for a return to morality, is absolutely essential. We cannot ignore the onslaught of this pandemic. The best weapons we have are communication and community solidarity. In both, women are the catalysts. This fact must be respected in the long-term battle we have to fight.

The most immediate challenge for women, however, is the forthcoming local government elections. We need to ensure that the IFP reaches out for our womenfolk and mobilises our women to bring about a resounding electoral victory. Let the word go out that the President of this Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, counts on our women to bring the IFP the electoral victory which we so rightly deserve. The time is running out to prepare a successful election and we need to rely on the organisational skills, commitment and dedication of all our supporters, especially the women.

When we mention our women, we must in the next breath mention our youth. From the inception of our organisation 25 years ago, the constitution placed both the Women's Brigade and the Youth Brigade as direct representatives of the President of the IFP. Our women will not carry out this important task just by themselves without using their children as their legs in carrying it out. So the challenge I am putting to our women is the same challenge that I am today putting to our Youth Brigade. The people of KwaZulu Natal have a wonderful saying: "Giving birth to a child is like stretching oneself just a little further" (UKUZALA YIKUZELULA.) That once we have our children it means that we are provided with the means to go just a little further in whatever we do.

We know that our women can achieve their mission in this election if they are enabled to go much further through the role of their children. Children, or the youth, are in fact their legs. This is the time for us all as elephants of the IFP, both older and younger elephants. I think our young elephant in the person of Mandla Malakoana has demonstrated this role of young elephants. He has demonstrated, together with the older elephant, Mr David Ntombela, here in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands, that we need both strands on our bow in the person of the older and the younger elephants working in tandem.

The Midlands are going to be a crucial area for our overall electoral performance. It is important not only that we win in the Midlands, but that we win with a resounding majority. I am delighted to take this opportunity to welcome the new members who are joining the IFP. This is a sure sign that our Party is growing. The IFP is growing by leaps and bounds. Our revolution of goodwill is reaching out into communities, and people of goodwill are realising that we are the only party available to carry forward the struggle for liberation until the day when poverty, unemployment and ignorance for lack of education will finally be defeated.

We are not in the least surprised that some of our members who were rushed into joining other parties are now returning in droves to our Party. We are not surprised that people in general are joining our Party in droves. The people have known us for 25 years working hard in their midst without ever trying to insult their intelligence by making false promises to them that we could not fulfil. We offer to the people leadership that has been tested and proven as reliable and dependable.

The coming local government elections will be a last chance effort to bring to life the goal of federalism for which the IFP has fought since its inception. The foundation for a new system of local government is being laid, and we cannot afford the fundamental stage in the building of the delivery machinery for the new South Africa, to reject the notion of a federal system. Federalism is the best means to combat the growing centralism which threatens to govern South Africa from Pretoria or Cape Town. We want to see the power to govern brought closer to the ground and placed in the hands of the people. Only in this way will our diverse communities be able to formulate solutions fit to fulfil their own specific and varying needs. This to me is true democracy and only the IFP can secure it.

We need to ensure that the growth of our Party is underscored by an electoral victory. I cannot understate the importance of choosing the right candidates to stand on our lists. We must choose competent leaders of people, who have constituencies and can get the job done. Local government is going to be the most important structure to ensure the delivery of services, and must be driven by people who can deliver to our constituencies. Our candidates must be people who can drive the new local government structures, not people who need to be carried by them. We must ensure that they are the best people for the job.

These elections offer great opportunities for up and coming leaders willing to serve the people. I have often stated to anyone wishing to enter politics, that politics is indeed public service. A political representative is a servant of the people. Whoever chooses to run for these local government elections must accept this great responsibility on his or her shoulders. This is an unsurpassed opportunity for political growth which, however, can only be captured by those who approach it, not because of their ambition or desire of personal aggrandizement, but because they are moved by a genuine desire to serve our people and build South Africa into a better country. We need revolutionaries of goodwill to make the new local government structure work.

These local government elections are the beginning of a new process. The old local government structures were established for an interim period and their function was mainly that of serving as a bridge between the old and the new. With the next elections, the new will finally be ushered in and the next cycle will begin. The purpose of this cycle is to begin the long journey towards genuine liberation. We need to have candidates capable of leading in this journey. We need people of vision, dedication, courage and stamina. We need to have genuine revolutionaries of goodwill who are animated by the vision of a finally economically prosperous and socially stable South Africa, and who want to make a personal contribution towards bringing this dream a little closer to reality every day.

This is a monumental challenge with which the new generation of political leaders is confronted. This new generation is laying the foundation of a new beginning and it is indeed a foundational generation. Those who come in in the new local government councils will be able to say that they were there since the beginning and, hopefully, decades down the road when they tell this story, they will be able to recollect a tale of success. South Africa, our communities, our work-places and our families will be what we make of them from this moment henceforth. We now have the possibility of reshaping what we have into something better, before it once again gets entrenched in something which is not good enough.

This is the time for the people of goodwill to step forward to claim their rightful leadership role. This is the time for the IFP to grow. This is the time of the IFP. We are the Party of the future, because we have never stopped our struggle for liberation and our goals are far from having been achieved. We are the Party which can lead the transformation ahead, because we have never rested on any past accomplishment. We are the Party of the future. We are the Party of hope. We are the Party which can indeed make tomorrow a better day than today. May the IFP grow ever stronger and ever greater.


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