IFP Women's Brigade Prayer Meeting Marking Women's Day 2010
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

   

 

Ulundi: 9 August 2010

 

Of the many events that the IFP Women's Brigade could have organized to mark this day on our national calendar, it is wonderful that you have chosen to come together in prayer. At a time like this, with the troubles we face in our Party and in our nation, it is good to set aside a moment to focus on our faith, to thank the Almighty for His hand upon us - individually and as a body - and to seek wisdom for the way ahead.

 

This is not the first time we have found ourselves traversing difficult waters. The IFP Women's Brigade bears the memory of our country's liberation struggle, during which the members of our Party worked and sacrificed and persevered in the most desperate circumstances. This body also bears the memory of the low intensity civil war of the eighties that brought grief into our own homes with the loss of husbands, sisters, and children. The violence of that time claimed 20,000 black lives and is a scar on our past.

 

We remember apartheid, segregation and separation from our families.  We remember being uprooted and displaced. We remember working the fields from dusk to dawn and still not having enough to feed our children. We remember poverty, a lack of access to basic services like running water, electricity and sanitation. We remember the absence of justice, the inaccessibility of financial assistance, the pain of seeing our children suffer. But most of all; we recall the constant gnawing misgiving that the power to change South Africa would remain beyond our grasp.

 

Today, in the full light of liberation, politicians would have us believe that the people never doubted we would attain freedom. I have always marvelled at how former President Nelson Mandela, when writing to me from Robben Island, seemed convinced of our eventual success. In truth, he was one of the few. Of course we all hoped; and we dared not stop hoping, for the alternative was too ghastly to contemplate. But as we waged the day to day struggle against discrimination and minority rule, most of us faced a battle to keep believing.

 

That is the nature of faith. It is not automatic, unshakable or unwavering. It needs to be constantly exercised in order for its power to be revealed. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul reminds us that we all have been given a measure of faith. What has been given to you is neither greater nor less than what has been given to me. Why then do some believe steadfastly despite the circumstances, while others falter at the first sign of adversity? I believe the answer lies in relationship.

 

I have found that when one walks in a relationship with Christ, submitting and praying, reading the Word and believing, repenting and reforming; when trials come, one is able to bear them. In the light of God's greatness, one gains a new perspective on obstacles, challenges and difficulties. We are warned in Hebrews 11 verse 6 that, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." To me, faith in God depends on an understanding of God's character, and that requires a relationship.

 

Throughout my life, the source of my strength and energy has been my relationships. There have been many dark hours in which I suffered the arrows of vilification and lies. Many turned against me when the propaganda machine began to label me an enemy of freedom and a stooge of the State. I thank God that many others stayed at my side and walked with me through the valley of lies. Men and women of faith encouraged me with their friendship; they prayed for me, and with me, and their steadfastness strengthened my resolve.

 

It was not only vilification that made my career difficult. I have been faced with many tough decisions as a leader in our country. There has always been the choice between flowing with what is popular, and standing for what is right. Taking a stand for truth is often lonely and invariably comes at a cost. It was not easy for me to speak out about HIV and Aids when our culture shies away from talking about sex in public. Particularly as a leader, I was expected to refrain from addressing such issues. But it was because I am a leader that I knew I had to speak openly when I lost two of my children to this disease.

 

My public acknowledgement that my son and daughter had both succumbed to Aids opened the way for other leaders to broach the subject. South Africa's fight against HIV/Aids had been crippled for years by the veil of secrecy and shame that still covered this topic. Government's approach to fighting this war has left much to be desired and some of its policies have taken us backwards. But I feel we are still able to arrest the onward march of HIV/Aids if we keep talking to eradicate ignorance, keep working to increase the quality and length of life of sufferers, and keep committing ourselves to live responsibly.

 

The decision to champion the fight against HIV/Aids was one of the easier decisions I have had to make in my career. Others were more complicated and it was not always obvious what I should do. I knew that no matter what I did or said as a political leader, I would never be able to please everyone all the time and the cost of my calling would be a growing number of detractors as the years went by.

 

My decision to reject nominal independence for KwaZulu broke the back of the grand scheme of apartheid, but it won me no medals. My decision to reject the armed struggle and the call for international sanctions and disinvestment kept our country from greater poverty and certain war, but it earned me the contempt of my contemporaries.

 

These are decisions in the public domain and history remembers them well. But behind the scenes there were countless choices I needed to make every day, and these were the choices that brought the IFP and South Africa to where we are today. I chose to campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela, even though the nationalist government threatened me for doing so. I chose to meet with liberation leaders in exile, even though my passport was then confiscated for 9 years. I chose to make the IFP a home to all South Africans with a common goal of freedom, even when the former Minister of Justice instructed me to limit it to Zulus. And I chose one wife, even though my culture pressurized me towards polygamy.

 

Today, it is no secret that my relationship with my wife has been a tremendous blessing to me. Princess Irene has been a faithful help-meet, sharing both my pain and my joys as half a century in public life exposed me to the best and the worst in human nature. She has encouraged me, advised me, warned me and prayed for me.  Opportunities for me to publically acknowledge her remarkable character are too few, and I take this, the celebration of Women's Day, as a moment to honour her before women.

 

And to celebrate with you the 58th Anniversary of our marriage which was on the 2nd of July 2010.

 

It is also well known that my relationship with my mother greatly influenced my faith and my political career. It was my mother who ensured that I received a higher education, and it was she who taught me the value of exercising my faith in the manner the Bible exhorts us, through "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; sing and make music in your heart to the Lord?" (Ephesians 6 verse 19). These relationships strengthened me and shaped my character. Being close to these two women in my pilgrimage has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I thank God for them.

 

The Women's Brigade of the IFP can attest to the power of relationships. Throughout the years, it has always been our call to work hand in hand, to help ourselves and help one another. Our foundational belief is ubuntu botho and we know that no one is truly rich when their neighbour still lives in poverty. The IFP Women's Brigade has also been a great blessing in my political journey. It has been the backbone of the IFP and women of the IFP have rarely abandoned me. Some have abandoned me and betrayed me. But there have been less betrayals by women members in the long row of all the traitors that have betrayed me over the years. For this, I again thank the Almighty.

 

When I was the Chief Minister of KwaZulu, we developed partnerships between government and communities that enabled us to build schools, houses and clinics, even on the shoestring budget allocated to KwaZulu. The relationships between IFP women have given birth to cooperatives, vegetable gardens, shared childcare and community development. I am proud of our women.

 

But I must confess that I am extremely concerned that our Women's Brigade members seem to have been distracted by other things from following our beliefs in self-help and self-reliance.  By doing so we are allowing people to steal our clothes and in the process we fail ourselves in addressing the gut-wrenching poverty that women in particular have to address in all our communities.  In spite of the damage control which our sister Mrs Mchunu is trying to do, our Women's Brigade Conferences' Exhibition no longer give us a window to see the demonstration of self-help and self-reliance which IFP Women's Brigade Conference Exhibitions showed us in the past. And yet we have not been faced with a more challenging time than that which we face at this time especially when it comes to food security in the midst of the global recession.  Our rural areas are no longer as green as they use to be before 1994. This is one of the greatest challenges our Women's Brigade is facing.  We need to have a hand in helping our people to face the problem of food security.

 

But in the same way as relationships can build one's strength, so too can the destruction of relationships cause great pain. We are seeing this happen in our own Party, where the divides between supporters and non-supporters are becoming nothing short of factionalism and the tensions are breeding violence. The ructions this has caused have had a serious impact on our Party; both on its internal functioning and its capacity to serve South Africa. Moreover, our image has been tarnished in the public eye and support for the IFP is in danger of further dwindling.

 

Our attention has been so focused on our internal problems that we have failed to fully implement the Vukuzithathe campaign with which we tasked ourselves last year. We have failed to mobilize and grow support for next year's Local Government Elections. And we have failed to give South Africa a party untouched by power struggles, dirty politics and violence. That is perhaps our greatest failing. I have warned us repeatedly that if these problems continue, they will destroy the IFP's legacy.

 

The legacy of this Party is my legacy, but it is also the legacy of the Women's Brigade. This body has invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into the IFP, as well as investing its reputation.  Thus if the Party fails, the Women's Brigade fails. I have made it clear before that I also believe that if the Women's Brigade fails, the Party will fail. Our greatest support remains among the women of South Africa. The majority of our members are women, and the majority of our active members are women. You are the backbone of the IFP.

 

There are people who have decided to cultivate a very convenient amnesia amongst members of this Party and particularly when it comes to the gender issue.

 

No one can with a clear conscience accuse me and the IFP of having failed to address the gender issue. I addressed this issue long before 1994, before it was in vogue to address it. I repealed the Zulu Code of Law which enslaved women of this province.  I made it possible for women to have locus standi in judicio. In other words to sue and be sued in their own name. I changed their status of being perpetual minors to be majors and to have a right to own property. Women did not have a right to own their houses and I removed from our statue books laws that prevented women from owning property. The cruel habit of chasing away women from their houses once their spouses had died was abolished by me and the KwaZulu government many decades ago and before the dawn of our freedom. 

 

Can women so easily forget these things and be so gullible as to swallow hook, line and sinker the propaganda of our political enemies and of some of the useful idiots within the Party that are being used by our political opponents to vilify me and the leadership of the IFP?  Who appointed the first woman as a Minister in South Africa?  It was me when I appointed Dr Mthalane as the first Deputy Minister of Health in the KwaZulu government. After the dawn of our liberation we appointed former leaders of this Women's Brigade Mrs Nokukhanya kaNkosi-Shandu and  Mrs Faith Xolile Gasa as Ministers of Education in the KwaZulu Natal government. Where do these lies that we do not address the gender issue come from?

 

If anyone wished to destroy this Party, they would aim their blow at the backbone. And that is exactly what is happening. I was appalled to hear an ANC Minister of State, Mr Tokyo Sexwale, publically affirming the lie that the IFP and its leadership are persecuting our National Chairperson. The ANC Women's League quickly jumped on the bandwagon and offered Mrs Magwaza-Msibi succour and support. The image was created of an IFP that cares nothing for its women; a Party that is trying to stifle its women's voices and ambition.

 

That is not the Party I founded, nor is it the Party this Women's Brigade fought for over the past three decades. For many of our members, the work of the Women's Brigade spans their lifetime. You have grown up in this Party and know the Party as home. I therefore pray that you will not be led astray in your own home to become part of a plot to destroy the IFP. It seems inconceivable, but I have been flummoxed at the names that have become embroiled in this whole debacle. I ask you to remain steadfast and to question whether what you are doing is preserving the IFP's proud legacy, or obliterating it.

 

We each must live with our own conscience. That is a lesson I have learned in over half a century in politics and public life. It is the yardstick by which I measured the choices I made when I was faced with difficult decisions, both during our liberation struggle and in the sixteen years of democracy. Liberation did not automatically make leadership easy. On 27 April 1994, we took the first step on a long journey towards creating the South Africa our people had always dreamed of. Political enfranchisement was the first milestone. Ahead lay the markers of social justice, legislative reform, the rule of law and shared development.

 

We have not passed these markers yet, and our journey continues. The IFP is still at the vanguard of this journey. We still carry the mandate of hundreds of thousands of South Africans from every walk of life. We still represent our nation in Parliament and in the Provincial Legislatures and in our Municipalities. We still have hundreds of Councillors serving at the local level across this country.  The IFP is still needed and still relevant, and we will press forward today, tomorrow and in the years to come for the sake of the country we love.

 

We may have experienced problems since 2009, but what is a year of difficulty compared with 35 years of strength? Our history and our legacy still stand, and they remind us of our commitment to serving South Africa. We will remember this time of hardship in the Party, just as we remember every other storm we have weathered. And members of the Women's Brigade in generations to come will point to it and tell their sisters; this is where we learnt the importance of unity. 

 

This was the moment of reckoning. May future generations remember this time as the catalyst that provoked us to stronger relationships and unity of purpose.

 

May God guide us towards this outcome.

 

I thank you.