IFP Women's Brigade Annual Exhibition
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

 

Ulundi: 11 December 2010  

 

Each year, as I attend the exhibition of the IFP Women's Brigade, I feel a sense of renewed pride welling up within, for this exhibition displays the greatest attributes of our women, which are self-help and self-reliance.

 

This year the Women's Brigade exhibition coincides with 16 Days of Activism For No Violence Against Women and Children, and issues surrounding the rights of women are being highlighted in the media and public discourse. Much is being said about women being the most vulnerable segment of our society, and in many ways this is true. But I have seen another side of South Africa's women. I have seen their strength and resilience. I have witnessed the power they hold within.

 

It has been my privilege to work with the women of the IFP for 35 years. When I founded Inkatha, I founded it on the twin pillars of self-help and self-reliance, knowing that we could not wait on the assistance of a government that was intent on domination and oppression. As Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, I was tasked with administering the meagre resources Pretoria afforded us. During those painful years, I came to know the women of this province and this country, and developed a deep respect for them that has never wavered.

 

Through decades of apartheid's indignities I worked with the women of Inkatha to provide for their families and uplift themselves. We worked together to build houses and schools. We struggled together to establish cooperatives and vegetable gardens. Together, we educated our children, clothed them, fed them and gave them a hope for the future through our own perseverance. Together, we imparted faith to our children, praying that a future generation would know a liberated South Africa because of all we did to achieve it.

 

During that time, there was vast unemployment, not only because of apartheid, but because of the economic sanctions which the ANC and their allies brought upon our country. When Mr Oliver Tambo stood before the United Nations General Assembly in 1976 and called for international disinvestment from South Africa and the imposition of economic sanctions, I knew our country was taking the wrong path towards greater suffering. I spoke often and openly against this call, knowing that it was the poorest of our people who would ultimately suffer, for the minority-owned industries would respond by forming cartels and monopolies.

 

This is exactly what happened. It was a reflection of the old laager mentality of the ruling minority, and the ANC has misjudged it completely. But they persevered, believing they were right, and our people bore the brunt of that decision. When I established Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe in 1975, I was determined to make it the voice of the people by ensuring that no decision was taken outside of the will of the people. I felt that the ANC's mission-in-exile had lost touch with South Africans who were still living under the harsh daily realities of apartheid and still struggling with discrimination, unemployment, poverty and prejudice. If the ANC's mission-in-exile had asked the people, I believe they would have heard resounding opposition to the call for sanctions.

 

Had they kept a finger on the pulse of the people, rather than being led into the dynamics of the Cold War and dazzled by the impractical ideologies of Communism, I doubt the armed struggle would ever have been born. For none of us chose violence. None of us chose to sacrifice brothers and husbands and children. The IFP was dragged into conflict, because violence became the clarion call of the ANC. In the ensuing years, I attended countless funerals of Inkatha members and supporters, and I wept with our women as we buried our dead, while trying to keep our faith alive.

 

Under those terribly difficult circumstances, I urged our women to work. Whenever I addressed our people I warned that we should not wait for government handouts. Everyone who has two hands should produce something in order to earn a living. To assist with this initiative, I sent some of our women leaders to the Coady International Institute at St Francis Xavier University in Canada, to study cooperatives and community savings. Among those women was Mrs Eileen ka Nkosi Shandu, who is with us today, and Ms Thoko Zungu.

 

Inkatha's initiative towards food security was ridiculed by those who emphasized the political struggle, for they said that cabbages cannot emancipate. But to me this was a sign of political illiteracy, because any general knows that soldiers cannot march on an empty stomach.  While we struggled for our emancipation, we had to eat. And the foundation for food security had to be cooperatives.

 

History reveals that the Afrikaners pulled themselves up by their bootstraps by creating cooperatives to lead their struggle for economic emancipation. Cooperatives are still a valuable tool. We still need to do first things first. In the preamble to Inkatha's first Constitution, we highlighted poverty, ignorance and disease as our major enemies. They remain our major enemies today.

 

Even after we achieved democracy, I kept speaking to the IFP about self-help and self-reliance, warning against the spirit of entitlement that caused so much disappointment within the first few years of liberation. It seemed that once we had achieved political enfranchisement, many people thought that houses and jobs and cars were owed to them by government, and they could now sit back and receive them.

 

This mistaken perception was fomented by the ANC; they brought it upon themselves. In the run up to the 1994 elections, the ANC promised all kinds of impossible dreams, simply to win the votes. After the elections, when it became clear that an ANC-led Government was not able to deliver on its promises, the die had already been cast, and so began the slow set-in of disillusionment.

 

But the IFP was not disillusioned, for we had never held any illusion that jobs and food would fall from the sky. We had worked the fields and built homes with our own hands for so long that we knew nothing comes from nothing. A harvest only comes from backbreaking work. Over the years, the IFP cultivated the physical and mental discipline to work hard for development and upliftment. We have not lost that discipline, but I do think we need to be reminded of its value.

 

I have no qualms in saying that it is our women who have showcased the greatest work ethic in the past 35 years of this Party. You hear me saying again and again that women are the backbone of the IFP. I keep saying it, because it stays true. But I am saddened when I think back to the exhibitions we have held in the past and compare them to what we manage to produce today. It seems that over the years this Women's Brigade exhibition has shrunk, and I feel it no longer conveys a proper sense of what the IFP's women can achieve.

 

 From the inauguration of the Women's Brigade, its conferences were a showcase of crafts and handiwork, to the extent that the exhibition dominated Women's Brigade conferences. It was a venue for our women to come and display their produce; from vegetables to beadwork, from baskets to sewing and pottery and cooking. The exhibition was a wonderful opportunity for women to express their creativity and initiative, and reminded us each year of how talented and resourceful our women really are. For me, it was deeply encouraging, for it spoke of a strength of spirit that I knew apartheid and even political violence could not break.

 

Having held the exhibition for so many years, one could expect it to have grown and to be an ever greater showcase of initiative, craftsmanship and ability. But, somehow, the standard has dropped. I find this worrying, not only because I feel this exhibition is a symbol of your strength as the Women's Brigade, but because unemployment is not getting better in South Africa. Economic growth is not improving, and self-help and self-reliance are still vital principles that our Party must espouse. This exhibition should be a reference point for a younger generation to see what can be achieved, even when there are few jobs, few opportunities and vast poverty.

 

Former President Thabo Mbeki hailed Government's macro-economic policy as the springboard for South Africa's economic growth. But year after year Government's growth rate predictions missed the mark and, after ten years, it was apparent that the policies had failed. Just last year, President Jacob Zuma promised to create half a million jobs by the first quarter of 2010. Instead, a million jobs were shed and more and more people found themselves without work and without a source of income. Even the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup did not bring the salvation that was promised, for after construction of our stadia, the construction industry shrunk.

 

These events were not unpredictable. The ANC-led Government would have us believe that the global economic recession hit us from out of a clear blue sky, derailing their best intentions. And surely no one could be blamed for that. But the recession was predictable, and I in fact predicted it when I warned Government to take urgent economic measures long before the full impact of the recession hit us. As a developing country, we were bound to suffer more than other nations.

 

I have been calling for greater flexibility in the market place for decades. I have advocated a free market economy since the eighties.  There are things Government could have done to cushion the impact of the economic recession, and the recession should not be used to hide a lack of political will to take bold economic steps. Economic development is just not moving fast enough to address the problems of unemployment and poverty.

 

All of this is not limited to the realm of economists and financiers.  It affects the day to day life of people living in Nkandla and Ulundi and Umvoti. It affects families living in rural villages, and women working the land to put food on the table. I have always worked with one hand pointing the way, while the other hand holds fast to the hands of my people. I have not lost sight of what ordinary people endure, because I myself remain an ordinary person. I still live in Mahlabathini. I still farm with cattle. I myself lost several head of cattle in the recent drought. So I know the daily hardship, and I know the fears as well as the aspirations of my people.

 

Knowing this, I know the importance of things like vegetable gardens. I like flowers, and I still buy them for my wife, but I know that a garden full of flowers does not sustain families. Gardens need to be planted with cabbages and potatoes, and foods that fill hungry bellies. This is all the more important as we seek to establish healthy eating and good nutrition as one of the key tools in the fight against the ravages of HIV/Aids. There is no food that can prevent HIV infection. But there are many foods that can keep an HIV positive individual healthy and strong, thereby prolonging and improving the quality of life.

 

I am concerned about the underlying factors that have caused this Women's Brigade exhibition to shrink, rather than grow. I worry that there is a sense that these kinds of crafts and handiwork are a relic of a bygone age, and that young girls feel it is old-fashioned to be able to sew or cook or grow vegetables. I would ask them if it is old-fashioned to eat or wear clothes; for the reality is that if we cannot create these things for ourselves, we cannot have them.  Apartheid may be gone, but poverty remains. It is our new nemesis, and it must be fought with the same vigour and relentless work.

 

Let us not fall prey to the spirit of entitlement that still lingers wherever the ANC goes, particularly now as we head into the 2011 Local Government Elections and the ANC's promise-machine is back up and running. Let us not fall, hook, line and sinker, for the lie that a modern woman need only look good and wear stylish clothes in order to gain power, status or money. Today's woman needs to know how to fend for herself, for there are still few safety nets in place for a woman who doesn't work, who cannot cook and who will not work the land.

 

The IFP is not a party to advocate social grants for everyone. I worry that so many people are dependent on social grants today, but are not planting or producing any food to eat. I am not against social grants.  Indeed, when I was Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I introduced social grants as a means of support. But I know that a State cannot function under the burden of supporting all its citizens. There will never be enough pie to feed everyone, no matter how the pie is sliced or who holds the knife. Someone has to know how to bake more pies.

 

This is not a popular message. In fact, I got myself into trouble in Parliament when I said that our people in rural areas are poorer now in terms of food security than they were under apartheid. This is because people are not producing as much as they used to. Even though I had the foresight to train our women in establishing cooperatives, we haven't set up as many as I hoped we would have by now. Indeed, in many ways, we are far from where we should be.

 

It pains me to see the shambles that is Ithala Bank, steeped as it is in allegations of corruption. People are in court for pillaging it for their own benefit and it no longer benefits those for whom I set it up. I established the KwaZulu Finance Corporation when I was Minister of Economic Affairs in KwaZulu to give poor entrepreneurs access to commercial loans. There was no other avenue for this at the time, because they had no security to put up. Ithala should have empowered our people. Today, it enriches an elite few.

 

I urge you to consider the track record of the IFP, against the list of failures the ANC has produced. When we go to the polls in 2011, let us not vote with our emotions. Let us vote based on facts. The Local Government Elections are not about electing someone you like, or someone who looks good. They are about empowering a party that will see to it that taxpayers' money is used for the purposes for which it is budgeted. The IFP is not drowning in corruption, like the ruling Party. We can still see straight, and our vision remains in line with the will of the people.

 

I am proud of the IFP Women's Brigade for holding this exhibition even when a conference could not be held. The ructions in our Party and the 12th November court case have forced us to postpone our Annual General Conference. I am impressed that our women recognised the importance of still holding the exhibition as a means of advocating self-help and self-reliance. I hope that you will continue to show us your creativity and initiative through these exhibitions, knowing that this will also show us your strength.

 

You know that I have been a champion of women for as long as I have been in politics and public life. I may not be a woman, but I am married to one, and I know how important it is for women to be given the space to express their creativity. This exhibition is one such space. Let us use it to inspire a younger generation, for by engaging their imagination we will also secure their future. Let us speak through the Women's Brigade exhibition about the courage, strength and ingenuity of the IFP's women. To those who have done so this year, I say thank you and well done.