peech by
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, MP

IMBIZO HALL, EMPANGENI :  August 13, 2005 

We are gathered here today to remember and celebrate the life of Mrs Faith Xolile Gasa. Few people who met Faith would have been untouched by her humanity and warmth. Compassion and humility were not virtues practiced by Faith; they were the touchstone of her character. They were of her very essence.

Faith has been such a vital part of our lives for so long it is hard to imagine that she is no longer with us. Whilst our hearts are heavy with sadness, we derive some comfort from the knowledge that Faith lives forevermore in the presence of God in the Holy City.

Our sister Faith was a politician of great valor and capacity. Her entire life was dedicated to politics. She lived politics. On an occasion like this, it is proper and fitting to pause and reflect on the meaning of her life to gain a better appreciation of what the value of a politician is all about and on the real essence of true leadership.

There are many politicians but few leaders. Faith Gasa bore the burden of being a politician at an extraordinary time in South African history. I do not think that the times or the transition like the one we have experienced will ever be repeated in our country. These are times which place unspeakable burdens on individuals. Political, moral and ethical frame of references are on shifting sands and only whose who stand tall are the giants. Many people slide easily through such times because they do not have the burden of a conscience or because they are of such light political weight that they can just float over changing political currents or of fly with rapidly shifting political winds.

Our sister Faith was not a political wind cock which changes viewpoint on the changing winds. She had a conscience and indeed a deep and profound one. At times, carrying the burden of her deep conscience and feeling the weight of her responsibilities was too much for her and she stumbled or even broke down. But even that failure is a privilege of people who do have a conscience. We need to admire her for the many moments of leadership in which she stood tall and strong as well as for those occasions in which she stumbled, because both are reflective of her deep humanity and a profound sense of responsibility and conscience which underpin the make up of a great leader.

Faith was real and sound. She was a real person in a world of politics in which people who are fake and lightweight are often rewarded. I have been in politics for more than half a century and have seen fake people all over the place. Unfortunately, politics attracts not only a few good leaders but a large number of opportunists, fakes and individuals who often could not find another suitable form of existence elsewhere. Faith was not one of them. As I think of the many people within our party with whom I share the burden of leadership, I am appreciative of the fact that Faith was on my side.

I feel that this lesson stemming from Faith's life is particularly relevant at this time of our history and should be noted by many of the opportunists and plastic-faced politicians who are presently in the business of power and politics. They should learn from Faith because there is still time for them to allow their conscience to guide them out of ignominy.

Faith stood up to testify to the value of morality, and for this she will always be remembered. I must reveal that I knew that she was placed under unspeakable pressures from the African National Congress for her to cross the floor and betray her party. She came to me and spoke to me, making it clear that she would not accept the proposals made to her. Unfortunately, she did not only receive proposals to entice her to cross the floor but also threats and blackmail of a serious nature. She resisted them in spite of tremedous personal cost.

I think that on an occasion such as this, things of this nature must be known by all because they underscore the terrible stage of decadence and corruption in which our political life has now fallen. And we must pay tribute to those like Faith who preserved their integrity. Political allegiances nowadays are gained either by checkbook politics or through the lure of promises of public offices and perks or even by means of threat or intimidation.

This is not democracy. This is a tragic farce which spells out the demise of the many hopes we have nourished when we pursued our liberation and established a new democratic order. In four weeks, a new window of opportunities will again open to enable national and provincial elected representatives to cross the floor from one political party to another. Elected politicians will again have the opportunity to betray. Again the opportunity will be given for the reasons of personal financial interest and personal career advancement to overcome and betray the reasons of one's conscience on the compelling cause serving our people.

This will be the time when the South African people and the voters who have elected their political representatives will be able to separate people of integrity and honor from the cowardly sewer rats who will cross the floor. When I think of the type of pressure that the African National Congress placed on Faith for her to cross the floor and her courageous strength in rejecting both threats and bribes, I really feel that no one can ever be justified for the prostitute-like behavior of crossing the floor.

Faith was a person of boundless humanity and humility. Like many people of boundless humanity, at times she was not strong but in her humility she was the first one to recognize that. People with a lesser strength of humanity, fewer feelings and less self doubt, people who are more arrogant, people who care less, and people who are self-centered are often stronger than Faith was, but they are not as beautiful individuals as she was. However, when the going got tough, she proved to possess the great strength of a great leader. For this reason, I pay my tribute to her and I feel that we shall all remember her in a very special way.

On a thousand different occasions Faith proved her great sense of humanity. She had a unique capacity of transforming her boundless sense of humanity into day to day politics and actual leadership. All the women of our Woman Brigade received her constant support. She was constantly available to anyone for guidance assistance or merely to provide a shoulder to cry on. She was a strong woman because she could take on her shoulder the burdens of everyone else. She took upon herself the burdens of all of us. Had she been able to, she would have wanted to take upon herself the burdens of this erring world of ours. She really and intensely suffered for the sufferings of others. She was a person who really cared for other people.

Her capacity to guide, assist and care was put to a serious test. When her husband, Dr Enoch Gasa, ended up in a wheelchair after a horrendous car crash, Faith never wavered. She looked after him for decades with unfailing love and care. No one will ever know how much courage, determination and sacrifice this must have taken. She only outlived him by three months.

Many politicians pretend to care, many others act as if they cared, while others want to be seen as caring. Faith did care. This is the most important virtue and qualification for a politician and a true leader.

For more than 50 years I have been preaching time and again that people must regard public policy as a service to others. A politician is a servant of the people and can only lead by serving. The essence of serving is that of caring. One does not care with one's brain but only with one's heart, and Faith's heart was a large one indeed. Anyone who ever met Faith, knows exactly what I mean.

Yet, none of these qualities can be taught in either a school of political science nor in any academy established to promote political leadership. For this reason, the loss we all have suffered is enormous because only the likes of Faith have the capacity of teaching by example what caring for others is all about.

Many of our political representatives and national leaders have often closed not only their hearts but also their eyes to the plight of the poorest. I wonder how often those who are now ruling us drive in their newly acquired luxury cars past the squatter camps on the side of our highways and just turn their eyes away or just do not care. I wander and I despair. Faith would have never looked away.

It is so painful for me to read statistics which suggest that at least in financial terms, there was greater charity and care in the hearts of white liberals than in those of newly enriched black economic leaders. This is not the South Africa we all dreamt about. This is not what being Africans is all about.

We always dreamt of a South Africa which respects and stems out of our African roots. Nothing is more essential to our African culture and mores than our sense of social solidarity and compassion which teaches us that I cannot be happy if my brother across the road is hungry. Too many people have forgotten this basic lesson and no longer care about the suffering of others, and in so doing they are indeed no longer Africans and have betrayed our liberation.

Faith was a true African leader because she cared. The value of the lessons of her life is universal. She cared for me, she cared for you and she cared for all those whom she did not even know. If we had more politicians like her, all our country's problems would be solved.

Faith was a humble servant, who put service above herself. She was a feisty fighter for women's rights, especially against the abuse of women. Faith demonstrated that women are more than equals of men by her achievements. Her career stands as proof that our society is making greater progress to realising the equality provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The best tribute we can pay to Faith today is by forging ahead to build a society in which women's rights are fully recognised and given expression to.

We will all miss Faith dreadfully. Our lives are poorer for her passing. We thank God for giving Faith to us for the time she was with us. Until we meet again in the place where there are no more tears or pain, I simply say thank you and goodbye. Hamba Kahle Faith Gasa.



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