24TH ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE IFP WOMEN’S BRIGADE
ON THE THEME OF
WOMEN: THE POWERHOUSE OF UBUNTU, INTEGRITY AND DEVELOPMENT
ULUNDI : OCTOBER 13, 2001
The National Chairman and Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr LPHM Mtshali; the Deputy National Chairman, Dr BS Ngubane; the Chairperson of the Women's Brigade, Mrs A Mchunu; the Deputy Chairperson, Mrs A Mncwango; the General Secretary Administration, Mr MZ Khumalo; the Chairman of the Youth Brigade, Mr MB Khawula; the Chairman Emeritus of the Youth Brigade, the Rev KM Zondi; amaKhosi and members of the Royal House present; Honourable Ministers and Members of the National Assembly; Honourable Ministers of KwaZulu Natal and Members of provincial Legislatures present; Mayors, Councillors and Indunas present; delegates to this Conference, my brothers and sisters.
If there has ever been a time in the history of South Africa where we as a nation needed the strength of our women to stand as a beacon of hope, that time is now. This year, I come to the Women’s Brigade Conference with a heart that is at once both heavily burdened and insuppressibly excited. We gather at a time in which there is war and rumours of war. We meet under the cloud of a recession which has grown darker by the compounding impact of the terrorist attack on America on September 11. The devastating loss of thousands of lives and almost inestimable damage to property, left behind a wake of silent disbelief. But now, several weeks later, there is a rush of noise as analysts determine how this tragedy will impact on developing countries throughout the world, and how sorely damaging it will be even to South Africa’s hopes of development.
I could not help but begin my address to you today with such solemn words, for we are facing a situation which will seriously affect South Africa and which will be felt among even our poorest communities. The World Bank has released figures that one can only pray are exaggerated, and yet we must face the fact that they are likely estimates. Before the attack on America, the World Bank had estimated that the growth of developing countries would fall from 5.5% to 2.9% as a result of the economic slow-downs experienced in the US. Following the attack, however, that estimate has now dropped to approximately 0.5%. This means that the fight against poverty, childhood disease and malnutrition is going to suffer. It also heralds the death of thousands more children and the increase in poverty of a further two million people across Africa.
Many of us watched in horror the visuals brought live to our televisions last month, and sat in shock next to our radios hearing reporters talk about the day the world changed. Today, I can only say that indeed our world has changed and we cannot disregard the fact that a new system of foreign relations is becoming necessary. We can also not disregard the fact that we, on the ground, need to find a way of dealing with the aftermath of this history-determining event. As we consider the best course of action, I welcome the opportunity to attend a gathering of one of South Africa’s greatest resources. Traditionally, women have not been the ones to go to war, but they have surely been the ones to hold together everything a war is worth fighting for, and everything a war destroys in its wake.
In our own culture, historical circumstances and community structures have encouraged women to assume the role of provider, nurturer and innovator. Women are the strength of our families and the strength of our communities. The migrant labour system took men away from their homes during the apartheid era and often hostels did not accommodate women or families. From this, some aspects of a matriarchal society were introduced into our culture and women became managers of our households in every respect. I know that there is nothing about South Africa’s women, and there is particularly nothing about IFP women, that is weak. For generations, women have taught and prepared our children, both male and female, to assume their own societal roles. Our women have become responsible for financial management, home maintenance, agricultural activities, the education, nutrition and growth of our families, and entrepreneurship. Let me break a myth right now: women are practical. They are creative and they can multi-task. South Africa needs the strength of its women.
For us as Africans we are not talking about any new role for our women, for our women have always been pillars of our society. Every little progress we made even under the oppressive role of apartheid, we could not have achieved if our women had not shown such resilience and determination. When I address a Women's Brigade Conference, I know that I am really speaking to the people who are the very core of the Party I lead. To say that women are the back-bone of the IFP as I often do say, is not a cliché, it is a fact. It is also a fact that the IFP would not have grown into the big Party it is, if it were not for our women. They have always been in the forefront, not only in terms of mobilisation but as the best exponents of our philosophy of self-help and self-reliance. Even though we men are trailing behind, there would be nothing demonstrating our belief in self-help and self-reliance if this was not something in which our women excel.
Ever since our new democratic constitution was put together, the gender issue has become a fashionable thing to hawk around, but we in this Party have always believed in our women as the powerhouse that matters in life. That is why our theme for this Conference is: "Women: The Powerhouse of Ubuntu, Integrity and Development" because our women have always been the powerhouse of these great values. For us, this is nothing new, but is something we have believed in ever since God created women as the powerhouse of all these things.
I do not think there is a single person here who can stand up and say that the good qualities they have were not inculcated in them by his or her mother. It would appear that even the Creator realised that women were not only those to whom He assigned the great job of breeding and bringing us up, but that even when we die, it is women who are nearest to us.
We are told that God created Adam first. But He improved on His original design by creating Eve. I am not sure we can credit that, but it is certainly true that Adam and Eve were created to complement one another and Adam remained incomplete without a partner. Human partnerships are perhaps the most valuable resource we have as we attempt to build South Africa’s prosperity, stability, future and hope. This nation will not survive if we cannot find a pool of shared values around which we can establish working partnerships. The spirit of ubuntu is the spirit of partnership. It speaks of a common goal, a shared understanding and an individual commitment to collective well-being. I have known the women of Inkatha for nearly a quarter of a century. I know they are the powerhouse of ubuntu.
Ubuntu has become a new toy in the new South Africa. And yet for us in Inkatha, from the moment we drafted our first Constitution in 1975, we enshrined the importance of ubuntu/botho in the very preamble to our Constitution. It is something we have tried not just to preach about, but have tried to live by. And here again, the best exponents of ubuntu have been our women. We realised that if we lost our ubuntu we would not have any integrity worth talking about. The powerhouse of ubuntu has always been our women. Let us look at the Church in Africa. Let us look at the Church in our own country. Wherever I have worshipped as a church-goer, there has always been a preponderance of women over men, so that when one speaks of the Church, one is speaking of women. It is our religions which are the basis of morality. The moral decay we find in our society today can only be eliminated through strong faith. It therefore follows that when one says that the Church must play a role, one is saying it is you our women who will take the lead, because you are that church.
In South Africa we have a liberal Constitution which is unsurpassed by any in the world. But without ubuntu and morality the Constitution will remain just beautiful words and concepts strung together. I do believe that since our upbringing has always been done by women, that this is the challenge that IFP women face as the powerhouse of ubuntu, integrity and development. We as men have let you down in ways too numerous to mention here. We know that even the fact that our people still eat anything at all in the midst of so much poverty, is because of your commitment to the survival of the nation.
There is a lot of talk today about the African Renaissance which will remain a figment of our imagination if we do not look back at the ethics and moral code of our society. We were a nation of great integrity and our women were brought up to be upright mothers of the nation when they eventually got married. Today we find that many of the codes we honoured in the past are no longer observed. For example, the immorality that has led us into such scourges as sexually transmitted diseases and even the scourge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, has been fuelled by our lack of any moral code. It was the duty of the mother in our society to teach a female child, for instance, how a women sits in such a way as not to fuel the natural lust that males have for women. It was the mother who saw to it that children of different sexes slept apart from each other. Today, we find that there are abuses of children even by parents because when it comes to morality, we as a society are now like a rudderless ship. We cannot speak of an African Renaissance if we do not return to these values in which our women played a leading role.
We are today so trapped in this moral decay that for young people it is quite confusing to know what the right thing is to do. In our society, full sexual intercourse was banned before marriage. It was older women in our society who would alert younger women about the wiles of men. It was they who warned young women once they had suitors about how far to go in succumbing to pressure from men. The Christian gospel also brought the morality which banned full intercourse before marriage. But while we all complain about moral decay in our society, I think that we should look at the conflicting messages that our young people get these days. When we advise young people to think of nothing else but prophylactics, all the morals about abstinence before marriage go up in flames. This is what the Catholic Bishops' message was about. When there is so much emphasis on condoms because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the other message that young people get these days even from church luminaries, is that sex is good for you regardless of age as long as you make sure you have a condom. I am not trying to criticise these methods which are being advocated in order to counter the scourge of HIV/AIDS, but one cannot address the issue of moral decay without looking at the consequences of the new morality that is based only on the use of condoms.
It is quite clear to me that our Women's Brigade needs to look at these issues and to strike some balance between what was our moral code and what is going on today in the midst of the wave of moral decay sweeping our society. I am not claiming to know all the answers, but I do believe that if we are to get out of this cesspool of moral degeneration, it is you women as the powerhouse of ubuntu and integrity, who will help pull us out of it. No one else will come to our salvation except ourselves, with the leading role being played by our women as the powerhouse of ubuntu and as the powerhouse of integrity.
In all our elections, this Party has always had women candidates and in the December 5, 2000 local government elections quite a lot of women were elected as councillors. There is so much corruption in South Africa among those elected to office that I believe that even here it is our women leaders who can help us with the kind of leadership based on ubuntu and on integrity. I know that women too are human like men, and are also subjected to temptations, but I think if we were to look at statistics of cases of corruption, we would find that more men fall to this temptation than women.
I would like to invite you to look at the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in a different way - as God's way of challenging us to see development as our only salvation. Even those of us who are not doctors, know the basic truth that AIDS destroys a victim's immune system. The only way of boosting the immune system is through good nutrition. Is it not a challenge that while scientists in the world are still busy looking for a cure for AIDS, that the only thing that is possible is to prolong the lives of victims of this scourge by doing everything to boost their immune system. Our National Chairperson of the Women's Brigade, Mrs Abbie Mchunu, has for years now spoken to us about the importance of planting soya beans. There is growing evidence of the nutritional value of soya beans whose use will boost the immune system. Soya beans are not expensive to plant and this crop may prove to be the future crop of our salvation. This of course emphasizes the importance of our programme of producing even more food than we have done before, as our first line of defence against HIV/AIDS. This is a challenge to all of us, not just to women, but it is you women as the powerhouse of integrity and development who can play a lead if we are to win the war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
I stated earlier that when the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington took place on the 11th of September, not only America changed, but the whole world we live in will never be the same again. You have already heard that there is definitely a world recession coming in everywhere. You have seen the volatility of the rand which has reached an all-time low. This means that there will be devastating consequences for the poorest societies such as our own. It means less money for food and it means more poverty will be experienced than we have ever had before. This means a crisis and in times of crisis throughout our history, it has been you as women, the powerhouse of ubuntu, integrity and development, who have led our battles. It is you as the powerhouse of integrity and development who must lead us in this new war on poverty that is facing developing nations and emerging economies like ours, more than it is affecting developed nations.
All this means less chances of investments coming into South Africa to create jobs. This is the real world that is unfolding before us which challenges your commitment to development. Our people survived through getting closer together as communities. Our people clubbed together in the past to have parties hoeing crops together. In all this it is women who played a leading role and if you let us down by not picking up the gauntlet, we as a nation are doomed.
I feel a tremendous excitement today for I believe that the strength of our IFP women is set to be unleashed by the demands of circumstance and the recognition of the role you are able to play in the development of our country. The road we take towards development will be steeper now in a changed world climate as I have indicated, but we can still make it. Our journey must be engaged on the strength of integrity, which remains the only way we are going to achieve a sustainable new culture that enables our communities to become prosperous, self-reliant, crime-free and stable. Without a determined run towards the spirit of ubuntu, our society will drift further from peace, security and justice, as criminality and entitlement reign. A lack of co-operation, communication and compassion, all components of ubuntu, will end in a lack of unity, development and sound relationships. South Africa needs people of character and integrity. Without ubuntu, there is just no depth of commitment or social responsibility.
Through almost half a century of work within my country’s poorest communities, I have met with countless women of integrity and character. Almost without exception, these have been women of the IFP. I believe women of integrity and character find a political home in the IFP, because this is the Party of integrity and it is a Party that cares about issues and people, not just pay cheques and power. There are perhaps innumerable reasons why the IFP more so than any other, is the home of women of integrity. Our belief in self-help and self-reliance, our emphasis on education and skills training, our advocacy of devolution of powers to people on the ground, and our adamant belief that South Africa’s prosperity can only be built from the ground up, are a few of these reasons.
Women are the strength of our Party. The IFP needs these women, whose character and integrity have been established through years of accepting challenges and facing trials. This Party is the vehicle through which the common purpose is conveyed and direction is constantly given. Meetings such as this are essential to take stock of what we are engaged in, what we have accomplished and what we may commit to. I believe you are IFP women because the IFP is the Party of development, and the Party of the revolution of goodwill. The IFP respects plurality and diversity. We are a Party that moves with the times and adjusts with changes, rather than trying to make South Africa conform to the party. As such, we are not influenced by the selfish motives of those representing only some South Africans, and have always remained inclusive rather than exclusive.
The IFP is a Party with positive and real influence in government. We are not just an unconstructive opposition, but a voice for real solutions and better alternatives. Our contribution has been sought out by President Mbeki through a coalition government. Many of our policies have silently been adopted on their irrefutable merit. Contrary to the many who are destined to be forgotten by future history, we are the Party with a future in leadership. We have a visionary, experienced, moral leadership at the top that recognises leadership potential at grassroots level. We will not jealously guard all our power and keep it at the top to the detriment of those areas most in need.
We never believed that the struggle for liberation was about empowering and enriching a fortunate few. We rather vowed ourselves to a struggle aimed at liberating all our people from poverty and under-development. Therefore, for us, the struggle for liberation is not yet over, as certain people feel it to be. For us, the struggle has indeed just begun. This is something I warned Inkatha about many years before our liberation. We are the Party that is committed to getting power closer to the people. This is, after all, what true democracy is about. In our South African context, democracy and federalism work hand in hand. One without the other is like an Adam without an Eve.
The IFP’s internal structure mirrors its federalist approach to governance in South Africa. We have not been afraid to adjust our Constitution to empower even greater contributions from every level of the Party. We must now make greater efforts to implement the IFP Constitution as it is written and intended. We have the infrastructure to spread a revolution of goodwill throughout South Africa, from the bottom up, because we continually raise leaders from the ground rather than dipping again and again into the same small pool of leadership at the top. I believe this Party has what it takes to turn South Africa around. But we will need the strength of our women as the powerhouse of integrity and development to do it. As a Party, we have always recognised this fact, and have consistently operated on the foundational belief that our women are dynamic, valuable, creative, and unique as well as equal.
You are all aware that there is a national crisis in South Africa above and beyond the social and economic difficulties which face us. Our greatest crisis is a leadership bankruptcy. There are just too few in South Africa who have the integrity and strength of character to take up the reins and give direction. Leadership does not merely come from being at the top, but is, in the end, the ability to influence positive change at all levels of society. Let me emphasise something quite obvious: leaders have followers. Leaders should not have people standing around reading about them in newspapers, scratching their heads and wondering whether they did it or not. Leadership is about integrity and character. South Africans have a right and corresponding responsibility to hold their so-called leaders accountable and refuse to follow those who are incapable of leading with integrity.
I wish to reiterate that the IFP is the Party of integrity, and our women, the powerhouse of integrity and ubuntu. Women can influence the development of our communities from the ground up in the many ways I have outlined to you. By engaging in community projects and being committed to carrying them through; by giving a contribution even when no one else seems to be doing so; by learning and applying knowledge which can help those around you; by caring for one another’s character, personal development and growth; by encouraging those who are weak or despairing; by bringing the fight against HIV/AIDS to the level of personal responsibility and respect; by striving to be home owners, because we tend to care more for what is our own; by producing goods for sale rather than merely enough for consumption; by promoting and practising preventative health-care and sound lifestyle habits; in all these ways women are driving the struggle for development, development, development, and generating the spirit of ubuntu through their display of integrity and strength.
The greatest challenge confronting each and every one of us is that of change. We must accept the need to constantly improve ourselves by learning more and broadening our horizons. The world around us is changing at a very rapid pace. We need to grow through training, learning and knowledge, not only to catch up with the fast pace of change in the world, but also to make up for the enormous backlog which set us behind. Learning, training and acquisition of knowledge are priorities which should be pursued in each building block of our society, including our families, our work-places and our communities. We need to accept that there is much more to learn than we actually know and that perhaps, as one of history’s greatest philosophers once put it, "the only thing we really know, is that we almost don’t know anything". Knowledge frees the mind and with freer minds we can set our efforts and resources in motion to achieve greater freedom within the context of the social and economic conditions in which we find ourselves operating. The mind is the greatest tool of empowerment we have and it must be empowered with the capacity to think beyond that which we now know.
Now is the time for us to empower our women. Let people say that IFP women are good leaders because they are influencing their communities and they show good character. The time for talking is past. This is the time for action. IFP women see results because they demand more, care more, work harder, work smarter and live better. The IFP needs the contribution of women such as these. As a man, I can say with due respect that women are naturally peace-makers, care-givers and managers, and that this nature speaks of every desirable ideal we seek to re-establish in our communities. Therefore, it needs to be women who drive our revolution of goodwill to revive the spirit of ubuntu. Women have something to offer that no other building block in our society is naturally equipped to give. This makes our women unique and it is because of that character that women are the powerhouse of ubuntu, integrity and development.
I married my wife because she is a woman of strength, but is also gentle. I believe women must have the freedom to be women. This is not an imposing of limitations or the fixing of boundaries. It is not a lesser role or a less important role. Women should be proud to be women. South Africa’s commitment to equality, which is entrenched in our Constitution and the full body of our law, is good. But equality does not mean that women have now, through long struggle, attained something better and may finally be considered on the same level as men. Men and women are equally human beings, equally deserving of all human rights. For the IFP there is nothing new about the equality of genders. During CODESA even the press acknowledged that we had more women in our delegation than any other Party participating there.
There is a dangerous way of thinking caused by historical circumstances that runs along these lines: men have rights, women are equal to men, therefore women have rights. Such thinking subtly and subconsciously encourages women to try to be more like men, denying their individuality and the most beautiful and essential aspects of their sex. Let us retrain the thinking of our nation. When I speak of equality making the leap from legality to reality through a change in the hearts and minds of South Africans, I am speaking of the need to get us thinking in a new way, not built on old ways, but profoundly changed and truthful. It is time to admit that even though men and women are different, men and women are humans, and all humans have rights.
I urge every woman present here today to just be a woman. Talk, listen, laugh, sing, and cry as women. Be the story tellers that convey our history, inspire our strength and weave our unity. Reach out to those who are suffering with your natural capacity for caring and practical ability to meet needs. Be involved in nurturing the younger generation to establish a future of hope. Communicate your aspirations and verbalise your concerns and dreams for this nation. Speak life into South Africa. Love, give, share, restore and create. This is the essential nature of women.
Women should not need to act more like men in order to have their dignity respected. I recently read the following wise words: a strong woman is not afraid of anything, but a woman of strength shows her courage in the midst of her fear. A strong woman won’t let anyone get the best of her, but a woman of strength gives of her best to everyone. A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace. A strong woman believes she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that, through the journey, she will become strong. I am a Christian and I know that what the Bible tells us is true about women, that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made". No man wants a woman to be more like a man. A woman with self-respect should be proud to be a woman.
South Africa’s women are women of strength who inspire the IFP’s fierce patriotism. The IFP is committed to eradicating every form of criminality against women, declaring zero tolerance for any action, pattern of thinking or speech which denies or belittles the true dignity of women. We are against sexual harassment, against rape, against abuse of any form, in the home or outside it, against discrimination in the work-place or at points of service delivery, against physical violence and against those who allow such things to happen. We cannot allow South Africa to become a place in which women are just statistics and are marginalised. The IFP cares about our women. We care for their welfare, their growth, their health, their futures, their economic stability, their education, their aspirations and their safety.
For this reason, the IFP applauded the recent debate on moral decay which took place in the National Assembly. We gave a contribution that spoke strongly against crime against women, and are pleased that a task team has been established to go further in the war on this form of criminality. We will support every effort which seeks to protect South Africa’s women and reverse the dire and intolerable circumstances so many of our women find themselves in. Crime is an element of South Africa that must go. We need to establish a culture of respect for law and order within our communities. The rule of law must once again triumph over the rule of man. The culture of entitlement which pervades our communities has served to compound the extent to which criminality has begun to erode our social values and community solidarity. Above all, we need to protect women from what we as men could do to harm them.
I encourage every women present here today to steward what little you may have with excellence, courage and vision. Do not be afraid to take control of your own life. Become comfortable with financial matters, speak with confidence, read newspapers, join consumer forums, educate yourself on matters of health, politics, international affairs and world history. Find your joy in every circumstance, accepting to work harder because circumstances are tougher. Become involved in our schools. Know what is being taught and supplement it. Open communication with educators that respects their role and assists their contribution to developing your child’s character and potential. Women who are educated, knowledgeable and capable are infinitely valuable to South Africa. We have tended to expect schools to do everything for our children. We have abdicated our role as parents, and women in particular have a crucial role to play during a child's formative years.
I do believe that we have reached a stage in the history of our country when our survival will depend on the extent to which we can use our hands. All of you know that my constant message has always been that there is no reason why anyone should starve to death as long as they are not disabled, and as long they have hands. Through our hands we till the soil and produce food. Through our hands we make the food what we want it to be. Through our hands we cook it and through our hands we get fuel to cook the food. Through our hands we make our clothing. Through our hands we do things for our families. Through our hands we help our neighbours and our friends. Through our hands we assist those who are suffering and alleviate their pain. Our hands are the instruments of our compassion. We can talk about all the great values such as kindness, for example, but we can only demonstrate kindness through actions that we demonstrate with our hands, hence the saying that "actions speak louder than words."
In the situation in which we find ourselves as we begin the 21st century, let us understand this one important thing, that while the Government will create opportunities and the economic climate for investors to come into the country, the Government cannot create jobs, apart of course from the civil service. People whom any government employs in its civil service constitute only a fraction of the population. The bulk of the nation should therefore create employment for themselves. That is why branches of the Women's Brigade need to do more wonderful things with their hands, such as we see displayed in the hall today.
Since the 11th of September, there have been even more losses of jobs in First World countries such as the United States and Europe. We as an emerging economy will have to struggle even more than we have done so far, in order to survive. At this Conference of our Women's Brigade, we must tell the truth without clothing it in diplomatic niceties. We have to look at the real world in which we find ourselves and not at fantasy. I know that if this message is understood by our women who are the powerhouse of all our values, then there is still hope for us even in the midst of all the suffering we have to endure as we start the 21st century.
These seems to be a dissatisfaction creeping in which has been an undercurrent of our new democracy since 1994. Once again, I must point out that the IFP rejects the politics of unrealistic promises, because this is the fastest way to disillusion an entire nation. Today, I wish to make three promises to the women of the IFP Women’s Brigade Conference of 2001. The first is that change will only come from the ground up, from within our communities and borne on the strength of individual South Africans. The second is that partnerships are essential for community development, for if we do not all work together, we will all fall together. The last is this: that an increasing commitment to integrity will announce the victory of our revolution of goodwill. We need integrity, ubuntu and development. We need those who can win these for us.
The IFP stands out among the political voices in South Africa because we are the Party that cares. We care about our women. We care about South Africa’s future. We care about making a difference. The IFP is committed to education and training now, in every sphere, and we always have been. For us, it is not a plan for some time in the future but a reality every day. We are committed to fighting HIV/AIDS now, in our communities, where the greatest toll is being taken, not through speculations or high level debates, but with action, caring, respect and assistance. We are committed to winning the war against crime now, fighting it on the ground, not by focusing on how the statistics might affect our national psyche, but knowing that the reality already has. This is a war we can only win with the weapons of ubuntu, integrity and development.
Our women are the strength of our nation. They have the discipline to work harder, the will to work longer and the wisdom to work smarter. The IFP needs our women and South Africa needs the women of the IFP. I firmly believe that we can remain on the path towards development, even in this climate of international distress, war and economic difficulties, if we are willing to walk on the strength of those who know what it is to persevere through trials and emerge victorious. There is no segment of South Africa’s society which, in my personal experience, has come through more than our women. And there is no segment which has come through it singing, weeping and laughing together, reliant on unity and committed to development, in quite the way of the IFP’s women. The IFP’s women are indeed the powerhouse of ubuntu, integrity and development. Let us empower them to make South Africa work. With the powerhouse which is our women, armed as they are with weapons of ubuntu, integrity and development, we can climb even the steepest mountain and win.