IFP Women's Brigade in Amajuba District
 in Celebration of Women's Month
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

   

 

Osizweni - District of Amajuba : 14 August 2010

 

I am proud of the IFP Women's Brigade in the Amajuba District. You have shown yourselves to be resourceful, determined and committed to the cause of the IFP. When I heard that you had organized a meeting to celebrate Women's Day and Women's Month, I was eager to accept the invitation to join you and address this meeting, as I knew that I would find gathered in this place women of goodwill. I applaud you for organizing this event in the midst of the difficulties we face.

 

There is a wave of apathy and hopelessness washing over our members as we continue to face the challenges of a divided Party. Some have simply given up and are folding their arms, sitting back and waiting for our fortunes to change. But others, like the women of Amajuba, realize that nothing will change unless we have the courage to change it ourselves. The success or failure of this Party lies in our own hands.

 

I know that the Women's Brigade in Amajuba is facing serious difficulties. Our structures here have been temporarily dismantled. 

There is chaos in our ranks. And our leaders and councillors are still at loggerheads. When I visited Amajuba in April this year, I warned that the in-fighting between leaders and councillors is likely to be our Achilles Heel; the one weakness that can destroy a strong party like the IFP. I hope that we might use this time to heal divisions and inspire our leaders to work together for the sake of unity.

 

Let us speak candidly. We know that clandestine meetings have been held in Amajuba to brew the anarchy, in the midst of which we now find ourselves.  The very first subversive document was drafted at a meeting which took place at Nando's in Newcastle. There are other meetings that have been held here which have resulted in a tragic division amongst our councillors, some of whom proudly align themselves with "the Friends of VZ Magwaza-Msibi". "The Friends" have even stooped so low as to organise divisive rallies, disguised as prayer meetings.

 

So when the IFP Women's Brigade in Amajuba calls a meeting with such noble motives as celebrating our nation's women, I am proud to participate. On Monday, during our Women's Day celebrations in Ulundi, I repeated a statement I often make; that women are the backbone of our Party. The SABC News covered this statement in a rare moment of positive publicity. It is almost as though the goodwill created by our nation's celebration spilled over into a little ceasefire towards the IFP. We need to find a way to sustain that goodwill.

 

When it comes to the media, we know we are facing all kinds of sabotage and dirty tricks. Just this week Isolezwe published a scurrilous article claiming that the IFP Women's Brigade in eThekwini had expressed its desire for me to step aside as the President of this Party. A former Provincial Secretary, pretending to be the Chairperson and Spokesperson of the Women's Brigade in eThekwini, fed lies to a journalist. Without checking her credentials or the veracity of her claims, Isolezwe went ahead and published this damaging article. 

Isolezwe does this all the time.  It often gives credibility even to people that they know were expelled from the Party who have no right to speak for the Party.  This further sows more seeds of confusion within the Party.

 

We should not be surprised, as Isolezwe has earned itself a reputation of being anti-Buthelezi. But we should still be chagrined and provoked to speak up against such propaganda. I am pleased that our Provincial Chairperson issued a statement setting the record straight. But printing a lie in the media is like opening a feather pillow and shaking its contents to the wind. You can try to clean up afterwards; but you can never retrieve every single feather. People read this article, and others like it, and public opinion is being formed on the basis of misinformation and disinformation.

 

We need to become more proactive about getting the truth into the public eye. That may mean flooding the media with letters and articles and good reports on what we are doing to create unity, mobilize support and serve our communities.  People who send rejoinders complain that their rejoinders are either not published  or if at all they are published weeks afterwards, when people have forgotten about the first report to which they were responding.

 

I have never been one to play to the media. But in this treacherous climate we need to be as wise as serpents, while being as gentle as doves. Let us not allow our detractors and opponents to outplay us in the game of politics. For every negative article, we should be able to give journalists five good things to write about. That does not mean five articles distancing ourselves from the "Friends of VZ" or expressing our outrage at their antics. It means five stories about actions being taken by the women of the IFP to promote development, start cooperatives, educate their sisters, impart life skills, talk about HIV/Aids, share childcare responsibilities, plant vegetable gardens, become water-wise, assist the elderly and encourage young girls to pursue education and healthy lifestyle choices.

 

That should be the focus of our Women's Brigade. We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in internal political wrangling and become distracted from the purpose and mission of the IFP. Make no mistake; I can understand that your passion for the Party makes it hard not to step into the fray when people are lying about me, the IFP and its leadership, and dragging our legacy through the mud. But we need to refocus our energy into positive action, both to inspire our own sense of hope and to express to those around us that the IFP is still committed to serving South Africa.

 

We are facing many challenges that have nothing to do with the "Friends of VZ". I look, for instance, at our countryside and I cannot help but notice that it is not as green as it used to be before 1994. 

Food security has always been an issue close to the heart of the IFP. 

Now, as we are slowly emerging from the effects of the global recession, there is need for intense investment in subsistence agriculture to ensure that our people can put food on the table.

 

Our country's former First Lady, Mrs Graca Machel, has pointed out that it is women who feed our continent. One survey after the next tells us that 85% of small scale farmers in Africa are women. But only 10% have access to credit. In Africa, less than 1% of loans to agriculture are to women. We need to empower women in this district to become successful workers of the land and make ourselves known again as champions in the cause for food security.

 

This Women's Day, I expressed my concern that our Women's Brigade Conference Exhibitions 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. This is in spite of the damage control which our sister, Mrs Mchunu, is trying to do. We need to turn this around. We need to become a point of hope and inspiration for women in all our communities as they see what we are able to achieve. The vast majority of our communities still live in gut-wrenching poverty and women, in particular, are suffering.

 

We also face the challenge of contesting next year's Local Government Elections, when we are far behind in mobilizing support and wooing voters. We know from experience that Local Government Elections are not fought on national issues, but around issues that affect the day to day lives of ordinary people. These elections are not about Selebi's prison sentence or a possible DA/ID coalition in the Western Cape. They are about sanitation, schools, clinics, food security, employment and housing. They are about bread and butter issues; the very issues that the IFP has spent 35 years championing.

 

We also know that Local Government Elections are not a big draw card, especially among younger voters, and it is going to be a challenge to get people to go to the polling stations and vote. Voter turnout during the July by-elections averaged at 33%. Somehow, in 2011, we need to mobilize our supporters to actually vote.

 

This has always been a challenge for the IFP, as we lack the resources to bus people around en masse. But the question of whether we can afford to transport supporters to the polling stations should be turned on its head. The real question is whether we can afford not to. 

We know that we lost votes in previous elections simply because we didn't assist people to get to the polling stations. In 2011, we need to get our supporters there by whatever means possible, as a first priority.

 

That is why I accepted your invitation at such short notice.  I appreciated that you my dear sisters and comrades share a concern with me.  The unpreparedness of our Party for the forthcoming local government elections.  Please do not be disheartened by the temporary dismantlement of our constituencies and district committees.  In fact it is laziness only that can prevent our Women's Brigade from strengthening your Committees at the level of both Constituencies and District.  You need to encourage branches of the Women's Brigade to stand up and hold meetings in preparation not only of the elective conference but in preparation of the local government elections which you and I are so concerned about.

 

As mothers of the Nation you know better than I do that the youth that has reached 18 years or that reaches 18 years before the local  government elections are a very important segment of our support.  

 From the inception of our organisation the two wings of our Party, the Women's Brigade and the Youth Brigade were meant to support each other.  It is very important not to limit your mobilisation to the Women's Brigade.  The Women's Brigade should know how many High Schools or Secondary Schools we have in Newcastle.  These institutions need to be targeted for mobilisation by not only the Youth Brigade and SADESMO but also by the Women's Brigade.  We have youth in our hospitals and we need to have plans on how to target all these groups of youth for mobilisation.

 

Mobilizing people to go and vote in 2011 is a task that starts now, and a task that is particularly suited to women who have a better social network and are more adept at communicating, inspiring and cajoling one another to action. I am reminded of the words of Dr Charlotte Whitton, a woman who successfully became one of the first female Mayors in Canada. She once remarked, "Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be though half as good." Then she added, "Luckily, this is not difficult."

 

I must agree with Dr Whitton that women have always had to try harder, as you have always borne the brunt of hardship. Recognizing the double burden on women in South Africa, particularly on black women, I have sought for more than half a century to promote gender equality and women's rights. I have sought to alleviate the suffering of our women and bestow a rightful sense of dignity.

 

The women of the IFP know me. You know that as soon as we had limited legislative powers in KwaZulu, I, as the Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, tackled the Code of Zulu law which regarded women as perpetual minors. We immediately removed that from the Code. For the first time most black women in this Province were granted property rights. Before that, a woman could only own the ngquthu beast and her apparel. As a result of their minority status, our women would be ejected from their homes once their husbands had died. Widows could not own homes.

 

We abolished that provision and, for the first time in KwaZulu, including townships such as Madadeni, Umlazi, KwaMashu and elsewhere, women could own their homes. The Code of Zulu law also made provision that a husband had a right to administer corporal punishment to his wife. We expunged these barbaric provisions from the Code of Zulu law. 

This was long before addressing the gender issue became fashionable. 

We were very aware that this was not enough, though there were practical benefits for our women at the time.

 

As an expression of my commitment to empowering women, 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 appointed the first female Minister in South Africa. During apartheid, 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.

 

So where do these lies come from that we do not address the gender issue? 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? The IFP has always valued its women and we continue to esteem you highly. It is with the women of the IFP that I have worked and struggled to see life in this Province made better and easier for our people.

 

We achieved a great deal together over the years. For young people who may not know this; let them look around. We built townships and the many decent houses they see in townships like Madadeni. We built thousands of schools and Teacher Training Colleges, some of which the ANC Government subsequently closed down. We built shopping malls and I invited entrepreneurs to start factories in this district. And I established Ithala Finance Corporation to give entrepreneurs access to resources they would otherwise never receive.

 

The legacy of the IFP is replete with examples of the IFP championing bread and butter issues. Today, matters of local governance still dominate the agenda in meetings of our National Executive Committee. 

Local governance is without a doubt the single biggest challenge facing our Party leadership in its everyday deliberations over what our councils are doing or not doing. Week after week, month after month, and indeed, year after year, we are confronted by an unceasing set of serious problems, whose intensity and severity is worsening all the time. We have always worked hard for the voters. Now we need to work hard for the votes.

 

We as a Party did not do very well in this district in the recent by-elections.  Everywhere we need as a Party to double-up our efforts, particularly after we performed so poorly during the general election on the 22nd of April 2009.  All other parties are engaged in repositioning themselves for the critical Local Government Elections next year. If we fail to hit the campaign trail running, we may very well lose this municipality in 2011. If our showing in 2011 is as poor as it was in 2009, it may herald the end of our Party in the Amajuba district.

 

I do not want to see this happen. And I know that you; the women of our Party, our backbone and our frontline in the revolution of goodwill, are not willing to see the IFP disappear into oblivion now, in 2011 or 2014. Considering the strength of the IFP, built over 35 years of integrity, good governance and unity, it is clear that the IFP should have many years ahead of it to serve South Africa. We have a critical role to play in the political landscape of our country. Our time is not up. Our contribution is not complete.

 

I appreciate the support of the IFP Women's Brigade, particularly as we walk together through this dark storm of turmoil. I am still mulling over in my mind how to best serve the IFP and this country in the days ahead. I have taken very seriously our National Council's resolution of 24 October 2009, requesting that I consider continuing to serve as leader of the IFP to ensure a smooth succession later. I am humbled that our Women's Brigade National Council endorsed this request. The weight of responsibility to you and this Party lies heavy 

on my heart.   It does not matter that I have not yet agreed to  continue to serve the Party in view of the anarchy that now prevails in our Party.  It is a difficult decision for me to take.  Although I do not yet see any light at the end of this dark tunnel, do remember that I have never been a leader who shies away from taking the right decision even if it is a difficult decision to take, if it is in the interests of our Party.  Be patient with me.

 

Like the women gathered in this place today, I have a fighting spirit for the IFP. I have not given up and I am not intimidated. I know what we are capable of and I know how much South Africa needs a strong and united IFP. Like you, I know that we are not going to sail out of this storm by simply going with the currents. We are going to have to pick up the oars and row like our lives depend on it. And indeed, the life of the IFP does depend on our efforts right now. Let us give our best and show posterity that the women of the IFP were indeed the backbone that could not be broken.

 

I thank you for organising this meeting and I wish us all a successful Women's Month.