Kwadukuza Town Hall: September 14, 2002

Thank you, Mr Cassim, for your kind words of introduction. I too feel that this meeting is long overdue, but I am grateful that we meet as old friends who have never interrupted our dialogue. I trust that this evening’s meeting and dinner will indeed be a celebration of the longstanding friendship between myself and this community.

I appreciate the opportunity to visit KwaDukuza during this historical season of our country’s political life. It seems we are standing in the eye of the storm, having come through the tempest created by the crossing of the floor legislation, and still awaiting the verdict of the Constitutional Court. The eye of the storm seems a quiet place, yet the atmosphere is one of anticipation and tremendous pent up energy. Very soon the political landscape of South Africa may be transformed beyond what anyone could predict. Very soon we will know whether the painstaking efforts we have poured into building our democracy will be made pointless by a trampling of all we hold dear. The crossing of the floor legislation has opened a debate on our commitment to democracy, which we must have the boldness to pursue regardless of the coming verdict.

Within this context of uncertainty and strain, there are a few things which remain unaltered and constant. The IFP is not going to change. Our commitment to democracy is not going to change. Our commitment to reconciliation will not falter. Our commitment to give South Africa the leadership of integrity it has cried out for for so long, remains unshaken. This Party knows who it is. We have never shifted our identity or relinquished our principles. We do not intend to do so now. Whatever the future holds, I am proud to be the President of the IFP, because I can confidently say that those who belong to the IFP know about serving the people and we know that, above all else, this comes first. As I say this, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude towards all our elected representatives in Kwadukuza and surrounding areas for the work you continue to perform with such diligence, excellence and integrity.

Service delivery cannot be put on hold until we can figure out who stands where and why. I have always reminded my Party’s political representatives that entering politics should be done with the right motives. It is not about pursuing one’s own ambition nor about lining one’s own pockets. It is about working day in and day out with the people we serve in order to secure a future in which the burden of poverty is eased, unemployment is addressed, criminality is routed and education becomes the pivotal focus of our people. When we are moved by this vision, with passion, it becomes incredible to consider using the people to obtain power or position. It becomes unthinkable to steal votes cast for a party and take them to another party for whom those votes were not cast. To any sincere political representative, the crossing of the floor legislation is outrageously immoral.

I say this with the conviction that the communities of our country will not stand for having democracy threatened in this way. Our communities have put as much into building South Africa as any political representative, and often more so. Our communities have more at stake should democracy be thwarted. I know this, because I have walked hand in hand with our communities, particularly in KwaZulu Natal, for almost half a century in politics. When I was the Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, it was the people who built the schools, raised the money, opened community centers, trained our youth and kept hope alive among us. There was very little political representatives could do without the support and financing of the then central government. But we could put our hearts into mobilising communities towards self-help and self-reliance, and we did so while working together, suffering together and together celebrating the small victories we won for community development. During that time, the Indian community of KwaZulu Natal gave a lasting impression of its inestimable worth to our country.

Time and time again, members of the Indian community came forward to offer financial and logistical assistance for community development projects. I knew then, as I know now, that the Indian community is not separate or outside of the pool of South Africans who endured the struggle. But the Indian community had something to offer which is unfailingly a character trait of the Indian people, and this perhaps sets you apart. Within this community lives a spirit of industriousness we desperately need. The historical circumstance of the arrival of people of Indian descent onto South African soil, and the epic journey of labour, perseverance, sweat and toil which has been endured, will forever stand as a brilliant testimony to this community. From the beginning, your fearlessness of hard work for the cause of freedom, then education, then prosperity has set you apart as invaluable citizens of South Africa.

It has been a joy for me to engage long-standing friendships with many people from the Indian community in KwaZulu Natal. Many of these friendships have been vital to me, lending the inspiration to continue in the destiny thrust upon me. I treasure the closeness of my friendship with this community and I feel sure that together we will weather the political storm ahead, simply because we have emerged from countless storms past with our friendship intact and our unity more closely knitted. I appreciate the integrity of this community, which allows me to speak my mind openly and frankly, knowing that we will share many concerns and many aspirations for South Africa and her people. The plurality of our country’s people is one of our strong points, so long as we seek to pool our individual strengths. I know that South Africa cannot do without the contribution of the Indian community. It would be like asking South Africa not to rely on South Africans.

As we look to solving our country’s many difficulties and overcoming the obstacles towards prosperity and human development, it is essential that we create the right climate in which such initiatives may succeed. We need to look at our society and question whether we have placed the emphasis correctly. At present, the emphasis is on redistribution of resources and wealth. For years, I have warned that this will not be sufficient to meet every need we are facing. We need to create an industrious society in which productivity is central. We need to inculcate a culture of respect for the reward of one’s own work, the dignity of being productive and the social discipline to contribute towards our collective economic growth. A great deal hinges on whether we can instill a renewed respect for law and order, ensuring that the rule of law supplants the rule of man. It is essential that individuals become aware of the corrosive power of criminality. No matter how trivial a criminal act may seem, it sows a cancer in the hearts of man, blurring the line between right and wrong.

Just as the ability to commit the most despicable crime is birthed in misdemeanours, so too is social reformation birthed in the smallest acts of goodwill and integrity. I believe we must commit ourselves to changing our communities at grassroots level by teaching a culture of respect by respecting others, teaching a culture of discipline by accepting hard work and teaching a culture of responsibility by vigilantly watching those in power, holding our leaders accountable and giving the example by getting involved in community development. Our leaders represent their people, and also provide the example. For this reason, the IFP is determined to root out corruption from among political representatives. I welcome cooperation between this community and its leaders in systematically securing a government which is efficient and corruption free. The IFP does not tolerate or condone corruption. If it takes place in our midst, we must expose it. I encourage this community to monitor its government, hold its elected representatives accountable and demand a leadership of integrity.

During this year’s Annual General Conference of my Party, I spoke of plans I have to redouble our fight against corrupt, selfish and indolent leaders. One must be open and honest about this; every party attracts a number of freeloaders. But not every party is willing to entertain their ambitions. The IFP is not willing to carry deadwood. If our elected representatives are not delivering, working, mobilising community development and being agents of democracy, their leadership role will be short-lived. I am taking the opportunity to say these things in public, because I want our people to know that we are accountable and determined to serve. The IFP has never been afraid to wear our commitment on our sleeves, for fear that we will be expected to live up to our stated convictions. This community will remember very well when, during the liberation struggle, segments of the liberation movement changed their policies, turning 180 degrees from the commitment we had made to seeing a liberated South Africa which would be a good inheritance for all our people.

This was not only made clear in the armed struggle, which tarnished our inheritance and opened the way for violence and a lack of respect for authority, law and order to persist today. It was also clear in the neglect of education, which was counted as less urgent than political liberation. The slogans and banners of "Liberation now, education later" have caused far-reaching damage to our people. We are now working in a democratic country to alleviate poverty and unemployment, yet we are far behind where we could have been had our people all received a good education. Today, there are countless numbers of people who lack the skills, knowledge and experience to be employed. We do not suffer so much under an unemployment problem, as a problem of too many people being unemployable. There are other consequences we could not have predicted.

It is a delicate subject matter, but I regret to say that our legacy of a lack of education compounds the problem of racism. Our people have been artificially divided by our past through several generations. This generation, living free from political, social and racial oppression, under one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, still struggles to come to terms with our unity as human beings, because the differences pointed out by decades of propaganda seem to still be alive. People who have not had the benefit of an education are less capable and less independent. It is not race, culture, language or religion that categorise people in this way. It is a lack of knowledge, experience and exposure. It is a lack of education. The historical disregard for education by some components of our liberation struggle is playing out as one of the cruelest aspects of our present day reality. The apartheid government deliberately withheld education from the oppressed majority, aware that knowledge is power. But those who gave up on demanding education made a terrible mistake.

Today we are trying to catch up with the progress of change in our own country, not to mention the rapid technological development of our world. The answer lies in the same place it has since the beginning; education, education, education. We must commit to teaching and training our people, equipping them to operate as competent citizens in a transformed South Africa. There is so much that so many people do not know about basic systems and services, such as banking, accessing finances, using the Internet or starting a business. I know that the Indian community shares my commitment to education and training. Throughout our struggle I worked hand in hand with this community to secure education for all our young people. The Indian community produced a great number of teachers and academics, financed colleges and schools, and worked under the IFP’s banner of "Education for liberation". Now that we are faced with new challenges in the same field, I believe that the Indian community still has a vital role to play.

In KwaZulu Natal, a lack of knowledge can be fatal. It is a sad and terrible fact that our Province is one of the hardest hit areas by HIV/AIDS. Even now there are people dying because they did not know the facts about this disease. There is still a great deal of misconception and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS which work against the truth and the facts to take our people’s lives. Education about this disease is vital if we are to arrest its spread throughout KwaZulu Natal. Through information campaigns in our schools and on our campuses, we have been reasonably successful in teaching the younger generation what HIV/AIDS is, how it is contracted and how one can prevent oneself from becoming a victim or a carrier. The difficulty is that the facts have been peppered with pontification on what message we should be giving our children about sexual relations and responsible behaviour, and we have ended up sending mixed messages and sowing confusion.

The choices of responsibility, abstinence, faithfulness and condomising remain choices our young people will have to make by themselves. If we have failed to lay a good foundation of self-respect and morality within our families from which young people can make these decisions, surely it is too late now to start telling them through the media that either this way or that way is right. It has been said that the morals of a society are like teeth; the more rotten they are, the more painful it is when they are touched. However, I have never balked at speaking forthrightly on matters which demand our attention. If we are to openly debate moral regeneration within the highest levels of government, then surely we must be able to speak about morality in our personal relationships, in our families, communities and workplaces. If we expect our children to make the right decisions to protect their lives and ensure that they may live up to their full potential, we must accept the responsibility of nurturing them, teaching them, instilling self-respect, giving them a sense of dignity and significance, and showing them how to treat others with fairness and respect.

The regeneration of our nation’s moral fibre begins in the hearts and minds of individual people and is fostered in our homes. I have great respect for the Indian culture of teaching children traditional ways and traditional wisdom. It is important that our cultural identity is passed on to successive generations, so that our unique strengths can be maintained and contributed to the collective effort of nation building far into the future. The features of this community which are so valuable to South Africa remain those of industriousness, productivity, respect for education and social discipline. These are features we cannot do without. My respect for this community is built on years of shared dialogue, shared concerns and shared aspirations. But more than this, we have built together and worked together with success.

I appreciate the support this community has given to the IFP. In the end, a political party is not made up of its leaders, councillors and representatives. These are merely the men and women who are dedicated to keeping a necessary structure in place through which good governance can easily flow. The real heart of a party is its members and supporters. If they feel confident about their party and are working closely with their leaders, the party is healthy and strong. It has been said that the curse of not becoming involved in the governance of one’s country is the resignation to being led by lesser men. Other parties may neglect their heart, while they dress up the structural body, attracting political office bearers who are less interested in serving than in the outer display of power. But the IFP looks to its heart. We know that you, our supporters, keep the lifeblood flowing. You are why we are here. You make it all worth it.

It is such a pleasure for me to come to Kwadukuza this evening to meet with a community so close to my heart. It is good to spend time with the people I serve, for it reminds me why I began serving in the first place. This community inspires me. I trust that we will walk a long road ahead together in the unity we have known for so many years. I believe that, together, through our pooled strengths, we may see South Africa turned around and moving quickly towards her destiny of development, progress and prosperity. May the Indian community continue to leave its humanitarian footprints along this path.

I thank you.