Meeting of the KZN IFP Youth Brigade
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

 


 

eSikhawini New Hall, Uthungulu District : 15 May 2010

 

As I rise to take this podium, I sense that the first thing I should do is make a statement that might take some of you by surprise: the IFP needs change. I have never denied this fact. After each election, as the IFP's support decreases, I have called our Party together to take an honest look at where we are, what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. Where things needed to change, we have changed them. Where policies needed adjustment, we have adjusted them. Where leaders needed chastising, we have disciplined them.

 

We have not shied away from taking difficult and necessary decisions. 

Earlier this week, our National Council faced another tough decision, as we came face to face with the fact that some of our constituencies and districts have not yet held their mandatory conferences in advance of our Annual General Conference. In terms of our Party's Constitution, a General Conference cannot be held until all the relevant steps have been taken, including the holding of these conferences.

 

To date, Zululand, the City of Johannesburg, Ethekwini and Umgungundlovu, among others, are still to hold their conferences. 

National Council has no authority to circumvent the Constitution and we were forced to make the decision to postpone our Annual General Conference until 23 to 25 July to give districts the opportunity to fulfil their responsibilities.

 

This is not a decision we have taken lightly and, just as we predicted when we made this decision at National Council, the media has already read all sorts of hidden agendas into our doing what the Constitution requires us to do. But the fact remains that we are a Party that respects our Constitution and operates according to its prescripts. 

Taking into consideration the amount of work that still needs to be done and the intervening FIFA World Cup, National Council settled on 23 to 25 July as the most suitable dates. Once again, we have adjusted to the circumstances.

 

The IFP has evolved over 35 years to keep pace with the dramatic changes in South Africa, from apartheid to democracy. We have evolved from a National Cultural Liberation Movement, to participating in the Government of National Unity, to leading a provincial administration and to being the voice of the Official Opposition. History, politics and circumstance are in constant motion, and the IFP has moved along with the changes to remain a relevant and vital voice in the national discourse.

 

What has not changed about the IFP is our character. The soul of this Party is comprised of immoveable principles, such as integrity, federalism, a belief in self-help and self-reliance, courage, discipline and foresight. No matter that the winds of change have blown corruption onto the centre stage of politics; the IFP prides itself on having clean hands. No matter that politics is becoming dirtier by the day, with leaders believing that any headlines make good publicity, even ones that sow division, distrust, and despair. 

The IFP stays focussed on what matters, rather than what looks good to the media.

 

What matters, is that the people we serve can achieve a better quality of life because of their support for us. What matters is that the partnership between the IFP and the people of goodwill yields fruits; that poverty is alleviated, work is created, healthcare becomes accessible, education is prioritised, crime is prevented and governance is placed under the direct will of the people.

 

These are difficult things to achieve, particularly in the light of the many obstacles we face in South Africa, and particularly with the scarcity of resources at our disposal. We have a proven record of competence and service delivery in this Province. Our competence in administration is legendary. So much that we achieved with so little in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government speaks for itself.

 

It therefore takes all our time and energy to serve the people of South Africa. The IFP doesn't have time to waste on courting the press or thinking up radical statements to stir up indignation. We are not interested in igniting dissent and character assassination. We are concerned with driving a national debate on issues of service delivery and on how to get government working better for the people it serves. 

If the IFP doesn't seem to be in the spotlight enough, that is because we are too busy working for a better future for all our people, and we do not spend our time looking for sound bites.

 

But for some of our members, this is no longer enough. Some think that the IFP needs to "get with the times" and give more attention to the media machine that creates celebrities today and spits them out tomorrow. Some think that the IFP should spend more time and energy on spin-doctoring, that we should portray an image of being young and vibey, and we should be saying outrageous things just to make the headlines. The problem with that is two-fold. First, we cannot steal time or resources from the people we serve to give them over to empty activities. And second, we cannot sell the IFP's soul and still keep the IFP's legacy.

 

The legacy of the IFP is one of measured steps, long-term vision and the high moral ground. These values have kept us from making mistakes and have delivered 35 years of important achievements for South Africa, for KwaZulu Natal and for the IFP. If we change now to being a Party of hasty decisions, political expediency and questionable integrity, we will be forced to surrender our legacy. We would not be creating a stronger or more relevant IFP. We would actually be killing off the IFP and starting a new party with a diminished sense of identity, security and direction.

 

That party; the one without morals, without a legacy and without discipline, is not a party I wish to lead. That is not the IFP. It is not the Party I founded. And it is not the party the people of South Africa need. Our political landscape is littered with enough dissent, corruption, selfish ambition, spin doctoring, personal enrichment, finger pointing and division. South Africa certainly doesn't need another ANC or another COPE or another DA or another ID. But that is all that the IFP would be if we allowed it to be stripped of its legacy and soul. We cannot end up being a watered down version of any of our political competitors.

 

This is why I have been fighting so hard for the IFP to survive and remain strong, even when some of our members have been agitating for division and change for the sake of change. Not a day goes by when we are not confronted by the activities of a group of people who called themselves the "Friends of VZ Magwaza-Msibi", as they try to split our Party from top to bottom, shake its foundations and topple its leadership. I have to admit that they have achieved something that many of our political opponents failed to achieve in the 35 years of the IFP's existence. They have succeeded in splitting the Party.

 

They are not doing this so that they can make way for a stronger IFP. 

They are doing it so that they can weaken the IFP enough to be able to snatch away its leadership. It is all about selfish ambition, status and money. Rivers of money are flowing towards the cause of destroying the IFP, and this flow of money has corrupted some of our members, councillors and leaders. As people jumped onto the malevolent bandwagon of the "Friends of VZ", they rooted around for any semblance of discontent on which they could manufacture a ruction. All kinds of vitriol have been poured on me and the leadership of the Party by these latter day paragons of perfection. This is a new culture in our Party.

 

I am saddened that they found fertile ground in the IFP's youth. They pounced on the pretext that our youth want transformation and engineered a much publicised catastrophe. We have for decades had a very hostile media in South Africa. I would recommend the latest book by Dr Anthea Jeffrey titled "People's War" to anyone to see how long most of the media in South Africa has participated in blackening the IFP or blocking it out.

 

Impatience is a characteristic of youth. I was impatient for change in South Africa when I was young. We all wanted liberation to come sooner and we all wished we could force the way open for change. It was through my activities as a young man of 22 that I was rusticated from the University of Fort Hare in September 1950. But as the military strategist Napoleon Bonaparte said: "Order marches with weighty and measured strides. Disorder is always in a hurry."

 

It was the intransigence of the Apartheid Regime that led the ANC to adopt an armed struggle that saw blood running in our streets. As much as I wanted a rapid path to apartheid's end, I could see that taking up arms would cost too much and that liberation would come by the inescapable forces of history. The IFP rejected the armed struggle because we stand for the best interests of South Africa. In the end we were proven right, that it was negotiations and not the armed struggle that finally ruled the day.

 

We still stand for South Africa's best interests; and it is not in our country's best interests for the IFP to act on impatience now, or ever. We need to look at the reasons why the IFP's support is decreasing and address those specific issues. There is no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The core of the IFP is good, relevant and needed. Let us be honest with ourselves about the real reasons we are losing support.

 

Let us take a collective responsibility for the poor performance of our Party in last year's general election. The game of pointing fingers instead of us sitting down together, as you are doing here today, has cost our Party dearly. The activities of those who have assumed the mantle of "Holier Than Thou" has done more damage to our Party than anything I can remember in the 35 years of the Party's existence.

 

I tried to do my best in the 2009 general election campaign and other leaders in the IFP tried to do their best. But not all our leaders did the same. Some of our Youth did their best in the election campaign of 2009, but a big segment of our Youth did not do the same. We were short of Party agents during the election and we did not ensure that as many as possible of our supporters were ferried to the polling stations to cast their votes.

 

These are two things we should have been looking at now in view of the Local Government Elections which are only a few months away. We are doing nothing of the kind. Our preoccupation has nothing to do with trying to improve the fortunes of our Party in the Local Government Elections.

 

Right now, a prime reason is that the "Friends of VZ" are creating an image of a divided IFP in the minds of the electorate. During the course of the day we will consider other problems, and we will listen with care to what the youth have to say, because I believe our youth can make a vital contribution to our understanding of what needs to change to get the IFP back on a winning path. But I think we need to get the issue of party ructions out the way before we can look at any other problems. These ructions have paralysed the Party.

 

One of the voices I look forward to hearing today is that of the Provincial Chairperson of the Youth Brigade in this Province, Mr S'khumbuzo Khanyeza. I am pleased that Mr Khanyeza has returned to the IFP fold and that he has shown his commitment to building the IFP again by calling this important meeting of the Youth Brigade just two months before Conference. When he apologized before the media and within our Party structures for flouting the IFP's Constitution and bringing its name into disrepute, Mr Khanyeza admitted that there is a force behind the ructions we are seeing which is intent on destroying the IFP's legacy. That told me that, in him, we have a real and courageous leader.

 

What I hope to hear from Mr Khanyeza, and from the Publicity Secretary of the Youth Brigade, Ms Hlengiwe Mthiyane - who has also come back into the fold - is what can be done to transform the Party without losing its soul. This is the question we should all be wrestling with. 

I believe this meeting will give us an indication of where things stand with the Youth Brigade leading up to Conference. This is the time for me to make a clean breast with you, and for you to make a clean breast with me. We do this for the sake of our Party.

 

We need to be open with each other and there is no need to mince words, as long as it is within the structures of the Party. Washing our dirty linen in the glare of publicity does not gain us any respect from the general public. In fact, it loses us support and respect.

 

I am grateful to those young leaders who saw the error of their ways when they caused our Party such distress. I am grateful to those who came forward and had the courage to apologize and place themselves in our hands for disciplining. We have forgiven them, because we saw the sincerity of their regret and we see the value they can still offer to the IFP. The "Friends of VZ" stole the voice of our youth and abused it to further their own ends. Now, we are giving back your voice and asking you to use it to restore the IFP's strength. You were elected to your positions and you have the full mandate of your peers to lead them.

 

The future of those who have not had the opportunity to come and admit that they were wrong, like Mr Irvin Barnes, will be discussed after Conference. For now, we need to focus on ensuring that the IFP that emerges from our Conference a few weeks from now is an IFP with its legacy, soul and principles intact.

 

The IFP Youth Brigade knows that I have always encouraged debate. I encourage young people to express their opinions, boldly and without fear, but in a manner that conveys respect. In any debate, when the person presenting an argument becomes argumentative, the focus shifts from the issue to the person and nothing useful is achieved. The unruly behaviour we have been seeing at Party meetings is out of sync with normal IFP behaviour. There is no need to throw a chair to get your point across. In fact, that is probably the worst avenue to persuasion.

 

During the liberation struggle, the governing Party came up with the strategy of making the country "ungovernable". They stated that they wanted to make the country "ungovernable" and to make our townships "ungovernable". I warned them that if we made the country "ungovernable" and our townships "ungovernable", they would remain "ungovernable" even after we had achieved freedom and were at the helm in our country.

 

You have seen on national television that that culture of the strategy of the ANC to make the country and townships "ungovernable" has, as I predicted, survived to this day. Protests are normal in a democratic society. But what we have seen in the municipalities that are under the ANC have not been normal protests. The burning of libraries and of our municipal offices makes us look like monkeys in the eyes of other race groups, because it shows a lack of understanding of something that is so elementary; that these are our own facilities which have been put together with our own taxpayers' money.

 

The current chaos that is coming into the Party with the "Friends of VZ" borders on this kind of reprehensible conduct. We have now been forced to postpone again the date of our Conference because the constituency elections and branch elections that have taken place have been characterised by this new culture of throwing chairs at each other. They have been characterised by a new style where IFP members compete over who can swear at each other the best. They have been characterised by fistfights and, in Johannesburg, three of our leaders had people threatening them with guns. They were assaulted with the butts of pistols that were pointed at them.

 

We are seeing ugly scenes unfolding by the day like we have never had in the IFP. Many elections have been repeated two and three times because they had to be abandoned due to this riotous behaviour that we are seeing in our Party for the first time.

 

The IFP Youth need to adopt a persuasive voice that attracts attention because it is honourable, makes sense and commands respect. That is the way of the IFP. The people of goodwill support us because they can identify with what we have to say and how we say it. The Institute for Democracy in Africa is currently debating how our country's leaders are creating a society filled with despair, because the majority of people just cannot identify with the vicious attacks and outrageous statements their leaders are making.

 

Let us not forget that the majority of the electorate are not like the few who make loud noises in the media, or who lie, cheat and steal with total disregard for propriety. The majority of the electorate are people like you and me, who want to see our families fed and educated, who want to work and want to create something better for the future. 

The majority of the electorate are in fact young people, which means their passion and ideals still greatly influence how they will vote.

 

I am deeply saddened when I speak to a young person who has already become jaded and hopeless. I agree with the Institute for Democracy in Africa that our leaders have a part in creating the sense of possibility or despair that pervades our youth. But I also believe that we each bear the responsibility of creating a positive and productive attitude in our own lives, because no challenge is going to be met by sitting around and complaining.

 

The IFP youth have good reason to have a positive and productive attitude, because you know first hand what can be achieved when we work hard, together. You have inherited the IFP's legacy and its track record of achievements, under desperate circumstances, with few resources.

 

You know that the IFP partnered with communities to build houses, schools and clinics when the apartheid government was determined to keep us downtrodden and when, across South Africa, classes were being disrupted and schools were being burned. In the area that was under our jurisdiction, we were able to make our children understand that burning down their own schools amounted to cutting their noses off to spite their own faces. Most of our schools were not burned down.

 

You know that the IFP started community upliftment projects when there was not enough money for hand outs. You know that the IFP took Government to court to roll out antiretroviral drugs to mothers and their babies, when Government was still wavering over whether HIV causes Aids. You know that the IFP called for a larger police force that was better trained, better paid and better equipped, when crime began to surge across our nation. You know that the IFP has championed the worker by fighting for trade unions, and championed the unemployed by calling for greater flexibility in the labour market.

 

You know the IFP's history, and you know that the IFP has something valuable to offer the electorate. We should depend on you as the vibrant section of our Party to spread the word about what kind of organisation this has been in all these 35 years, and what kind of organisation it continues to be.

 

All this knowledge becomes useless if you are not spreading what you know. I believe one of the problems we need to confront when we look at why we are losing support as a Party is that we are failing to canvass support as well as we should. This responsibility rests on all our shoulders. It is not just my burden as the leader of the party to speak at a few rallies before elections. It is the responsibility of every IFP member to convince as many people as possible, wherever they are, at whatever time of year, that the IFP has the answers to South Africa's problems. It is a daily occupation.

 

And I will not beat about the bush on this issue; our youth are the most important tool we have to get our message across. We have a young electorate who want to hear from young people why politics is relevant and the IFP is key. In less than a year, the electorate is going to the polls again for the 2011 Local Government Elections. We are already in election mode. Indeed, any political party worth its salt knows that there is no other mode to be in. We must always be ready to give a reason to support the IFP, and we mustn't wait to be asked to share it.

 

We are standing on the brink of change. In a few weeks time we will gather at our Annual General Conference to elect a leader to carry this Party forward. I do not know what is going to happen, although I think we have received a fair indication of intention from the saboteurs in our midst. What I do know is that this Conference is going to be a watershed moment for the IFP, because it is going to test the very soul of the Party to see whether it can stand.

 

I have been asked by our National Council "to consider" continuing to lead the Party for a little while, until the present storms in the Party subside, and this has been supported by messages from the National Council of the Youth Brigade, the National Council of the Women's Brigade, and from the National Executive of SADESMO. Our Secretary-General has long pronounced on his rejection of nomination, and our National Chairperson has done the same. But I will not pretend to know where our Conference is going to take us. There is always room for treachery and there is always space for dissent. One thing I do hope for is that the true will of our members will carry the day. I have up to now not considered the request.

 

Last week I attended the World Economic Forum on Africa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. One of the most thought-provoking sessions I participated in was attended by young people from across Africa, in which we considered leadership across the ages on our continent. I noted that the African tradition is that of enduring and stable leadership, but that this tradition must now be tested by the demands of a rapidly evolving society.

 

The question I asked was whether the rapid transformation of leadership is one of the elements necessary to promote or accommodate change, or whether the continuity of leadership is one of those necessary elements which enable change to take place in a reassuring environment of continuity and stability.

 

Changes in leadership, of a country or a political party, are often accompanied by instability. We see this in the present ructions which are splitting the IFP from top to bottom on the pretext of a succession debate. The challenge we face is to find a way to marry stability and change, so that we may transform the IFP into a powerful political force again while maintaining its best characteristics and protecting its legacy.

 

The leadership of this Party has expressed its determination to prevent our members from dragging the IFP through the mud at this critical time. Last weekend the National Council disciplined Messrs. Wiseman Mcoyi, Nhlanhla Khawula and Thokozani Zulu, and Ms Lucia Buthelezi, for bringing the Party into disrepute with their utterances outside the structures of the Party. These current ructions in the Party have been complicated by too much brown envelope journalism. The media has tried to portray the false image that these comrades have been penalized for supporting our Chairperson, Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi.

 

Nothing is further from the truth. Decisions that were reached to expel them from the Party were conducted through a secret ballot. The votes were unanimous and our National Chairperson was herself part of that collective. This is just not the time to widen divisions and stir discontent. This is the time to take an honest look at ourselves and ask how our own behaviour and our own attitude can help to reunite, strengthen and promote the IFP.

 

This is a moment of introspection and a time to be candid. I ask you today to speak your mind and voice your concerns. I ask you to consider the damage being wrought on our Party by those who are engineering division. I ask you to seek the Party's strength. But above all, I ask you to commit to finding a way to transform the IFP without losing its soul, destroying its legacy or weakening its image in the public eye.

 

This is a time for us to demand serene debate and measured steps. Let us approach the coming Conference in the spirit of the IFP, which is one of discipline, honesty and foresight. Let us look ahead to our Party's future after July 2010, after April 2011 and after April 2014, and let us consider the type of leadership we need to secure that future.

 

Let us make sure that the IFP not only survives, but regains its strength and unity. I thank you.

 

Contact:
Liezl van der Merwe
082 729 2510