Nongoma: June 16, 2000

It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you this morning after the tragic loss of a leader of this community who has passed on under such tragic circumstances. Mr Joseph Sikhonde had been targeted for assassination for many years. We are therefore grateful to the Almighty for sparing his life and for protecting him until now. Ours is to thank God for having lent him to us to do so much within such a short span of life.

Throughout his life, Mr Sikhonde always fulfilled to the fullest measure possible, his duty to our Party and to the community he served. He was loyal to our Party and his loyalty stood strong and tall, without cracks, without weakness and without flaws. Since the time when he was a student at the University of Zululand, because of his loyalty to our Party and the principles for which our Party stands, Mr Sikhonde became known as a man who could not be intimidated.

He stood by his principles. He stood by his position. He stood by the strength of his convictions without ever being intimidated or afraid. He was never brow-beaten and held his head high, not because of pride, but because he knew that his loyalty to his Party and the principles for which his Party stands gave him the right to be a proud and free man. We have come to pay tribute to a man of principles. A real giant amongst men! 

We have therefore come here today summoned by his death to celebrate a life larger than life, the memory and example of which will live forever beyond death. Today we are celebrating the life of a hero whose legacy will grow stronger in the years to come. 

Both in life and in death Mr Joseph Bhekuyise Sikhonde has given an example with few equals. He was an extraordinary man of courage, determination and unwavering loyalty. Today with my presence on this occasion, I wish to bear witness that the values and principles which shaped his life, will never perish. On this occasion, as we dedicate ourselves to praising and upholding the memory of Joseph Sikhonde, we pledge our lives and honour to uphold and promote the principles for which he lived, and in defence of which this hero made the ultimate sacrifice.

He lived up to the principles he espoused. He lived up to the full measure of loyalty he had for his Party and his people. He will forever be remembered as an example of what serving the people is all about. Because of his dedicated service, he used to inject into all those around him the same level of loyalty, dedication and service. He radiated and emanated a culture of service and dedication to the people by virtue of his example. He served all the people that his call of duty demanded he attend, whether they loved or hated him. Today's high attendance at this funeral is evidence in itself of how much Mr Sikhonde was loved by the community of Nongoma.

But at the same time we are very much aware that he was at the same time hated by those who did not like him.

In 1970, I myself worked from Nongoma, and I know well that, often, working in this context, one may be loved by many and yet be disliked by a few. Even in those early days there were people who were bent on undermining my work. Year by year their resentment turned into hatred and resentment amongst those few who hated me. I did not do anyone any harm. All I did was to serve my King, our people in KwaZulu and the people of South Africa and I hated no one. Mr Sikhonde's death has reminded me that when some people hate one they can hate one deeply with their body and soul. I remember that I was also subject to many plots of assassination and it is by the will of God that I am still alive and that I have lived to this great age that I have reached, unlike Mr Sikhonde.

The only thing that is the same is that I was also quite young at the time. In a way I feel that he has paid a price with his life not only for his principles and beliefs but because there were some who saw him as my very personification because of his loyalty to me and to the ideals we shared as members of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Mr Sikhonde was my loyal follower and today I feel the pain at the thought that he was perhaps mowed down with assassins' bullets because of his loyalty to me and our Party. Mr Sikhonde, like other leaders of our people here who include the Prince of kwaZiphethe and our member of Parliament Mr Albert Mangaqa Mncwango have their names on the same hit list on which Mr Sikhonde's name appeared. I can say even about the Prince and Mr Mncwango that their being my colleagues and followers has also earned them the same hatred which has resulted in Mr Sikhonde's death. I know that people who have supported and worked with me have often been referred to as "my puppies". That is why I state that he paid this high price because of that kind of loyalty to me and our Party.

The time has come to put a halt to the growth of hatred and bring people to terms with the fact that the work we are doing in Nongoma and the work we are doing for our King and the people of KwaZulu and the people of South Africa is not for our benefit, but for the greater good of our nation. Our work over the decades emanates from the same culture of service which supported the life of Mr Joseph Sikhonde.

I feel deeply devastated by sorrow and guilt as I stand before the lifeless body of Mr Sikhonde for I know that he died to bring forward the work that I began in Nongoma more than thirty years ago. He walked in my footsteps, not for his own sake, but for the greater good of our nation.

He paid the ultimate price of his life to serve our nation and follow my leadership. He was assassinated because of his unwavering loyalty to me and to our common cause of serving our nation. For a long time, we have worked in Nongoma to bring to reality a long held dream which one day can reunite and free our nation. For a long time, we have worked on the dream of freeing our nation, making it prosper and addressing the many ailments which are now affecting it. To this end, we have committed our lives and dedicated all our efforts of uplifting our people from abject poverty.

For this reason, we have become the target of violence of those who are bent on destroying our nation and serving their own personal good over the greater good of our people. I have been targeted by violence and intimidation since the days in which I used to work from Nongoma. The same violence reached and destroyed the life of Mr Sikhonde on the same path on which I walked. He suffered and died for his loyalty to me and his loyalty to our Party. For this, he shall remain forever in the bright firmament of the heros of our nation. We thank God for his life and we are gathered here not only to mourn his death, but to celebrate the life of this great son of ours.

I have attended many funerals of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our nation can grow and our principles are upheld. Every time, my pain is not lessened. Every time, the pain I feel for this new assassination becomes greater and is compounded by all the pain of all the funerals I have ever attended. My pain is the pain of our nation which I carry on my shoulders and bear on my conscience. To keep a dream alive, we have suffered a continuous struggle which we inherited from our forefathers and which we owe to our posterity. We are aware of our suffering and our pain as it builds up and compounds every time a new hero falls on the path of our struggle.

Pain fuels our unwavering will to never desist from the struggle, never give up and never surrender. We will never allow our heros to have made the ultimate sacrifice in vain. For this reason, we must continue to pursue the path on which we have embarked, which is one of the unity of our nation and the service of our people. We must pursue the path of reconciliation because there is no alternative to reconciliation and, within that path, we must carry both the burden of our pain and the keen awareness of our goals and objectives which we have pursued for many decades, and to which we have dedicated our lives and our honour.

As we stand before the mortal remains of this hero, we shall recommit once again to ensure that, through our struggle, his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the many who came before him shall not be in vain. The day shall come in which peace shall reign in our nation. The day shall come in which our nation shall be unified. The day shall come in which our nation shall be blessed with economic prosperity and social stability so that each of its sons and daughters shall have the opportunity of a free and dignified life, without want or fear.

In the past six years, I have worked closely with President Mbeki to ensure that the path of reconciliation is pursued to the fullest measure possible under the rapidly changing circumstances of our history. Both President Mbeki and I have made both personal and political sacrifices to ensure that reconciliation and peace may finally triumph. We have pursued reconciliation and peace at the national level in the name of the same culture of service which inspired the life of Mr Sikhonde. By working together for the greater good of our people we have set aside present differences and past resentment. We have created, nourished and propagated a shared hope for a better future, and on the strength of this vision of a better future we have managed to find the strength to overcome the grave difficulties which still characterise our present relations.

However, it seems that the vision, high sense of morality and political integrity which has characterised our relationship at the national level has not percolated down within the provincial leadership of KwaZulu natal. It seems that within KwaZulu Natal the opposite attitude prevails and some people in the top provincial leadership of the ANC are trying to undo the hard work that President Mbeki and I have laboriously performed to build peace and reconciliation on a daily basis. We cannot allow these people to undermine the cause of peace and reconciliation.

I specifically refer to the utterances that were made in respect of the tragic assassination of Mr Sikhonde, I do not hold the ANC provincial leadership responsible for this death, and, on the basis of the facts before us, no one should do so. However, I hold them responsible for not having reacted to this tragic occurrence in the sense that we have within the leadership of the ANC in the Province some people who have not ceased to be no more than dogs of war.

We must find the wisdom, courage and humility to turn this tragic event into an opportunity to move forward on the painful path of reconciliation, rather than turning it into a setback. We can only do so by understanding the greater dimension in which the life of Mr Sikhonde played its historical role. Only our understanding of the greater good of our nation can provide this broader dimension in which this tragedy can be borne by our nation with the decorum required by the occasion. Mr Sikhonde served our nation, and for that reason, he died. We shall continue toserve our nation and honour his life by pursuing the same cause of peace and reconciliation to which he was committed. Our goals are entrenched in history and written in the destiny of our nation.

Our mission was cast in a dream greater than life, which spans generations. This dream is brought to fruition on a daily basis through the loyalty and dedication of our members. This is the dream to which I have dedicated my life and to which, before me, King Solomon ka Dinuzulu dedicated his life. Often, at crucial junctures of my life I can feel the spirit of King Solomon ka Dinuzulu walking close by my side and inspiring my actions. I can feel the spirit of King Solomon presiding over this tragic and sombre moment. I can feel the dream he entrenched for our nation slowly realising, for - one day - we shall be free, prosperous and finally at peace. I know that there may be questions by some as to why I mention the name of our King in this context.

Older people who are now very few will know why I mention the King of kwaDlamahlahla. It was his wisdom which led him to decide to offer his sister's hand in marriage to my father Mathole Buthelezi. Older people know that my mother Princess Constance Magogo Mantithi Ngangezinye ka Dinuzulu as a young maiden had her own boy-friend. And yet when her brother asked her to abandon her boy-friend and marry my father, she obeyed. I am the produce of that marriage. I believe that in all that I have been successful to do in serving the people of this Kingdom and the people of South Africa was ordained by King Solomon when he arranged the marriage of his sister to my father. I am the product of the King's action. This is why I am referring to all have tried to do as King Solomon ka Dinuzulu's work.

I am the product of that dream and my life is its expression. It was King Solomon who designed my mission and acted as the great architect of my own existence when he pursued his intuition for the role that I had to play. I believe that he gave my mother's hand in marriage to my father so that their progeny could carry forward his design and long-term project for our nation. Many of us are committed to continuing to serve the nation in the same fashion. I say this with great pride. I have served my Kings with loyalty and devotion in the sense that I served my late cousin the King of kwaKhethomthandayo, King Bhekuzulu ka Solomon and his son the King of kwaKhangelamankengane our present King, with the same commitment and dedication. I did what King Solomon had planned I would do for his descendants, for his Nation and for the people of South Africa. Mr Sikhonde was my follower and assisted me in carrying on with that dream of our King. But here we are today, to mourn the fact that his life has been snuffed out so early by the bullets of assassins.

In this respect, I feel that, on this tragic occasion, many of us are coming together to grow closer and to grow stronger. We must reconcile in the pain we share and transform this pain into a stronger bond between all of us. Our pain is shared by many members of the Royal House with whom we share ever stronger bonds and common purposes. As we stand before the mortal remains of this hero, it is proper and fitting for me to thank many members of the Royal House for the contribution they have given to our cause. Many people have died in Nongoma to pursue our dream and to be loyal to our cause. Among them have been several members of the Royal House, which has also paid a very heavy price of pain and suffering. I thank members of the Zulu Royal house because the majority of them never abandoned me in all my trials and tribulations.

I must also thank the members of the Royal Family who helped in arresting those who have been suspected of the heinous crime of Mr Sikhonde's assassination. I must specifically thank those members of the Royal House who have stood by me, who have stood by our dream, and who have been loyal to our cause through thick and thin. They are heroes of the same stature and the same courage as the one whom we are so tragically celebrating on this occasion. I wish to thank them publicly and recognise them publicly as the heroes they are. Without their support and love, I would have not been able to carry forward our struggle, maintain the dream and bring our nation as close as it now is to reaching our goals.

Our road ahead remains long and uphill, but we have never been as close as we are now to reaching peace for our nation and beginning the path which leads to the prosperity of our people.

We must find the strength to endure the adversities and obstacles awaiting us on the road ahead. We shall not walk that road alone, for the spirit of Mr Joseph Bhekuyise Sikhonde will be with us, as is the spirit of King Solomon. Their courage will be our courage. God is with us and leads us to fulfil a destiny which is part of the great architecture of his own creation. We shall triumph over all adversities, not because of our arrogance, but because of our being humble. We shall triumph because our cause is righteous and we walk the path of righteousness. We shall triumph because of the gentleness of our nation and because we seek

peace for ourselves and others. We shall triumph because we walk in the path of God. In serving the people of God we serve our Lord Himself. In serving the people of King Solomon, we serve God as Kings in our culture are creatures of God.

Mr Sikhonde walks with us, for he was gentle, humble, loyal and a true servant of his people. 

He remains an example of the virtues which lead to the Kingdom of Heaven, for our Lord said in Matthew Chapter 5:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peace makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Kingdom
of heaven.

Joseph Bhekuyise Sikhonde was a peace maker and has been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for which he paid the ultimate price. May his soul rest in peace and his example show us how to open the doors to the Kingdom of heaven. We may all walk this path into God's holy Kingdom if we embrace the living Spirit of our living God. May our brother's soul rest in peace and his spirit be with us as we move forward in the struggle ahead.


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