KING SHAKA MEMORIAL CELEBRATIONS
MLINGANISWA SCHOOL, EZINGOLWENI : OCTOBER 19, 2002
I wish to thank Inkosi Mavundla for taking the initiative to organise this meeting in Ezingolweni in celebration of our Zulu history and identity, which finds its expression each year in our King Shaka Memorial celebrations. Whenever we gather to recall our shared past, an opportunity is opened to look at where we presently stand and to consider how we may move forward with the same dignity, integrity and unity which our nation has always known. I believe we may take pride as a Zulu nation in the contribution which we may give to South Africa during this testing time in its history. Ours is a contribution of integrity. Integrity is the legacy of our nation. Within such a multi-cultural, pluralist country with its many different components, the Zulu contribution is both valuable and desperately needed.
It is a pleasure for me to come here to speak to members of this community on issues which are significant to our present reality in KwaZulu Natal and in South Africa. As a leader who has been in politics and government for almost half a century, I appreciate how important it is that I should come to places such as this and listen carefully to what our people have to say. I know the issues which people of Ezingolweni face. They are the issues of so many of our people throughout South Africa. Yet there are unique features in this community which I feel we must address and speak of openly. I believe that together we can change the present climate and overcome the social difficulties which stand in the way of establishing peace, stability, prosperity and development in Ezingolweni. The people of this community are equipped to make a difference. Within our Zulu identity lie the features of integrity and discipline which are necessary to change our social landscape.
As I say this, I am quite aware of the fact that several programmes and projects have focused on Ezingolweni in the past eight years in order to address these very issues. I stood in this place, at this same time of year, in 1998 at the launch of the rural anti-poverty programme initiated by President Nelson Mandela. On that occasion, I also raised the issue of the violence which has haunted this community for so many years. I feel that the social evils we face in South Africa today are intertwined and often spill over. I know that the people of Ezingolweni know me, for we have laboured together and struggled together for many years. You will know, therefore, that I am a champion of reconciliation and peace. I believe that if we do not reconcile our diverse peoples by laying to rest our past hurts and healing the bitterness which still plagues so many of our people, the unity of our nation will suffer and thereby also its strength and its progress. These are matters I am not willing to compromise on. They should be at the forefront of our government’s action plan.
I feel it is essential and urgent that a debate is opened among individual people in grassroots communities across this Province, in particular, about our own attitudes and actions, and whether they are assisting or hindering the move towards creating a better South Africa. Time and again I think of how hard we struggled and worked to secure a democratic South Africa in which equality, social justice and reconciliation could finally be a reality. Then I look at the problems we are faced with and I wonder how we could have got ourselves so far away from where we wanted to be. The government of our fledgling democracy undertook to transform the entire body of law in South Africa to reflect the society we wanted. Racial discrimination no longer features in our legislation. Our Constitution rejects the lack of respect for humanity that is expressed through the abuse of women and children, theft, murder, rape and any form of oppression. Yet where are the lines drawn in the minds of our people?
Anyone who engages in criminal conduct should not have the right to rile against the high levels of criminality in our country. If you do crime, you are part of the problem. Anyone who feels it is his right to hit his wife or to hurt his children is part of the problem of moral decay which we are fighting to redress. The Deputy President has called for a national programme of moral regeneration because it is clear at every level that our country is in a crisis of social disintegration. Again and again we are calling on the people of goodwill to arise, join forces and turn the tide within our communities. Without this, we have no hope. Yet I am here today to take a step further and to urge those who are fueling the problems and social tensions to stop, think and change. When we speak about changing the hearts and minds of our people, we are talking about changing the forces that motivate their actions so that we can change their actions.
There is a pervasive lack of discipline, respect for authority and respect for the rule of law within our modern society. When we look to the days of King Shaka’s reign, we see that extremely harsh sentences were meted out for transgression, most often demanding the very life of the transgressor. Obviously times have changed and civilisation has moved away from such harsh ways of administering justice, to become more conscious of the value of all human life. We no longer execute people for transgression, but we need nonetheless to find a way to ensure that people abide by the rules at all levels of society. The same principle which applied in King Shaka’s day should apply now, whereby those who transgress must know that they will meet a sanction and a punishment. In our nation’s past, the certainty of punishment in a system which did not allow transgressions created rigid discipline. Today we live in a situation where transgression seems to have become the rule, and discipline and compliance the exception. This is a situation we must redress.
As Zulus, we need to give our contribution to redressing this issue by showing that there is a particular feature to our Zuluness which is that of being disciplined, productive and law abiding. In whatever field we operate, whether it be in the family, community or workplace, we must display the highest level of morality. Morality and discipline are essential if we are to succeed in turning the tide on the present social evils. They are equally important if we are to win our constant battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Government has put in place information campaigns and programmes calling for responsible action. We know that AIDS is decimating our population, especially in KwaZulu Natal, and that everyone by now knows of someone who has died of AIDS or is living with HIV. It has become a reality to all of us. It is not something we can afford to be quiet about. It is not a secret to swept under the carpet.
But no matter how much we talk about it, if individual people do not stop, think and change their actions, we are not going to halt the spread of this tragic disease. Victory in the battle against HIV/AIDS depends on morality, discipline and self-restraint. Whether it is a matter of utilising condoms when having sex or refraining from sex altogether, both require discipline. When I spoke at the Women’s Brigade Conference of the IFP last weekend, I pointed out how we need to consider the message of abstinence and faithfulness to one’s partner. For too long we simply said that this was not a viable message. But the fact is, it is the best, most effective solution to the problem of HIV/AIDS. That should make us stop and think. I pray that it can help us change. Uganda has brought down the incidence of HIV/Aids, not just through condoms but mainly through abstinence and faithfulness.
Each of us must ask; are our personal actions part of the problem, or are we helping to build the South Africa we all struggled so hard to achieve? I cannot help but think of the issue of racism and divisions based on culture, language, historical background or the colour of one’s skin. Lest we forget, our brothers and fathers and sons died to give us a country in which one man would no longer hate another and treat him like dirt. We endured bantu education, we endured the Dompas, we endured forced removals. We did all this to secure a South Africa in which all South Africans would be treated equally. The despicable evil of discrimination and racism retains its character no matter who the perpetrator is. Have we come this far only to turn on our brothers and re-enact the injustice endured in South Africa for so many years? I will not tolerate racism from anyone. We cannot drag our past into our present and then wonder why the present is no better than what we had before as a country.
Social justice affects every person, everywhere. I come to Ezingolweni today acutely aware of the history of this community and of the violence that has torn its social fabric apart. I know about the political assassinations and the killings in the past. I know of the blood which has been shed here. I know about the tensions and the conflicts. But I believe that Ezingolweni has the capacity to rise above its past and usher in a new future which is different from anything we have known before. We are facing a great test of our determination to change and to bring peace and stability. In less than two years, South Africans will once again be going to the polls to elect the government we wish to see running our country for the next five years. In the past, election time has generated conflict and bloodshed in Ezingolweni. This time, we must move forward and choose not to allow the past to be repeated.
I know that there are already tensions being created by the constitutional amendment proposed by government to allow elected representatives to cross the floor to another political party, and to take with them their seats and all the votes which were cast for the party they will move from. The Constitutional Court declared the legislation which would have allowed this to happen unconstitutional. Clearly it is a betrayal of the trust between voters and political representatives to change the system midstream so that, when people voted, they did not know that those they elected might run off with their votes and give them to another party. The IFP opposed this legislation on this very basis, recognising that it is immoral and against the Constitution. However, those in power now simply want to change the Constitution to make it possible. This gives clear evidence of the total lack of integrity at the highest level of government.
We are facing a test of democracy. In a genuine democracy, the possibility should exist that another party could become the ruling party with the next elections. In a genuine democracy, the ruling party does not clasp power closely to their breast and change the rules midstream so that no one could possibly see that power shifted to another party, even under the will of the people. I have warned time and again that we should resist the formation of a one-party state in South Africa and balk at the notion of all power
being centered in one place. This is a dangerous path to take and it would deny democracy taking root in South Africa. We would have a form of democracy in which the people effectively have no say. It would be a farce to suggest that anyone could have a say in how they would be governed.
I have opposed this very notion all my life. I have always stood by the principle of federalism, as governance from the bottom up, where individual people have ownership of their government from the lowest levels all the way to the top. I still believe that no one knows better what communities need than the communities themselves, and that people should be empowered to express their needs, wants and aspirations, and hold their elected representatives accountable for the work they render. People must begin to really understand their relationship with government and realise that the services they receive are due to them according to the laws in force. No matter who is in government, government is mandated to provide certain services. But obviously a leadership of integrity, committed to genuine democracy would do a better job than a leadership simply intent on accumulating power.
As I look at the individual people involved in this betrayal of democracy and voting South Africans, I cannot help but wonder how those members of municipal councils who may now be crossing the floor can possibly sleep at night. I wonder that their conscience allows them any rest when they know that personal ambition has caused them to betray the votes of so many of their fellow South Africans. I can only think that the lack of integrity which is being shown at the highest levels of leadership in our country is opening the way for a lack of integrity at every level, even within our own communities. Corruption, selfish ambition and greed for power are eroding the foundation of goodwill, morality and integrity upon which our new South Africa should have been built. These are testing times. Many of us are going through the fire of testing, and without integrity many will be burned. There is the temptation to get through a trial by any means necessary, including dishonesty or betrayal. But the test South Africa faces today will only be overcome with integrity.
Once again, I want to bring this down to the level of what individual people can do, because I know that every individual person contributes to the tide of goodwill, or to the tide of despair, according to his or her actions. Immediately I want to make it clear that no one should allow these political tensions to spill over into violence. Violence will not solve anything. Violence did not win us democracy. It was negotiations, negotiations, negotiations. When people are willing to talk, history is made. But when they accept the language of violence and bloodshed, all that is created is a dark past which will throw its shadow over any future attempts at reconciliation. Let us stop the cycle of violence, intimidation and murder, and allow the healing of our people to open a path towards reconciliation. We cannot expect unity to grow where the soil is freshly wet with blood. Let us learn to talk respectfully about our differences and seek common ground. Let us teach those who do not know the way of negotiations, to talk.
I constantly ask myself whether what I am doing is helping or hindering reconciliation, development and social justice. I am constantly aware of the words I speak and the actions I take, knowing that my actions will often speak louder about what I believe than anything I may actually say. I do this not only because I am in a leadership position, but because I am a patriot and a man of goodwill. I urge every single person here today to ask themself this same question, and to be willing to change your actions if you discover that what you are doing is not building our South African vision, but indeed destroying any hope that it may be constructed. It is critical that we all commit to changing our attitude, our mind set and our actions. It is not merely the responsibility of leaders, but that of individual people in their homes, in their families, in their workplaces and in their communities.
As Inkosi Mavundla could attest to, I have given this message to our traditional leaders time and time again, urging them to act with integrity as an example to all our people. As we know, Government is not affording our traditional leaders the respect they deserve and has ignored their authority within our communities. For years traditional leaders have put forward their case in countless documents, with legal opinions and extensive analysis of the facts. We have warned how dispossessing traditional authorities of their powers and functions would cripple community development. We have expressed our concerns and come together repeatedly to determine the way forward under the clear implication that there is no political will within Government to solve the issue and that a plan is being pursued with great determination to completely remove the reality of amaKhosi from the governance of South Africa.
Faced with this terrible fact, our amaKhosi have never once resorted to violence, intimidation or threats. They have stood as a sterling example of integrity and morality within our communities. They have shown that amaKhosi are not part of an old system, merely by virtue of keeping the high moral ground. They have not reacted with violence, as many who are presently seeking to erase them did during our past. They have reacted with the integrity that expresses our progress as a nation. They have reacted with the integrity that is the essence of the Zulu nation. I believe that if we are going to promote an African Renaissance that respects our diverse cultures as part of a rich tapestry of peoples, Government must learn to respect what is good about all our cultures. Not everything from our past is wrong. Traditional leaders have held their authority in our communities for generations, and for generations they have been the driving force behind community development, stability and peace. If we fail to give due place to their enormous contribution in our present system of governance, we will have lost a crucial element for our development and growth. Progress will be stunted, all for the sake of accumulating power in one single center.
It is important that our people support our traditional leaders. These are the people with the experience of years, the knowhow and the collegial wisdom to bring community development at the pace it is required. For Government, community development is a project which started in 1994. Today they are not even using the most valuable of their resources, which is our amaKhosi. But for our amaKhosi, community development has been a project which has spanned generations. It is to these leaders that we owe our support. We know these people. We know what they have done. We know what they are doing. I urge each of us to support the role of our amaKhosi, for the sake of a South Africa in which genuine democracy is a reality, and not just a word. Our amaKhosi have given the example of integrity. Once again, they have expressed the character of our nation.
In so saying, I wish to thank Inkosi Mavundla once again for gathering us together in this venue to speak openly on issues of such great significance to our present reality. I believe that we can change the landscape of South Africa, community by community, person by person. I believe we can turn the tide on conflict, criminality, social injustice, disrespect for human life and the variety of evils plaguing our people, if each one of us is willing to stop, think and change our actions. The test of genuine democracy is coming. The test of our commitment to reconciliation and peace is on its way. How will we react? May Ezingolweni rise to be an example to all our communities of what may be achieved when each individual person chooses to become a patriot and a South African of goodwill. May we rise as Zulus to prove that, together, we have moved forward. May we rise towards peace with the integrity of the Zulu Nation leading the way for all South Africa.