Human Rights Day Celebration
in the Uthukela District

 

Address by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
 

Emangweni Area, Loskop: 22 March 2010

 

For the past fifty years, South Africans have gathered to mark the tragedy that marred South Africa's history on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville. Since 1994, official events have been arranged to commemorate this day which has now been called Human Rights Day. But before 1994, although we did not do so as a nation, we who waged the liberation struggle remembered Sharpeville every year; and every year we determined afresh to keep working, keep struggling, and keep going until we reached that day when the prospect of another Sharpeville would forever be behind us.

 

What happened on 21 March 1960 is unthinkable to most of us today, which gives the measure of how far we have come since then. The demonstrations against pass laws that ended in the killing of 69 people and the wounding of 180 more have entered the pages of history. 

The papers we rely on today to guide where we may go and how we may act are no longer reference books or passes, but a national Constitution that enshrines our rights as rights belonging to every South African.

 

There are so many of this generation who do not know the wounds we endured for the sake of liberty and the entrenchment of human rights in South Africa. Often when I speak at such events I take pains to explain to our youth exactly what happened during apartheid, how it affected us and how far we have come since then. Yet I still suspect that the world of my generation seems inaccessible to our youth and they fail to understand the giant strides we have taken that have brought us to the present day.

 

On this occasion, therefore, I want to explain the past fifty years in terms that our young people can understand. The world has moved forward at a terrific pace since 21 March 1960. It was only in 1962 that the audio cassette tape was invented; an invention that many of you will not even remember. The cassette tape has since given way to the compact disk, which is giving way to Blu-Ray, iPods and iTunes which are downloadable to cell phones.

 

It was only after Sharpeville that the first computer game was designed, the first handheld calculator was brought out, and the computer mouse, ATMs and the barcode scanner were invented. 

Sharpeville happened more than a decade before the first Bic lighter was invented, two decades before the Hepatitis-B Vaccine and three decades before the World Wide Web. I am not saying these things to be flippant or to downplay the Sharpeville massacre. I say them to give our youth some perspective of how much our world has changed since then.

 

In 1960, hundreds of thousands of South African citizens could not get on a taxi or a train and go into urban areas. We could not travel freely from one part of South Africa to another, but had to carry a reference book everywhere we went to prove that we had special authorization to be wherever we were. If the police stopped us and asked to see our reference book, and we didn't have it with us, we could be arrested on the spot and charged with contravening the law.

 

I can remember a number of occasions when I was arrested for not having my pass with me. On one occasion it was in Vryheid, just less than two hours drive from my home. And on another occasion, in Germiston in Gauteng. I was detained there until the early hours of the morning. I was saved by the intervention of Mrs Helen Suzman, a Member of Parliament, who phoned the Police in Germiston. We even had the unedifying experience of our King, the father of the present King, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, being arrested for not having his pass with him. That was again in Gauteng. The case was referred by myself to the legal firm of Mandela and Tambo.

 

The majority of South Africans could not marry whomever they pleased, go wherever they wanted, study whatever they excelled at, befriend anyone whose company they enjoyed, say whatever they thought, act on whatever they believed, go to any hospital, swim at any beach, visit any library, attend any school, worship at any church, access any information, vote in any election, speak any language, choose where they lived, choose their vocation or choose their leaders. If one was in the company of a white female friend at night, one risked being arrested under the Immorality Act, just for being together during the dark hours.

 

The majority of South Africans did not have access to basic government services. Many had no housing, no electricity, no sanitation, no social security, no access to education or healthcare, no privacy, no access to courts or justice, no assurance of dignity or personal security and no reason to expect fair treatment, equal consideration or any opportunity to rise above such a poor quality of life.

 

Today life in South Africa is vastly different, to the extent that South Africans of this generation can take much for granted. But the freedoms and rights we enjoy today did not come to us the same way in which CDs and cell phones came. It was not an inevitable consequence of the forward march of time that South Africa gained liberation. 

Liberation and human rights came on the back of countless men and women who engaged the gruelling struggle to bring South Africa out of the darkness of oppression and into the light of freedom.

 

Just a few days ago, one of such freedom fighters died and I was honoured to speak at her funeral. Professor Fatima Meer was but one of the many who sacrificed their own comfort and desires to pursue something better for all South Africans. The names of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Dr Zami Conco and Robert Sobukwe are well known, but are not the only names we should remember. There are many more, not written in any history book or inscribed on any monument. They are the South Africans who struggled every day for a better future by working hard without giving up hope, by suffering without turning to revenge, and by giving the little they had to raise a new generation who might have more.

 

This sentiment underscored the tributes paid to Professor Meer recently, as we remembered the sacrifices so many had made for the sake of allowing South Africa to choose her own leaders. Professor Meer's brother bemoaned the fact that some leaders who have been put where they are by the blood, sweat and tears of others are now taking more than their share from the very people who put them there; the poorest of the poor. There are leaders who are corrupt, leaders who betray our struggle by enriching themselves while many South Africans still languish under the burden of poverty and insecurity.

 

These are not the kind of leaders we struggled to empower. It is remarkable that in this day and age citizens of South Africa are forced to report political leaders to the South African Human Rights Commission to get them to respect the same rights that we fought for during all these years. How is it possible that the ANC Youth League President can stand up in public and declare that some of our people deserve to be killed? It makes me wonder whether he has even read the Constitution.

 

The basic requirement to any leader in South Africa is a knowledge of and respect for our country's Constitution. It is tragic that the ructions going on in the IFP right now are caused by the very same problem of some young people not knowing and respecting our Party's Constitution. The IFP's Constitution is a set of rules that everyone agrees to abide by when they join the IFP. It is not arbitrarily changed and cannot be used to benefit one person while compromising another. The Constitution is in place to ensure that the Party is run according to democratic principles that enhance effective operation, discipline and success.

 

Therefore, if a Party member contravenes the Constitution, our National Council has a responsibility to act to rectify the problem. 

Our National Council is not aggressive or domineering. It simply acts in line with constitutional prescripts to ensure that the Party is not brought into disrepute. The same can be said of South Africa's Constitution; it sets out the rules by which all South Africans agree to abide as part of this nation. It protects our rights and expresses our responsibilities. And if anyone acts in contravention of the Constitution, the justice system has authority to intervene to set matters right.

 

Let me be clear on this; the Constitution trumps everything else. 

Those few agents provocateur who are threatening the unity of the IFP by acting outside of the IFP Constitution cannot stand against the solid foundation of our Constitution. What the IFP stands for cannot be changed by a few mischief-makers and saboteurs. What the IFP has achieved in this country cannot be swept aside by a handful of ambitious rabble-rousers. The IFP is bigger than the problem it faces with these people, and by standing on the strength of our Constitution, the IFP will go on and grow and give to South Africa the contribution that only we can give.

 

One of the contributions the IFP is making is to fight the constantly increasing burden that the present government is willing to place on ordinary people in order to meet its own responsibilities. We have a government that is working inefficiently, ineffectively and with the hindrance of widespread corruption. But when this same government cannot deliver enough and on time, it turns to the people to shoulder the burden. It is the people who end up paying more, having less and working harder. This is not the IFP way.

 

We are seeing this obscenity at the national level of government with the Eskom debacle, for instance. Even though on this Human Rights Day we are all aware that we are entitled to equal access to basic services, the poorest of our people are still being forced to pay proportionally more for electricity than the rich, because government has allowed Eskom to fund its building programme through levies rather than through government's budget process. The phenomenal price hikes that we are being subjected to, and will continue to be subjected to for the next three years, put the benefit of electricity beyond the reach of many South Africans.

 

The frustration and pain this brings is multiplied by the scandalous news recently revealed in the media that Eskom has secret deals with some large corporations which allow them to pay substantially less for electricity than the average consumer. Where does this leave the many taxpayers who are already suffering? Government has a responsibility to protect consumers from the unfair practices of large monopolies and cartels. And what is worse, the ruling Party has equity in Eskom through HITACHI, something that is scandalous to say the least. The burden of all of these things is borne by the poorest of the poor, whose plight they claim they are concerned with.

 

The global financial crisis has caused us all to suffer, but some are being forced to suffer more than others, and we are all tired of hearing the global recession used as an excuse for poor service delivery. Here in the Uthukela District, the Municipality's annual report also refers to the financial crisis as the reason why not as much has been done as could have been done. I was shocked to learn, however, that the South African Police Force is now considered a partner in enabling the Municipality to collect its dues. There is a limit to what people can pay for services and it just makes no sense to demand that they pay more than they actually have.

 

One has also been disappointed by the new culture of defiance that has crept into the Party, particularly here in Uthukela District. The IFP has always been known to be a disciplined organization with a culture of respect as its bedrock. And yet here we have representatives of our people, people who are councillors and who owe their positions to the Party, defying the directives of the structures of the Party such as the POC and the NEC and National Council. We have been very lenient compared with the ruling Party, which has never hesitated to deal with those who contravene the structures of their Constitution.

 

We have representatives of the Party in the forefront of destroying this Party. It is an open secret that some of our Councillors are doing all sorts of things to drum up opposition against me as the constitutionally elected leader of the Party. Some Councillors have even set up bogus branches which they are trying to use as some kind of battering ram during the forthcoming elective Conference. Some Councillors here in Uthukela went all over persuading members of the IFP not to attend the provincial rally that I addressed at Qhudeni.

 

All these acts of defiance are done because we are far too lenient, more than the ruling Party which never hesitates to fire transgressing mayors and councillors. Our disciplinary process is a slow process and this is unfortunate, because as the whole process drags on these miscreants are busy creating division in the Party and destroying the legacy of this Party.

 

I am glad that I am here today to warn you about all the lies and distortions that you have seen in the media about our National Chairperson and the false allegations fuelled by, amongst others, Councillors here in Uthukela, that the NEC and the National Council are persecuting our National Chairperson, to the extent that they founded a rebellious body within the Party which called itself the "Friends of VZ". You have seen the National Chairperson on television or have heard her on radio denouncing these rebels who are bent on destroying this Party, my legacy and the legacy of the Party.

 

The redeployment of our National Chairperson as Mayor to the KwaZulu Natal Legislature has been misinterpreted as evidence of the so-called persecution which it is alleged she has been subjected to by members of the NEC and the National Council. The reason for that decision to redeploy her is that some of the "Friends of VZ" in Pietermaritzburg tried to disrupt a meeting of Members of Parliament who had gone there to report back to the people, as they are doing anywhere. These Friends-so-called then demanded that our National Chairperson, Ms kaMagwaza Msibi, should have been present. And yet she is not a Member of Parliament.

 

To stop these rebels from using this to divide the Party, the NEC and the National Council then decided to redeploy the National Chairperson, Ms kaMagwaza Msibi, to the Legislature, so that she can then join other Members of Parliament in order to prevent these rebels from using her not being in the parliamentary team as an instrument to further divide the Party.

 

Issues of service delivery are close to the heart of the IFP. We want to see government at all levels working more efficiently and with more common sense, so that the people are not made to bear a burden for the failures of their government. For this reason, the IFP is mobilizing its party structures to prepare for the Local Government Elections next year. The need for change is echoing around our country. It is time for leaders to stop treating our people with disrespect, pacifying them with false promises and ignoring their dire needs.

 

Following national elections, the IFP launched the Vukuzithathe Campaign to take back ground we had lost to leaders who promise our people the moon, and fail to deliver. The IFP lost support in last year's elections, but we still pose a credible challenge to those who are failing our people. We still have hundreds of thousands of South Africans backing us, and calling on us to make a change.

 

The IFP has inaugurated more than 1000 branches and we have now reached a deadline. Any other branches will be inaugurated after the Party's Conference in May. We want to ensure that anyone who wants to join the IFP's Revolution of Goodwill may have the opportunity to do so. There is strong evidence that we are growing in the right direction.

 

The IFP has been a lighthouse of integrity in the dark storms South Africa has faced. We have the experience and the know-how to govern efficiently. We have the track record to prove it. We have common sense on our side and the guts to make tough calls when tough calls are required. The fallout of the global financial crisis could have been minimized if the IFP's warnings were heeded and our advice followed. We have been proven right about the fiscal policies South Africa should follow, just as we were proven right about the destruction an armed struggle would bring and the poverty which international sanctions would entrench during apartheid.

 

The IFP remembers Sharpeville. We remember apartheid. We remember the fallen heroes of our struggle. But we also look to the future and remember to plan for what lies ahead. South Africa has come a long way since 21 March 1960, but we still have a long way to go. Together with the people of our country, the IFP is ready to change course from the corruption and inefficiency that is destroying the rewards of our struggle and head off again in the direction of liberty for all, prosperity for all, human rights for all and equal dignity.

 

May South Africa's future be brought back onto a path of hope by the very people the IFP has always served; the people of goodwill, who care about our country. Today, as we celebrate Human Rights Day, let us commit to continue moving forward together.

 

I thank you.