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
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
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
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
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
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
I thank you.