Our Masters of Ceremonies, Mr Mandla Malakoana, MPP and Mr Archie Khumalo; the Rev Sikhosana who led devotions, and other religious leaders present; Mr Stanley Dladla, the IFP Chairperson of the District of Ladysmith; Inkosi N.B. Shabalala and other amaKhosi present; the Honourable Minister C.J. Mtetwa; Honourable members of both the national Parliament and the provincial Parliament; leaders of the IFP from this district and from other districts; Mayors, Councillors, Indunas, members of the public and comrades all.

Earlier this year I visited Ladysmith and that was an occasion that I shall never forget as long as I live. It was a very happy occasion for me to be in your midst as my supporters, to celebrate 25 years of the existence of our organisation. I was moved by the attendance of so many of our members and supporters on that occasion. I am equally excited to be in Ladysmith again today. The only dark cloud is that I am here only a week after the burial of a prominent leader of this district who was also my close relative, Inkosi Nsikayeziwe ka Sigidisabathembu ka Bhande, the Inkosi of the Sithole clan. His passing away at the prime of his life has been a heavy blow not only for his family, his clan and his friends, but also for all the people of the Ladysmith district and indeed the Zulu Nation. It is also a heavy loss for the IFP as he was a prominent leader of our Party. Although I sent Inkosi Hulumeni Gumede of the Makhasa clan to represent me at his funeral, and to convey my condolences, I feel that this being the first gathering of people of Ladysmith and of members of my Party since his demise, I must say that we mourn the death of such a giant of a leader. He was not only a giant in physical stature, but he was also a giant in everything that he did in his commitment to the cause of all our people.

I have come here not as a stranger in your midst. When I am here I feel that I am in the midst of my family. I do not come here with any magic wand in my hand. I come here to reiterate the message that I have delivered before to the people of Ladysmith and indeed to the people of South Africa. I come here not as some people do with myths about what they say they want to do for you. I come here as one of you to share the same truths we have shared for more than 25 years. My message to you of 25 years ago, is still my message today.

Today, I bring to you a message of great importance to the country and to our party. For twenty five years now, the Inkatha Freedom Party and its predecessor, the Inkatha Movement, has stood out as the Champion of Development in South Africa. For twenty five years we have boldly stated that unless and until we develop the resources of our country and the talents and potential of our people, we will never achieve the true liberation of South Africa.

Today I want to reinforce this message. And I want to ask you for your assistance in putting development back at the top of South Africa's agenda. Over the past ten years we have seen momentous changes in our country. Six years ago with our first democratic elections we finally put an end to the dark night of apartheid. But instead of waking up to a new dawn of opportunity, we still find ourselves trapped in a twilight zone where poverty, hunger and homelessness continue to stalk the lives of millions of South African citizens.

Too many of our children still go to bed hungry every night; too many of our people are without homes that are worthy of that name; too many see their potential squandered through the enforced idleness of unemployment; too many continue to be the victims of disease and despair.

We must be realistic about the huge challenges that still face our country and we must acknowledge that millions of South Africans continue to suffer. But we must not give way to despondency and despair. I want to assure you that as long as I enjoy the privilege of leading your party, we will never surrender to despondency nor once shall we submit to despair. We have travelled too far together, struggled too hard together and sacrificed too much together, to falter or fail as the finishing post comes in sight.

Let others parley with pessimism. Let others hold aloft the white flag of surrender. Let others submit before the evils of poverty, disease and hunger. But shall we? No! Never! Not so long as there is breath in our bodies or blood in our veins. Let these flags that you hold in your hands, become symbols of our determined struggle for development. Let them be displayed in every home, in every city, in every township, and every kraal.

Let them be worn as proud emblems of our commitment to uplift the people of our country and to free them from hunger and suffering and fear. The pillars of the IFP philosophy are self-help and self-reliance. It is only on these pillars that we can build our development. For though the battle for development may be long, the struggle hard and the setbacks many, we shall never falter in our determination to raise up our people from poverty. We know we will not fail, because this battle against poverty is a war we have fought together for more than two decades.

We will never betray the aspirations of you who have sustained our Party through so many years of trials and tribulations, for like you, I have grown up amidst poverty and suffering and like you, I shall never rest whilst poverty afflicts the people of our land. I do not have to scratch my head trying to imagine what people who live in poverty look like, for I have lived in their midst throughout my life.

The IFP is with the people every step of the way. So long as just one of you lives in poverty, we are all impoverished. So long as one of you goes without water, all of us shall be thirsty. So long as one of you goes without food, all of us shall be hungry. And we know that the majority of our people still live in grinding poverty.

When we say that the Inkatha Freedom Party is the Champion of Development in South Africa, we acknowledge and affirm that our party stands proudly shoulder to shoulder with the people. But we affirm more than that. We state boldly and for the record that this Inkatha Freedom Party is the servant of the people. We are not a private club but a public undertaking, in which each of our supporters has an equal share and where none has a voice louder than another.

Without our activists and our voters _ you who are with us today and those who made such sacrifices in the past and are now, please God, with Him _ without the tireless toil and unflagging support of all of you, past and present, we would be nothing but a soundless trumpet, a songbird without a voice.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank those who are here today and all of our loyal supporters across the length and breadth of this country, for all the work you have done and all the work you are continuing to do. Too many politicians are happy to take their supporters for granted, but I have never done so and I will never do so. Throughout the many years I have been in public life, I have known that this party is indivisible from the people who support it. Together we are everything. Alone we are nothing.

During the years that I have been privileged to lead you, you have bestowed many tributes upon me. Today I want instead to pay tribute to you. For your steadfastness, for your support and for your sacrifices, I salute each and every one of you. But as I raise this salute, I must also call you to battle once more.

In ten days from now we shall be asked to go to the voting stations and once more choose the direction in which we wish to take our country. The results of this election will determine whether the flag of development will fly over our cities, our townships and our villages, or whether apathy will give victory to those who would surrender before the battle for development is even fought.

And now I must let you into an ill-kept secret. For though our opponents may seem formidable, in their ranks a certain despondency has set in. They have seen the lavish promises made by their leaders at each election and they have witnessed those promises being betrayed as soon as the votes have been counted. On Tuesday December 5th, many of them will have neither the desire, nor the inclination, to follow the trail of broken promises back to the voting stations.

Their dejection is our opportunity, for if IFP supporters turn out in the same numbers as they did at the General Election last year, whilst our opponents stay at home, we shall see spectacular victories for our party. In 1994 members of the IFP performed a miracle for we won a resounding victory after only four days of campaigning.

The matter is in the hands of all of you. You, who have supported our party through good times and bad; you, who know that I have never made a promise that could not be kept, nor a pledge that would not be honoured, I ask you to answer the clarion call of our party once again.

Between now and December 5th I ask you to do one thing. Go out and mobilise our vote. Ensure that there are no armchair supporters of our party. Ensure that every person you know, who supports our party, gets to the voting stations on December 5th. I appeal to all of us in the true tradition of the IFP to hold each other's hand on the 5th of December. Let us assist those who have no transport to get to polling stations.

When you return to your cities, your townships and your villages, spread the message to the people that a famous victory is in sight if they will translate their support into a cross on the ballot paper on December 5th.

I have told you that we in the leadership of this Party are your servants. I have told you that we stand ready to act as the Champions of Development in South Africa. But I tell you also, that it is only through your votes that we will have the power to put our development proposals into effect.

I have a message for all our supporters which I will repeat every day until the elections without apology:

  • If you wish to see our people raised up from poverty, make sure every IFP supporter votes on December 5th.
  • If you wish to see hunger banished from our land, make sure every IFP supporter votes on December 5th.
  • If you wish to see the concerns of the people becoming the concerns of local government, make sure every IFP supporter votes on December 5th.

Above all,

  • If you wish to see development spread throughout our country, go out and vote on December 5th and ensure that every IFP supporter known to you, goes out and votes on December 5th.

For I offer up to you today this most solemn undertaking. That every vote which is cast for our party will be a vote to give voice to the voiceless, to strengthen the hand of the weak, and to raise up the poor and the destitute of our land.

The opportunity is there and we must seize it. Should we falter before the finishing post, we shall not only betray the sacrifices of those who went before us but we shall cast ourselves as traitors to those who will come after.

Take these flags of development and true liberation home with you today. Display them proudly to all whom you know, as an emblem of the struggles of the past and a symbol of the possibilities of the future.

Tell the people that their party stands ready to help them in their distress. Tell them that we will champion their development and prosperity as we have always done in the past. And impress upon them with all the strength you can muster, that their vote is their voice. If they do not use it on December 5th, the cry for development will go unheard and the voice of the people will be silenced.

The journey to the voting station may be a long one but it is nothing to the distance that we have travelled in search of a new beginning for our people.

Let us not fail them now.