Njengabantu: 26 April 2011
The Honourable Mayor of Umvoti, Councillor
Ngubane; the Honourable Deputy Mayor and Speaker; Honourable
Councillors and distinguished guests.
I am delighted to have been invited to join the
Umvoti Local Municipality in this prayer meeting in Njengabantu.
Having just celebrated the resurrection of Christ, we as Christians
have much to be grateful for and joyful about. Nevertheless, I am
aware that many of us still feel burdened by the vicissitudes of
life. I feel it is important that we strengthen one another with
words of hope, and with our prayers.
I therefore thank the Umvoti Local Municipality
for arranging this prayer meeting. I am pleased to see that many in
this venue are of my own generation, for it is always a welcome
relief to spend time with people who have experienced life to the
extent that I have. Many of you, like me, are parents and
grandparents. Many of you have buried loved ones and lost a great
deal to the passage of time. I offer you my sympathies, for I too
have stood at the graves of four of my children.
I thank God that I still enjoy the companionship
of my wife. I am deeply aware that God has blessed me by extending
our time together. After all, I am now well past my allotted three
score and ten and am living on Christ's bonanza. I draw a great deal
of strength from my wife. I have been in politics for more than half
a century, and have lived through some of the worst vilification and
treachery that a public figure can endure. My wife, God bless her,
worries about me. But her worry prompts her to pray, and a man with
a praying wife need never be concerned about tribulation.
Of course, trials will come. Even Christ said that
life will be hard. Not that it might be, but that difficulty is
assured. But Christ also exhorted us to be of good cheer, for He has
overcome the world. Each one of us suffers our own tribulation. I
myself have endured Diabetes for the greater part of my life, which
restricts me to a diet that is far from satisfying and dictates how
much rest and exercise I must take. Yet I count myself infinitely
blessed when I encounter men and women who have the courage to live
with disability, and still smile.
I am in awe of your strength, because I know that
we are no different from one another. You were not born with a
greater capacity for patience, nor greater endurance than I. You
have acquired the dignity of being grateful for life, and I know it
has not been an easy journey. I have the greatest respect for you. I
therefore wish to commend the Umvoti Local Municipality for the work
it is doing to alleviate some of the pressure on the disabled and
elderly people in the community of Njengabantu.
This municipality, like many across KwaZulu Natal,
does not have a large budget nor endless resources. It must make do
with a little, because in South Africa the fiscus is distributed
unevenly between national, provincial and local government. Local
government ends up being the Cinderella of our economy, receiving
the least while being expected to serve the most. It is here, at
local government level, that services are actually delivered. It is
here that many of our people's constitutional rights are translated
into responsibilities of government.
Our municipalities are therefore operating under a
tremendous burden. I am pleased that Umvoti Local Municipality has
shown sound financial management and zero tolerance towards
corruption. I trust that you, the voters, are holding your leaders
accountable. That is something you must do every day, by insisting
on being part of the decision-making process, by staying involved
and interested in politics, and by supporting representatives who
are doing a good job. But the task of holding your leaders accountable
is never more important than on election day.
In our democracy, once every five years, the power
to decide how governance will be done is placed squarely where it
belongs; in the hands of the electorate. This is when you, the
people, get to decide whether your elected representatives have
spoken with your voice and served you well over the preceding five
years, or whether it is time to empower a different leadership. In
some ways, local government elections are more important even than
national elections, for the leaders you choose at local government
level will interact with you directly. They will be the ones to
represent you before government; they are your go-between and your
I therefore urge you to vote on May the 18th to
empower a leadership that truly cares about Njengabantu and is
willing to serve you well.
Voting is as much a responsibility as it is a
right. Most of you will remember the sacrifices we made to win the
vote. Political enfranchisement did not come easy, and we struggled
for many years to be able to make our mark on election day. Now that
we have this right, we must use it wisely.
I realise that many of you will not be able to
stand in long queues on the 18th of May. But the Independent
Electoral Commission has opened another opportunity for you to cast
your vote. The elderly, ailing and disabled are eligible to apply
for the Special Vote, whereby an electoral official will come to
your home or the hospital to assist you to vote on the 16th or 17th
of May. However, if you wish to use the Special Vote, you still need
to register. Registration closes on the 3rd of May. I therefore
encourage you to apply as soon as possible so that this opportunity
will not be lost to make a difference for our generation, and a
difference for the future.
I believe that everyone in this room still has a
valuable contribution to make to the success of our country. None of
us is past our sell-by date. Indeed, there is no such thing in the
life of God's people. I have been called to leadership by lineage,
tradition and destiny. But I am no more important than any one of
you. I too am a sinner, sanctified by Christ. I am flawed, yet He
uses me; for I am willing and available to speak the truth and
follow the hard and uphill path.
My role in the politics and history of our country
has not been quiet nor easy. But then I think of the early Church
which caused riots wherever it went. The disciples were called men
who turned the world upside-down. Christ Himself called the
religious elite a brood of vipers and white washed sepulchres filled
with dead men's bones. And He did this to their faces, not behind
their backs. The early Church declared that Jesus was the Messiah
and were not reticent to point out that the leaders of the time had
crucified Him. Their message was not pretty nor diplomatic, but it
changed lives and it changed the world.
I am willing to leave my own psychological comfort
behind to advocate a message that I believe is true and right. I
believe Christ requires that conviction of all of us, for the
Christian message is not one of universal tolerance. It is therefore
not universally well-received. It is, however, a message of
redemption. Ours is the only religion in the world that holds at its
core the message of undeserved grace. There is nothing we can do to
earn it; it is freely given to those who believe.
How wonderful that we qualify, not because of who
we are, but because of the character of Christ.
I come to you today as a fellow believer, knowing
that I am totally dependent on God. I rely on the prayers of my
brothers and sisters in Christ to accomplish the tasks set before
me. I hope that you will remember me in prayer after today, and that
you will pray for all your leaders, for we need the inspiration of
God to keep serving and working and hoping, in an often challenging
I also ask that you will pray for the coming
elections and for God's intervention in this election campaign, to
ensure that we do not see unnecessary bloodshed and tensions. Let us
pray for peace, and for a free and fair outcome on the 18th of May.
In this way, we will bring South Africa closer to entrenched
democracy. I fear that we have yet to secure the gains of democracy,
and democracy itself. We still have a great deal of work to do as a
But together we can do it. Let us build a
partnership based on our shared aspirations. Let us encourage one
another in the most difficult aspects of life. And let us pray
continually for our nation and our leaders, just as we pray for one
I wish to thank the Honourable Mayor for inviting
me to Njengabantu today. It has been refreshing for me to spend time
with God's people. You have inspired me to work harder and to never
give up, even in the face of age and adversity. There is much to be
gained by experience in years. At times, gratitude is all about
I thank you.