Gauteng Provincial Conference
Keynote Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

   

 

 

Dhlamini Community Centre, Soweto: 27 June 2010

 

Throughout South Africa there is an atmosphere of festivity. Although many of us continue with our daily routine of going to work, running a business, preparing for exams or job seeking, there is almost a sense of everything being put on hold until the 2010 FIFA World Cup has ended. Even though Bafana Bafana will not continue to the next round, our focus is still on our stadiums and TV screens, and our media is almost wholly preoccupied with soccer fever. This is a good time to regroup and reset our focus.

 

I cannot overemphasis the importance of our coming together today to elect leaders who have the right focus. We have lost an enormous amount of time and spent far too much energy on fighting fires started by the so-called "Friends of VZ". Every meeting is taken up with disciplinary matters and discussing the latest act of sabotage against our Party. Everywhere IFP members gather, there is talk of split loyalties, suspicion and treachery. The damage done by the "Friends of VZ" is great. But we are doing our Party a grave disservice by allowing it to consume us.

 

Let us not be fooled. Derailing our focus is high on the agenda of those who seek to weaken our Party in order to snatch away its leadership, and of those who are funding them in the hope of seeing the IFP thoroughly destroyed. We have lost more than a year since the 2009 general elections. This is lost time because it has not been poured into the very programmes and tasks we set ourselves in our Extended Review Council after the elections.

 

Following the disappointing results of April 2009, we came together as all the structures of the IFP to identify where we had gone wrong, what we were still doing right, and how we could tilt the scales back toward success. We were frank with each other and honest with ourselves, and we emerged from the Council with a sound plan of action; the Vukuzithathe campaign. It was a plan we all agreed could turn our Party's fortunes around.

 

But since then, little has been done to meet the deadlines and achieve the goals of Vukuzithathe. When we met again two months ago for a second Extended Review Council, we had the courage of saying that our plan had been derailed. We put the plan of action back on the table and committed to accelerating the implementation of Vukuzithathe. Last weekend, we held a National Council meeting which focused on where we are with the campaign, and came face to face with the realization that the antics of the "Friends of VZ" are still stealing our time.

 

I have therefore decided that we, as the leadership, are drawing a line in the sand. We have strategized and streamlined, and have agreed that the focus of the Party needs to shift from the internal ructions, towards winning the 2011 Local Government Elections. In order to empower this shift, our National Council identified six teams and tasked them with specific programmes of action, so that we can regain our impetus and start working smarter and harder. The various teams have been mandated to drive the Vukuzithathe campaign, to develop proactive initiatives to change the negative image of the IFP which has been created by the ructions and in-fighting, and to deal with the issue of the "Friends of VZ".

 

It is obvious that the in-fighting must be addressed to stop the decline in voter support. The treachery of the so-called "Friends of VZ" needs to be arrested and serious damage control needs to take place. But if that is all we focus on, we have not moved forwards. The ANC is moving forward and pressing into our support base. If we fail to grow, we will fail full stop. We need to refocus our attention on 2011 and transform crisis mode, into election mode.

 

The establishment of the task teams have freed us up to do the work required of us, which is mobilizing support, initiating election campaigns, securing votes, reaching the electorate, and persuading, inspiring and cajoling South Africans to support the IFP. We need to get the votes and it is time we found some innovative ways of doing it. Our election campaign is now a year behind schedule and we have a lot of catching up to do.

 

In the end, election outcomes are determined by votes. It is all a numbers game. If people do not vote for the IFP, our numbers are going to drop again in 2011, to the point where the IFP will struggle to make a significant impact on South African politics. That is not good news for the IFP, and it is bad news for South Africa. I know that this country still needs the IFP's contribution. I have no doubt in my mind that the downward spiral of politics towards corruption, inequality and injustice will not be arrested unless there is a strong political force for integrity.

 

That is the IFP. We are the voice of integrity and the champions of democracy. We understand service and believe in good governance. We pursue federalism, to get government closer to the people on the ground and to give South Africans a more powerful voice when it comes to deciding policies and laws. We are committed to seeing the majority uplifted and development attained by more than an elite few.

 

We are not satisfied with BBBEE that allows a handful of people to drive fancy cars. We believe in economic empowerment of mothers, of child-headed households, of young entrepreneurs, of aspiring students and struggling elders. Our focus is on helping families put food on the table, not on helping large corporations to buy each other out. We believe in empowering young people to get an education and have the opportunity to develop their potential. The IFP's support base is among ordinary people, fighting ordinary battles under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

 

The IFP appeals to these people because the IFP has stayed the same.  Before democracy, we struggled alongside South Africans for justice, equality, dignity and development. After democracy, we did the same.  During apartheid, we in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government sacrificed and struggled to ensure good governance and service delivery, even on the shoestring budget of an unjust government. After democracy, our focus did not change. We still pursue good governance and service delivery in every province of our country; we are just better at it because we have the experience.

 

The IFP did not become dazzled by the increase in resources available within government. We were used to administrating government resources and we knew how far money could stretch. It was obvious to us that even though the pie was being sliced differently, there would still not be enough to feed every need within our country. We therefore remained circumspect in our stewardship and uncompromising in our warnings to government about fiscal policies and the need for economic growth and development.

 

We have also taken a stand with the unemployed people of this country and urged government to adopt greater flexibility in the labour market. Government's policies to address unemployment are just not delivering the goods. Despite the President's promise of 500 000 new jobs by the end of last year, we shed another 171 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2010. If one were to try and imagine how many unemployed people that constitutes, picture the whole of Johannesburg being without work, and add another million on top of that.

 

It was here in this province that the IFP youth marched on the Legislature and presented a memorandum to the Office of the Presidency calling for an urgent intervention to address unemployment. That was three years ago, and we are still working to see this problem turned around. For as long as there is one South African who cannot enjoy the God-given right to work because of a lack of opportunity, or lack of skill, or social injustice, the work of the IFP will not be complete.

 

The IFP fought for our democratic constitution to provide for provinces, to counterbalance the ANC's quest for the centralization of power. I thank God we won that battle. The province of Gauteng is now empowered by our Constitution to design its own policy in many areas of governance, and has a stronger voice in determining how things will be done in this part of South Africa. I am delighted that the Gauteng Provincial Chairperson, Mr Petros Sithole, has now joined us in the national Parliament. His presence at the national level can only benefit his contribution in this province.

 

This has also freed up Mr Bonginkosi Dlamini to focus his full attention on the needs of Gauteng. Mr Dlamini, like many of our leaders here, is a critical asset to the Party and we are grateful for the work he is doing to develop and uplift our communities in Gauteng.  I know, for instance, that Mr Dlamini has approached the national Minister of Housing about the distressing living conditions of the majority of our supporters in Gauteng.

 

The Minister has admitted that there is a serious crisis in terms of housing and the IFP is applying pressure on Government to improve the subhuman conditions of many hostels in and around Gauteng. We believe hostels should be converted from dormitory style accommodation into self-contained units that can accommodate single people or families.  Such units must be affordable, have basic services and be integrated into the broader community.

 

Every South African, whether they live in a shack, a block of flats or a hostel, is entitled to government services. The fact that this has not materialized after 16 years of democracy is an indictment on our government. The IFP is determined to see the situation improve. We are keenly aware of the needs here. We know our people, just as our people know us.

 

South Africa needs a strong IFP and I believe that, even in the midst of the ructions troubling us at the moment, the Party retains a core of strength. Our strength comes from the people who support us, the people who know the legacy of the IFP and identify with what we stand for. As we approach our Annual General Conference, and as we draw nearer to the 2011 Local Government elections, we cannot afford to lose the support of our core. The battle for the soul of the IFP is raging, and the intensity will only increase.

 

Already we are seeing lives being lost to violence among our members.  I was devastated last Sunday to hear that in a meeting in KwaMashu a prominent leader boasted about the power of the gun; and at the end of the meeting Mr Michael Makathini was shot dead. Mr Gwala was also shot in the thigh. This is not the first incident of guns being drawn at an IFP meeting, and I fear it will not be the last. Somehow our politics has deteriorated into swearing matches, fistfights and chair throwing.  That is not the culture of the IFP. At times, I hardly recognize this Party I founded 35 years ago.

 

Since I established Inkatha in 1975 I undertook to seek the genuine will of the people, because I saw that the ANC-in-exile was running a struggle campaign that was based on ideologies and tactics not tested with the majority. Most ordinary South Africans did not identify with the ANC's strategy of an armed struggle, because we were here, in the line of fire, while the ANC's leaders were scattered across the world pontificating over how to force democracy.

 

I was determined then to identify the genuine will of the people and to receive their mandate for what Inkatha should do to best serve South Africa. In all our meetings and conferences, I pursued an atmosphere of serene debate, encouraging people to speak their minds and even disagree, only without being disagreeable. We developed a culture of respect within the IFP, and a culture of discipline. We were not afraid to speak frankly. We never feared intimidation or violent consequences for aligning ourselves with this idea or that notion. And in this way we coaxed out the genuine will of the people and received their mandate.

 

That is the kind of Party I founded and nurtured. That is the Party we built together. That is our legacy. So when our meetings now deteriorate into fistfights and insults, I am left wondering how the IFP will convince the electorate that we are a better option than the ANC or COPE or even the DA. We know from recent media reports that guns have been drawn at meetings of the ANC Youth League, and we know that COPE's Conference ended in chaos. So how will the electorate differentiate between the unruly behaviour of our opponents and the unruly behaviour of our own members?

 

In every election since 1994, the IFP has been able to hold its head up high and tell the electorate that we are different because we do not engage in mudslinging or resort to intimidation. We have never been the ones to burn down schools or rip up toilets. We have never told young people to give up on education because politics comes first. We have never made headlines with racist remarks about other leaders. Our municipalities are never the ones to suffer tyre-burning riots from dissatisfied communities.

We are different because we stand on a higher moral ground, believing that the best interests of the country are served by maintaining integrity, discipline and security. I was delighted to attend a provincial conference of the IFP Youth Brigade last month called by Mr S'khumbuzo Khanyeza, who recently returned to the IFP fold. With the violence that has been marring our meetings of late, one might have expected to see some sort of incident among our young elephants. The discussions were passionate, but orderly, and the meeting went well.

 

I was almost surprised to hear afterwards that one of the key saboteurs in the "Friends of VZ" was present at the meeting and had hoped to stir up trouble. But he left with his proverbial tail between his legs when he witnessed the overwhelming support of our youth for a united, strong and disciplined party. Our youth want it. Our leaders want it. Our supporters want it. A united, strong and disciplined party is the only kind of party that can grow in 2011.

 

This is the kind of Party I am determined to forge, and I ask you today to elect leaders in Gauteng who can come on board with the plan to get the IFP back on a winning path. We need leaders who can focus their full attention on growing the IFP before 2011. We need people who can mobilize party support, attract votes and boost our numbers.  We need people of integrity who are more concerned with serving than with status.

 

I want leaders on my team who are willing to fight for a united, strong and disciplined party. I urge you, in your deliberations today, to draw a line in the sand and decide that this is the moment where we regroup and refocus our attention on 2011. We can get back on track. 

 

The future is ours for the taking.

 

I thank you.