Celebration of the 80th Birthday of Mr Derrick Parsons



It gives me great pleasure to join the family and friends of Mr Derrick Parsons this evening as we celebrate his 80th birthday.

I must first apologise for my late arrival. As I explained to Mr Parsons earlier this week, I was invited to launch the Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme Foundation this evening at the ICC. Because Dr Seme was my uncle and mentor, as well as being the founder of the ANC, I felt I had to try and attend both of these important events.

To me, the celebration of a friend’s birthday is just as important as any political engagement. I have made a point of sharing special occasions with friends, because I know how easily the pressures and demands of life in politics can overwhelm one. So long as I have good friends who support and pray for me, I can keep going.

I often wonder whether Mr Parsons realises how much his many gifts and remembrances have meant to me over the years. I have always been encouraged to receive a jar of preserves or a religious picture from Mr Parsons. He and his family have constantly reminded me of their friendship.

It’s a friendship that has endured for many years.

I first met Mr Parsons when he was in the Labour Party of the Reverend Alan Hendrickse. I was serving as Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government. At that time, the Prohibition of Improper Interference Act forbade people from different races from participating in the same political party. In order to bring South Africans together, Inkatha, the Labour Party, some parties in the Free State, and Mr Yellan Chinsamy’s Reform Party established the South African Black Alliance. That was in January 1978.

Seven years later, legislation barring multi-racial parties was finally repealed, and Inkatha saw people from all different backgrounds and races taking up membership. I was pleased when Mr Derrick Parsons became a member of Inkatha. His interest in serving South Africa through politics was commendable and I knew that he would make a valuable contribution to our Party.

Thus we worked together for years. Mr Parsons developed a good relationship with the IFP’s former General Secretary of Administration, Mr MZ Khumalo. Often he would send messages to me through Mr Khumalo, so that we always stayed in touch.

After all these years of knowing him, it is wonderful to be able to celebrate his 80th birthday together. Whenever my friends reach this remarkable milestone of life, I like to welcome them to the exclusive club of octogenarians. I have been a proud member for some time now. In fact, my membership expires next year. If God is willing, I’ll look back on these youngsters in their eighties from the perspective of a nonagenarian.

There are some benefits to living such a long life. Mr Parsons will no doubt tell you that one of the great blessings is the privilege of watching your family grow up and multiply. It is heart-warming to see Mr Parsons’s family celebrating together this evening. We should never take tomorrow for granted. We must show our appreciation today for the people in our lives.

That is true whether you’re 80 or 8. It’s the reason I believe in spending time with friends and loved ones, no matter how busy my schedule. I therefore want to thank Mr Parsons for inviting me. As we share this special celebration, I wish him much happiness and health. May the Lord bless him abundantly in this bonanza of life.

Happy Birthday!