Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Yesterday the Honourable Dr Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini MP chose to speak publically about his latest battle. Anyone with even a passing interest in politics will know that Dr Ambrosini is legendary for taking on giants, and winning.
It was Dr Ambrosini who took the Speaker of the National Assembly, who happens to be the son of anti-apartheid hero Walter Sisulu, all the way to the Constitutional Court, because he believed that the Rules of the National Assembly were bound to entitle all Members of Parliament to propose legislation, and not only ANC Ministers.
Up until that point, no one had questioned why a committee, dominated by ANC members, was allowed to act as a gatekeeper determining which draft legislation could be brought before Parliament, which could not, and which would never see the light of day.
Dr Ambrosini's fight on behalf of every current and future MP representing the voice of the people in the National Assembly, lasted well over a year, and posed a substantial personal financial risk. But he didn't give up, even when those closest to him suggested that it was time to throw in the towel.
It seemed an impossible battle to win. But he won it.
Because of his raw courage and his dogged belief in the accuracy of his own judgment, Dr Ambrosini opened the way for greater democracy in South Africa, not only for this Parliament, but for all the Parliaments of our country's future. Because of Dr Ambrosini, a handful of people will no longer be able to stifle the voice of ordinary people when they call on their public representative to carry their hopes, aspirations and demands into the National Assembly.
I was intensely proud of Dr Ambrosini for taking on that fight, for staying the course, and winning. It was not the first time I had felt such pride for a man whom I consider part of my own family. Over the course of more than two decades, Dr Ambrosini has convinced me time and time again, through his actions, that he is a warrior who will not stand down from a righteous fight.
Destiny called upon me to play a specific role within my country. By birth, lineage and calling, my path was fixed and I accepted the burden of leading in many different capacities. I knew, though, that I could not do what I was destined to do without having around me people with unique abilities and character. I trusted God to supply the right people, at the right times, in my life.
I have no doubt that Dr Ambrosini is one of these God-sent human beings.
Since we met, as South Africa began the phase of forging a new dispensation, the particular strengths and character which Dr Ambrosini brings to the table have harmonised perfectly with my own. From the start we understood each other on a deeper level, sensing perhaps a shared unique understanding of the world.
Remarkably, this man, who was not a South African and who was already a recognised constitutional lawyer who could have had his pick of prestigious positions throughout the world, recognised in South Africa's unfolding narrative something worth dedicating his life to. He thus remained in South Africa, even as his plane ticket to return to Italy gathered dust in his desk drawer.
I was grateful for his decision. In a way it seemed that he was not staying in South Africa, so much as he was staying with me. His loyalty was unquestionable and I felt a great sense of relief in having someone I could trust implicitly in an environment prone to treachery, deceit and double-dealing.
His loyalty is coupled with a most remarkable intellect, which placed Dr Ambrosini at the centre of the IFP's negotiating strategy. Our Party owes an enormous debt of gratitude to him, for he placed himself in the firing line on many occasions and skilfully wielded his intellect for the benefit of the IFP and the benefit of our country. His patriotism is extraordinary for someone not born on this soil.
Thus, when I was appointed Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of President Nelson Mandela, I immediately appointed Dr Ambrosini as my Ministerial Advisor. Cabinet Ministers were entitled to more than one advisor. But I never felt the need to supplement Dr Ambrosini's work product or judgement, for he is a workhorse, prolific in his output and never resting.
His stability and consistency served me well over ten years at the helm of Home Affairs and, although he drew much criticism and hatred from our opponents, he gave to our country an inestimable contribution towards greater freedom, greater economic security and greater democracy.
In 2009, Dr Ambrosini was brought to Parliament by the IFP and we tasked him with seeking South Africa's best interests in the portfolios of trade and industry, economic development, justice and constitutional development, public enterprises, finance, constitutional review, parliamentary rules and private members' legislation. He did this with excellence, going beyond these portfolios to exert a powerful influence in many fights, including the fight against the Secrecy Bill.
Dr Ambrosini convinced us all that he could take on any fight, and win. Thus when he chose to speak yesterday about his latest battle, we could not help but believe that he is up to this fight, and can win it. His diagnosis is fourth stage Lung Cancer, and doctors are not hopeful that we will see his return to politics and public life. But Dr Ambrosini has never been one to take things lying down.
As he says, this is all unacceptable to him, and he has chosen to pursue an alternative path of treatment. It is possible that he will be completely cured and return to torment the IFP's opponents from the podium of Parliament and the corridors of power. Only time will tell. We recognise, though, that his full recovery will constitute nothing short of a miracle.
Fortunately, I have seen miracles before. I know that they happen. And I also know that Dr Ambrosini's fighting spirit will keep him with us until that miracle arrives. At this point, we can only stand with him in faith, and offer our support to his family as they walk this turbulent path.
I want to thank everyone for respecting Dr Ambrosini's need for the space to regain his strength. We also appreciate the many good wishes that have been expressed, even from unexpected quarters. There is no doubt that Dr Ambrosini is held in high regard by many South Africans, and rightly so. We look forward to hearing that he has won yet another battle.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP