IFP Rally in Celebration of Freedom Day 2018
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Lindelani: 27 April 2018
Today 57 million South Africans have reason to celebrate. Today we remember the moment 24 years ago when citizens of all races made their way to voting stations across our country. Apartheid had fallen, and democracy had finally been birthed. For the first time in the history of South Africa we stood as equals at the ballot box. For the majority, it was the first time we could vote at all.
Our voices were being heard after generations of being silenced. What we wanted and what we believed were finally given space in the national debate. We were changing the system of governance, installing leaders of our choosing, and laying the foundation for a new South Africa. From that moment onwards, those in power would be beholden to us. They would need to listen. They would need to respond. And if they failed us, the power to remove them was within our hands.
It is difficult to explain how we felt on 27 April 1994. Those of us who are in our forties will remember the day very clearly; how we got up early and went together with family and friends to stand in queues; how many got dressed in their Sunday best; how mothers thought to pack food; and how the queues became winding rivers of singing and celebration.
Those who were not yet old enough to vote witnessed the jubilation and jealously awaited the next election, so that they too could make their mark. All of us knew what it had cost to arrive at this point. We knew the price that had been paid, for we had paid it ourselves. We had paid with our patience, with our courage, with our unity and with our lives. We had poured our all into the struggle for freedom, and we all bore scars, both physical and psychological.
But today I thank God that there are many here among us who don’t remember 1994.
If you were born after that first election, it means that you never had to face the police dogs, the bullets, the raids that came in the night or the bulldozers that came by day to tear down houses and forcibly displace families. You never had to hear your name spat out like a swear word. You were never called “boy” or expected to stand, cap in hand, in front of the “baas”, ready to take the blame for anything. You never had to live in fear of necklacings and petrol bombs and attacks on your mothers and sisters.
I thank God that we live in a free South Africa where this generation never need fear the horrors of the past.
As we celebrate today, let us pause for a moment and consider how different our country is now to what it was 24 years ago. From a pariah, we have become a global player. From a place that was known for racial hatred and discrimination, we have become known for our heroes; from liberation icons like Madiba, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, Robert Sobukwe and others, to home-grown stars like Pretty Yende, Trevor Noah, Caster Semenya and Lucas Radebe. From a hotbed of violence, South Africa has become one of world’s favourite tourist destinations.
I still feel a sense of deep satisfaction when I see young people graduate from the universities and technikons of our country. When I meet a young black woman who has started her own business, or see a young black man providing for his family, I feel immensely proud. We have achieved, in 24 years, the kind of country where anyone can excel regardless of their skin colour, ethnicity or language.
This was worth fighting for.
But then I see the hardship that still torments our nation. Where my generation was silenced and held back by the barriers of political oppression, this generation is silenced and held back by a lack of opportunity. There is still a fight being waged in our country. We are still in a battle, and we need to know the best way to win.
On this Freedom Day, therefore, I want to give you a strategy. It’s the strategy that we employed to overcome apartheid. It was tried and tested, and it worked. I want to encourage you to use this strategy as you fight for your future.
To anyone who says we have come far enough, I want to ask “Why?” Why are children still living in shacks? Why are little ones still drowning in pit toilets in the schools of our country? Why are we arguing over a minimum wage to make sure that parents can put bread on the table after a long day’s work? Why are job seekers being told that they lack the experience to secure a job, when a job is the only way to gain experience? Why are graduates sitting at home without work? Why can entrepreneurs not access seed capital? And why is data so expensive in an economy that runs on information?
There are many questions that need to be answered. But they all lead back to the same conclusion: we have not yet won the war.
So let me tell you how we beat apartheid, so you can be inspired to keep fighting. And not only to keep fighting, but to fight a good fight.
The first thing we did was to get involved. The fight against injustice, in any form, is not just about you. When we fight injustice, we do it on principle. If you have faced abuse, unfairness or discrimination, recognise that you are not alone. There are millions of men, women and children who experience the same thing, every day. So don’t just fight for your own rights, to change your own circumstances. Join the shared fight against injustice, so that everyone’s rights are respected and everyone’s circumstances can change.
Getting involved means speaking up, joining in, and creating change. At its most basic level, getting involved means voting. But just voting is not enough. We need to become politically active and politically educated, so that we know our own power when it comes to challenging the wrongs we encounter. Whether it’s a teacher who is abusing their position, or an official demanding a bribe, we need to know that the power in fact rests in our own hands.
When we are backed by a political party that believes in justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights, we can take on the people who are abusing power. We can take on corruption and expose it. Because we are not acting alone. When we get involved, we knit ourselves into a team; and when that team is a force for good, like the IFP, we will begin to take on giants and beat them.
The second thing we did when we fought apartheid was to remain unified. I am talking about community. When a family lost a son or a father, everyone came out in support to grieve with them. When one our leaders disappeared or was taken into custody, we gathered in houses throughout the community to encourage each other and pray together. We talked about our struggles and found ways to express our pain through music, art and dance, rather than raging against society.
This strategy of staying in community should be easy. We have never been more connected than we are right now. Through cell phones and social media, we can connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Yet still there are people who feel isolated and alone in their fight, because we fail to reach out when we see someone suffering. It’s far more fun to just post selfies, especially ones that make us look gorgeous, popular, happy and rich.
We need to look outwards, away from ourselves, and find meaning in genuine connections. Let’s have real conversations, face to face, where we admit that we’re struggling. Because you’d be amazed at how often the person you’re talking to has the same struggles, the same worries, and the same circumstances. That’s when we can start supporting each other, encouraging each other and, most importantly, teaming up to find solutions.
The third strategy in fighting a good fight is faith. If you don’t know the purpose of your life, or why it matters what you do, you will struggle to overcome difficulties. If you don’t know your intrinsic value, beyond what you look like or how many friends you have, you are going to lose hope. And if you don’t know the One who created you and His overwhelming grace, this world will knock you down again and again.
I cannot imagine having survived apartheid, oppression and injustice without faith. I would have given up many times over if I hadn’t believed that God was at work and on the throne. I encourage you to consider your spiritual health, because the fight we are up against cannot be won in our own strength.
Finally, the fourth strategy we need to employ is the strategy that set the IFP apart in the liberation struggle. It is the strategy of non-violence. Violence is an attempt to force change through destruction. There are political leaders today who claim that the only way to get what we want is through violence, whether it is burning tyres or burning buildings. They seek to drive a wedge between citizens, sowing hatred and anger. They think that out of chaos, prosperity will be birthed.
But that is not the way things work. If we want to secure prosperity, economic development and equality, we can only do that by building, working and unifying people. The truth is that very few benefit from violent politics, but many suffer. By contrast, many benefit from the politics of peace, because it builds inclusivity.
The IFP is a party of builders. We are willing to put in the hard work to see South Africa prosper. Ours is a strategy of getting everyone involved, creating community, growing faith and building through the politics of peace. These strategies worked in the past. They saw us overcome the worst brutalities of the apartheid system. And they are still relevant.
These are the strategies we need today as we continue the fight for our country. It is not surprising that the IFP is home to people of goodwill. If you share our vision and believe in becoming part of the solution, I encourage you to get more deeply involved in the IFP. Talk to our leaders. Take up membership. Join a branch. Become volunteers for the campaign ahead; because in 2019 we are going back to the polls for another election.
The legacy of Freedom Day is the right to make your voice heard. Do it today by getting connected to a voice that is growing in our national discourse. The voice of the IFP is the voice of reason and integrity. It’s the voice that says yes, when others are saying no. Yes, it can be done. Yes, we are willing. Yes, it is worth fighting a good fight. Join us as we live the legacy of Freedom Day. The IFP has reason to celebrate!