KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCIAL ELECTIVE CONFERENCE
OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
ON THE THEME
“STRENGTHENING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE IDEALS OF DEMOCRACY”
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Ulundi: 29 June 2019
Since the birth of the IFP in March 1975, we have been strongest on this soil. It is from this Province that we draw our greatest support. I feel it important therefore, as I begin this address, to explain the obvious reasons behind this fact.
Almost fifty years ago, I took up leadership of KwaZulu, which was created in accordance with the decrees of our then rulers. When I founded Inkatha, I was serving as Chief Minister of KwaZulu, at the behest of the leaders of our liberation movement. Because Inkatha was founded on this soil, and because political campaigning and mobilisation was banned, this soil became the centre of our organisation.
So the fact that the majority of Inkatha members were Zulu-speaking people is not a mystery. But right from the start I made it clear that I was not mobilising just Zulu-speaking people.
From the heart of KwaZulu, Inkatha took root and spread like wildfire among the politically oppressed. We were the centre of political mobilisation towards South Africa’s liberation, and within a very short time we became home to more than a million card-carrying members.
At that point, the Bergrasse Institute in Frieburg, Germany, conducted a survey which revealed that 40% of Inkatha’s members were in fact not Zulu-speaking. We had a wide appeal as the political home of the oppressed majority.
This worried the apartheid government. As a result, I was summoned to Pretoria by the then Minister of Justice and Police, Mr Jimmy Kruger. I was accompanied by Rev. Celani Mtetwa, Mr Gibson Thula and my Secretary, Mr Eric Ngubane. Minister Kruger had plucked up his courage in order to question the fact that I did not confine the membership of Inkatha to Zulu-speaking people. He actually threatened to take action against me if I did not confine membership to Zulu-speaking Africans.
The whole conversation that day can be found in the book by Mr Wessel de Kock titled “Usuthu! Cry Peace!” and also in Mr Ben Temkin’s biography of me. I will not give all the details in this speech.
Suffice to say that, in reaction to Minister Kruger’s threats, I said that I will recruit Africans from other ethnic groups exactly as they had members from other white ethnic groups. He retorted that they (the whites) are all of Teutonic origin. But when I asked whether he included Jews in the Teutonic roots, he had no ready answer.
Because of the origins of Inkatha which I have just explained there were bound to be more Zulu-speaking members in Inkatha. As a result we have always had a big membership of Zulu-speaking Africans. This has inevitably made KwaZulu Natal the province where we drew the biggest membership. KwaZulu Natal has always been the strongest link in the chain of our membership.
I decided to tell the story of our origin because many young members do not know this part of the history of the IFP. KwaZulu Natal is extremely important to our Party. We will be strongest in the place where we draw the most members. Indeed, if we are strong here, then we are strong full stop.
By the same token, if things go badly here, our Party is bound to suffer. For this reason we need to have strong people in leadership positions in this Province. We need to be very careful about who we elect to positions of leadership in KwaZulu Natal. I must say that over the years we have suffered and lost members because we have not been as careful as we should be when we choose the leadership of this Province.
The development of camps in this Party has brought in the use of slates in selecting our leaders. I hope that when some of us sweated as we did during the elections, we will not need all these undemocratic methods of the use of the slate when the time comes for conducting elections. Where we have become weak, even in this Province, it is precisely because of camps and the use of slates.
These things have the capacity to destroy something immensely valuable. Let me tell you what we are fighting to protect. Let me tell you about the IFP we serve, not only where it began, but what it has become and how it got here.
Over more than four decades in politics, service and leadership, the IFP has evolved. We have changed along with the political landscape of our country, becoming whatever South Africa needed most at every juncture along the way.
As a liberation organisation, we waged peaceful war. As a provincial government, we created economic growth and set the stage for development. Within the Government of National Unity, we deepened democracy. And as a constructive opposition, we have been the voice of reason and integrity.
The IFP is able to evolve and remain relevant because our reason for existing is tied to the service of our country and the good of its people. We do not consider the Party greater than the people it serves. The IFP exists to serve South Africa. This makes us fundamentally different to any other political party, whose focus is on power for the sake of power.
The IFP’s unique character has been recognised and embraced by millions of South Africans. Despite having had only eight days to campaign in 1994, the IFP entered democracy with more than two million votes. We had, conceivably, the most racially diverse support base, for the IFP was seen as the greatest hope to curb the possibility of an abuse of power.
Because our character has not changed, and because we have evolved with the needs of South Africa, the electorate has expressed support for the IFP for 25 years. For a quarter of a century South African voters have placed their hopes in the IFP to deliver honest leadership, real solutions and a future in which all South Africans can claim a stake and play a role.
In all this time, KwaZulu Natal has remained the heart of the IFP. While we serve our country in every province and while we serve in the National Assembly, the IFP is strongest here, on this soil. This is where the majority of our votes come from, and it is from here that we need to build as we look to the future.
I am therefore honoured to address this provincial elective conference of the IFP in KwaZulu Natal, knowing that here our rank and file will elect the next team of leaders. These are the leaders who will take us forward into the next chapter of the IFP. It is also here that representatives of our structures in KwaZulu Natal will finalise delegates to attend our national elective conference, which takes place at the end of August. That conference will be a watershed moment for the IFP.
What happens here, this weekend, will change the game. This is our chance to secure a leadership that has the right vision, the right heart attitude and the right skills to embrace what lies ahead; a leadership that can strengthen the Party.
Something has shifted for the IFP. Ahead of last month’s national and provincial elections, many so-called analysts and journalists penned our obituary, as they have often done over many years. The decline in support for the IFP in each successive election gave them added incentive to suggest that the IFP was done.
But they were wrong. They were dead wrong. The IFP is resurgent for the simple reason that we are what our country needs most at this juncture; and many have recognised this fact. People are tired of the ruling party’s empty promises and lies. They are tired of scandals and deception, of compromised leaders, corruption, State capture and the downward spiral of South Africa’s economy. They are looking for a reason to retain hope.
And the IFP has provided that reason. We are the right answer at a time of very painful questions. Thus the IFP saw a dramatic increase in voter support in the May 2019 elections. We grew beyond all expectations here in KwaZulu Natal, overtaking the far better-funded Democratic Alliance, and being restored once again as the official opposition. It was a resounding electoral victory.
In the aftermath of the election results, I received letters of congratulations from many people, both in South Africa and from across the world. One letter, in particularly, succinctly spelled out the reason for our success. It said, “We voted IFP because you can take on the ANC bullies with maturity and dignity.”
That is what sets the IFP apart and gives us the edge. We are strong enough and courageous enough to take on the ruling Party. But we don’t do it with slander, rhetoric or showmanship. We don’t place social cohesion or security at risk for the sake of pulling them down. In fact, unlike our opponents, the IFP does not believe that the end justifies the means. There is no point in destroying our country in order to save it.
We have faced that option before. We could have reduced this country to ashes in order to defeat apartheid. But Inkatha refused, believing that we all had a right to inherit a strong economy, a stable society, and a chance to create unity for the very first time. Had we engaged the armed struggle or had we embraced the call for international sanctions and disinvestment, there would have been no spoils of war for anyone to enjoy when liberation was achieved.
Now we need to look once again at the needs of our country, and accept the more difficult path of protecting the future while fighting the present evils. This will be the task of the IFP in 2019, in 2020, in 2021, and until we have secured justice for all our people; both social justice and economic justice. It is a task we take on from a position of strength, having received the mandate of the electorate in KwaZulu Natal.
We have our calling. Now we need our leaders. We need to choose very carefully, because the path ahead can only be walked by people who understand fighting hard and fighting clean. We need the strongest possible leadership at this point in the IFP’s history, so that they can chart a course towards growth.
Growing the IFP in membership and support is one of the most important priorities at this point. Let me tell you why.
As the IFP’s support grew in the 2019 elections, so the ANC’s support declined. The ruling Party shed 10% of their votes here in KwaZulu Natal. Even if their support stays stable, rather than declining more in 2024, the IFP has a fair chance of overtaking the ANC in this Province at the next general election. But we can only do that if we double our numbers in the next five years.
Is that realistic? Is it even possible to do? We have rather painful evidence that growth of that nature is possible. Between the 2014 and the 2019 provincial elections, the EFF increased its support in KwaZulu Natal by more than four times. It is growing exponentially in this Province. The reason is very simple. It is not that they have such radical policies, such firebrand frontmen or such total disregard for collateral damage.
It’s that they mobilise at grassroots level. They have a strong network of community-based structures, and they focus on active, widespread branches whose primary activity is aggressive recruitment. As much as they have a highly visible and charismatic leader at the top, the EFF is not a one-man show. It has been grown from the ground up. It has an army of foot soldiers who are able to inflict serious damage.
This strategy of growing from the ground up and of focussing on mobilisation at grassroots level is not something the EFF invented. It is in fact the very strategy we used in Inkatha to grow in numbers and strength in those first years of existence. This is our legacy. The IFP began as a grassroots movement. We wrote our Constitution to enshrine the importance of branches and we designed our structures to create maximum strength at the lowest levels.
We wanted every member to have the space and the opportunity to make their contribution to the whole, so that everyone who joined Inkatha would become invested through their own efforts. We wanted to give people an organisation in which they could find hope and become part of changing our country. They would be serving a greater good, but also growing their own skills, capacity and future.
It was a very successful strategy. Our message of self-help and self-reliance married well with this, for those who were active in Inkatha discovered a network of likeminded individuals who were willing to collaborate. Thus community development projects were born, and solutions were found to the common problems of poverty, food security, unemployment and disempowerment.
Inkatha grew like wildfire because we valued individual contributions. We know, better than anyone, how to grow a party. But we are no longer using our own strategies. Instead, they have been expropriated by our opponents and are being used to make inroads into the IFP’s core constituencies; the youth, women and those who are still struggling, despite democracy.
I believe that if the IFP wants to grow, we need to return to our strategy of growing from the ground up. And if we do this well, for the next five years, we will see a resurgence that makes 2019 look like a drop in the ocean.
What this means is embarking on a massive and sustained recruitment campaign. It also means strengthening our branches. I know that you have heard me say this again and again. We need strong branches. We need active branches. We need to get our branches mobilised. I have said this because without strong branches we struggle to campaign for elections, and without credible branches we may not get credible delegates to attend our conferences.
This is still true. But there is another reason now, perhaps even more compelling, that urges us to strengthen our branches. It is at branch level that the most effective recruiting and mobilisation takes place. If we have a network of active and passionate branches, we can guarantee the Party’s growth.
I have always wanted to leave this Party in the strongest possible form, so that – after my time at the helm – the IFP would continue to grow and would go, indeed, from strength to strength. I wanted the future IFP to be the kind of force for good that we could be proud of pioneering. Long after I am gone, I want my name to be associated with a party that outlasted me; a party that went on to become even better, even stronger, even bigger than it once was.
I want this not because of my own vanity, but because the IFP is made up of thousands of leaders and members who deserve a strong Party in the years ahead. This will be your home in the years to come, and it will be the home of the next generation of IFP supporters. So let us do now what it takes to protect and create that strong future IFP.
It begins with choosing the right leadership at this elective conference. The provincial executive that emerges from this conference will fight the battles that lie ahead. They will guide us and inspire us. They will set the vision and keep it before us. They will secure our Party’s growth for a greater electoral victory in 2021, in 2024, and beyond.
We have every reason to be proud of our success in 2019. It is up to us now to provide a strong, principled and constructive opposition, taking on the bullies with maturity and integrity. We are here now, and we are strong. Let’s show them what the IFP can do.
I thank you.