Message Of Condolence
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
Pinetown Civic Centre
When a good friend steps unexpectedly into eternity, one naturally thinks of the last conversation and whether everything that needed to be said was said. When I visited Dr Mtshali in hospital on 6 December, it didn’t cross my mind that that could be the last time I saw him. Our conversation was light and filled with hope for his recovery. I didn’t tell him then how much his commitment to the IFP has meant to me. I didn’t use that moment to thank him for all he has done, for his courage, and his quiet strength.
But looking back now, I have no regrets. For our last conversation, had it been fully dedicated to my expressions of appreciation, could not have added to Dr Mtshali’s knowledge of how I felt. Throughout his life, I made no secret of the fact that I admired his leadership and thought highly of his character.
We worked side by side in the service of our nation as though there would always be a tomorrow. We never gave thought to the frailty of life. Indeed, even when he began ailing, Dr Mtshali refused to contemplate retirement. His dedication to his country and his party was such that he could not stop working.
I understand that completely. Patriots like us always believe that one more day of work, and just one more, will bring us closer to the tipping point of saving South Africa. We cannot relent. We cannot surrender.
This depth of commitment carried a cost for Dr Mtshali’s family, for you were obliged to share him with our nation. When he was an inspector of schools in KwaZulu, you understood that he had to travel away from home. With your support, he became Chief Inspector in the Department of Education in 1984. When I appointed Dr Mtshali to my Cabinet as Minister of Education in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, you again understood that education for all our people was worth the sacrifice of long hours and late nights.
When we entered democracy in 1994, it was natural for Dr Mtshali to represent the IFP as a Member of the first democratic Parliament of South Africa. Again, his wife and children surrendered their right to him, and with their support he became a national minister of our country. Under President Thabo Mbeki, Dr LPHM Mtshali became Minister of Arts, Science, Culture and Technology.
We thank you, Mrs Mtshali, and we thank your children and grandchildren, for the sacrifice you made, which enabled Dr Mtshali to serve his country. You have every reason to be proud of what he accomplished, and the contribution he made to freeing, strengthening and building South Africa. He has left an exceptional legacy which will benefit many generations to come.
Of the many reasons I have to be grateful for Dr Mtshali’s life, the greatest is this: that he chose to live it within the IFP family. Dr Mtshali was among the founding members of Inkatha in 1975, and walked every step of the road on our forty year journey. He never wavered in his commitment. His leadership as National Chairperson was outstanding, as was his leadership of the IFP in the Provincial Legislature of KwaZulu Natal.
Building on the foundation laid by Dr Frank Mdlalose and Dr Ben Ngubane, Dr Mtshali became Premier of KwaZulu Natal in 1999, and faithfully served in that position for the full term. It was as Premier that he gave his best known contribution, for it was under his leadership that thousands upon thousands of lives were saved.
At the time, KwaZulu Natal was beset by the spread of HIV/Aids. Some 40% of our people were testing positive. We understood that drastic measures had to be taken. Thus, under Premier Mtshali’s leadership, the IFP began the roll-out of Nevirapine across the province at all birthing clinics, for all women giving birth and their babies. It had been proven that a single dose of Nevirapine to the mother and a single dose administered to her new-born within hours of birth prevented the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Because of our success, the Treatment Action Campaign put pressure on National Government to follow suit. But they averred it was logistically impossible. Premier Mtshali thus intervened, joining the TAC in the Constitutional Court, and offering evidence that government could in fact, fairly easily and cost-effectively, do what had to be done. The IFP was doing it. The ANC could do it too.
Premier Mtshali’s intervention enabled the Constitutional Court to order National Government to roll out anti-retrovirals across South Africa to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids. Throughout this fight, Dr Mtshali did not back down, even when his own MEC for Health, the ANC’s Dr Mkhize, sued him, claiming that the Premier had no prerogative over issues of health. The court found against Dr Mkhize, declaring that the Premier carried final responsibility for all provincial matters.
Dr Mtshali showed his strength of character in that battle, as he did in many others. He will be remembered as the man who turned the tide on HIV/Aids. But he should be remembered for so much more. There were aspects to Dr Mtshali that few outside political circles know about. The IFP knows, for we benefitted from his astute political acumen. Our opponents know as well, for they often lost to the greater political wisdom of Dr LPHM Mtshali.
To me, he was an indispensable asset. During constitutional negotiations, our team, under the political stewardship of Dr Mtshali, focussed the constitutional debate on matters of substance, such as the form of state.
Before we entered the Government of National Unity, the IFP’s National Council deliberated extensively over the kind of contribution we should make. It was believed that the IFP should become an “objectively necessitated constructive opposition”. We would question and call to account wherever necessary, opposing decisions and actions we deemed to be wrong. But wherever we felt the ANC was acting in the best interests of South Africa, we would support them. I am proud to say that under Dr Mtshali, as Chairperson of the IFP Caucus, we skilfully fulfilled that role.
Soon after the 1994 elections, discussions about reconciliation began within the KwaZulu Natal provincial government. They were conducted with my blessing, and the blessing of the then Deputy President Mbeki. These discussions led to the establishment of a permanent committee of three-a-side to monitor, facilitate and normalise relations between the IFP and the ANC and our respective constituencies.
The three members on the IFP's side were the Reverend KM Zondi, Premier LPHM Mtshali and Minister CJ Mtetwa, and the three on the ANC side were Mr Jacob Zuma, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe and Mr Mendi Msimang. The three-a-side committee facilitated the resolution of many crises, some of which could have been explosive. Repeatedly, Dr Mtshali was crucial to brokering peace.
We have, undoubtedly, lost a political giant. Beneath his gentle manners lay an incomparable strength. Today, I thank God that he gave us Dr Lionel Mtshali, and preserved his life for 80 years. His is a race well run.
When I think of my friend now, I am reminded of the words of King David who wrote in Psalm 4 verse 8: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
On behalf of the IFP and my own family, I extend support and condolences to Mrs Daphne Mtshali, and to the children of our late friend. May the Lord comfort you as you walk through this valley. Please know that you do not walk alone, for we walk beside you, mourning this loss.
May Dr Lionel Percival Hercules Mbeki Mtshali rest in peace.