Memorial Tribute to the Late Mrs Inka Mars

FORMER MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
AND MEMBER OF THE IFP NATIONAL COUNCIL

TRIBUTE BY
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

Durban: 23 October 2017

In keeping with the wishes of our colleague and friend, I will not speak today of my tremendous sorrow at her passing. We cannot avoid grief, and each of us will grieve for Mrs Mars in our own way, and in our own time. But for today, we will do what she wanted us to do. We will celebrate her life. We pay tribute to her for all that she meant to us and for all that she did in the service of our nation.

We as a Party owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs Inka Mars. Her loyalty over many years is extraordinary in the field of politics. She devoted herself to serving, through Inkatha and through the IFP. We became her extended family. I therefore want to thank her children, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, for allowing us to share the attention, passion and heart of Mrs Inka Mars.

It is important that we honour her contribution to South Africa. She worked without resting for decades, whether in the National Assembly, on oversight visits, in committee, at rallies, doing constituency work, or attending the meetings of our National Council. She was at the negotiating table when South Africa began its transition from apartheid to democracy. And well before that, she was working in rural Zululand, meeting the needs of struggling South Africans through her leadership of the Red Cross Society. We paid visits with her to Germany as guests of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

If we were able to trace back the invisible line of her influence, we would come face to face with countless individuals whose lives were changed because of Inka Mars. She was, at heart, a humanitarian. The deprivations she witnessed in Germany as a child undoubtedly had an impact. She was just 11 years old when World War II began and she lived through that War. It impressed upon her the need to reach out and help, because struggle and pain is all around us.

I am not surprised that she married a doctor. It was after the War that she moved to London and met her husband, Paul Ernst Mars. Together, they moved to South Africa and began married life in a country where apartheid was in its infancy. Our liberation struggle was beginning to take flame. For anyone with a conscience, it was impossible to stay out of politics, one way or another.

At about this same time, I was serving as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan. My wife and I had married in 1952, the year that Mrs Mars gave birth to her son, Maurice. My long career in the service of our nation had just begun.

It was inevitable that my work would bring me into contact with men and women of all races and backgrounds who were making their contribution to create a kinder, gentler and more just South Africa. But I cannot recall meeting anyone more grounded than Mrs Inka Mars.

When we first met, I was struck by her ability to assess a situation fully and then to objectively and rationally do whatever needed to be done. Whether this was a learned skill or an innate attribute, it made her the kind of person you wanted in your corner. I never saw her buckle under pressure. And I know how much pressure she dealt with.

Mrs Mars and I became firm friends. Her husband actually became our family doctor, and he treated us for many years. But as much as he took care of our physical health, Mrs Mars attended to my soul. Her loyalty and friendship was a balm many times over, particularly as we endured the painful chapter of a People’s War and the intense campaign of vilification against me and Inkatha.

When even some of the leaders in my own church would not defend me against the lies of propaganda, Mrs Inka Mars was actively campaigning for international funding so that Inkatha could continue to serve South Africa. With every death of our members and leaders, she commiserated with me, offering kind and wise words that were always a support. Irene and I can never forget her role in comforting us each time each one of our 5 deceased children passed away.

I never got the sense that she felt removed from all this suffering. She was very much a part of it. She suffered with me, for she had tied her fate to mine and had planted her flag in our Party. She was our sister in every sense of that word. She saw me through so many betrayals by people we regarded as mutual friends.

I am so grateful that we walked this long journey of politics together. I think we often understood each other so well because we went through life’s seasons at the same time. She was, after all, just twenty days older than me! So, as we marked each milestone of life, we were able to share the various joys and challenges that accompanied them. That is why when I wanted to tease her I would call her “BIG GIRL,” reminding her that she saw the sun before I saw it! as we Zulus put it.

The challenge of failing health was of course inevitable as we reached our senior years. I was immensely proud of how stoically my friend faced Cancer. She did what needed to be done, and continued as a survivor. I think her passing came as such a shock to us all because she gave no signs of being ill. Even when she was under the weather, she soldiered on, immaculately dressed and always ready to get the job done. What a wonderful child of God! My family and we as IFP regarded her as part of our family. Our deepest sympathies go to her son Dr Maurice Mars, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.

Not surprisingly, Mrs Mars became a cornerstone of the IFP. When anyone needed advice, they would go to her, because she wasn’t one for rash decisions. She thought things through, and invariably the approach she chose was the right one. And what a hospitable person as I have watched her invite so many people to stay with her, including some of my own guests.

I thank God for bringing her into my life. She was a true servant of the people. A humble warrior for justice. But, above all, she was someone with tremendous heart. I pay tribute to her today because I want it to be known that Mrs Inka Mars was held in the highest esteem. She deserves to be honoured. I am devastated by her passing, as many who knew her are, but today we are privileged to celebrate a life well-lived.

I want to thank the family for joining us this morning. Please know that you have our support and our deepest condolences. I want just before sitting down to thank our Colleague Mr Alex Hamilton for all the friendship that they enjoyed, and for all that he did for her. I have equally enjoyed a very long friendship with Mr Alex Hamilton for I met him when he was a young man of 27 years, during the dark days of apartheid, when he was only 27 years of age. Let me take this opportunity to thank him for all that he did for our beloved Colleague Mrs Inka Mars. I will read a letter that one of my closest friends in the United Kingdom has written on hearing about the passing away of Mrs Mars. Dr Leo Aylen and his wife Pauline. Also another from my former Secretary Mr Jon Cayzer.