National Elective Conference of the Inkatha Freedom Party



Ulundi: 23 August 2019

On March 21st 1975, a group of patriots gathered at KwaNzimela to reignite political mobilisation. Thus Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe was born.

Fifteen years later, on July 14th 1990, a conference of Inkatha was convened in Ulundi to celebrate the unbanning of political organisations. On that day, we became the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Over the past four decades, our structures have met in gatherings like this. We have come together to consider the battle confronting our country and to sharpen the weapons of our warfare.

In conferences like this, we have elected leaders, adopted policies, debated issues, opened our hearts, and reached consensus. We have chosen the path of moral integrity and confirmed it again and again.

Out of conferences like this, unity has emerged, securing the IFP’s survival in a turbulent political sea. Strategies have been formed, not only to make our voices heard, but to speak with the voice of truth. We have pursued the best interests of our country, and we have committed to serve.

It is in conferences like this that watershed moments have been marked.

Now, we gather for another watershed moment. This weekend, the rank and file of the IFP will elect a President, a Deputy President, a National Chairperson, a Deputy National Chairperson, a Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, as well as 34 committee members who will serve on our National Council.

This is nothing unusual, for we have done this in elective conferences for many years. But this conference is different. It has been accompanied by unprecedented hype and speculation. Because in this conference, Buthelezi will step down.

This is a significant moment, but it is far less sensational than many seem to think.

The IFP has been in a time of transition since 2012. We have moved carefully and deliberately to this point, making public our decisions and the reasons for taking them. This moment was planned a long time ago. It is simply the last step in a very public journey.

I understand, however, why it feels like such a big moment.

The story of the IFP is deeply intertwined with my own story; the story of Buthelezi. I have served this Party for 44 years, since its founding in 1975. Yet I have never served alone. This Party is bigger than Buthelezi. It has a future beyond my own.

This truth is evident when we listen to the IFP Youth Brigade, to the IFP Women’s Brigade, and to the leaders of all our structures, across South Africa. There is a vision that leads us all; an overarching call that defines the identity of the IFP. It is the call to service.

Accordingly, as we open this conference, our first order of business is receiving reports from the newly elected leadership of the Women’s Brigade, the Youth Brigade, and the Provincial Executive. We will hear reports from all our Districts. And by the end of this evening’s session we will know where the IFP is going.

Because the vision that drives this Party is expressed in the work of its structures.

I am grateful to have had the chance to speak to our Women’s Brigade and our Youth Brigade as they held elective conferences a few weeks ago. We have given them our mandate, to lead the charge in the struggle for economic and social justice.

Tomorrow, conference will deliberate on this struggle, and we will place at its centre the unassailable ideals of democracy. This is the legacy of the IFP. We have been building this legacy for 44 years, and still our work continues.

It is work that we do in the service of South Africa, because like those men and women who gathered at KwaNzimela in 1975, we in this room are patriots. In this new generation, our struggle is different. But our values remain the same. It is this that makes the IFP a wellspring of hope, providing water to a nation thirsty.

Accordingly, our focus this weekend will be on the dire and threatening problems of the present. The economic crisis, the plague of unemployment, the failure of the education system, the collapse of leadership integrity, the mounting violence against women and children. As much as this conference is a watershed moment in the history of the IFP, it takes place at a watershed moment in our country.

So we will use this conference, as we always have, to consider the battle and to sharpen our weapons. For we are the warriors who must fight for South Africa. It is what we have promised to do, and the IFP, above all, is a party of integrity.

I therefore welcome the delegates who have travelled to be here. We welcome your participation in all the debates, and we thank you for your commitment to the IFP’s vision. We know that you will engage this conference with wisdom, discipline and unity.

We also welcome the observers who have chosen to be with us, particularly our friends in international organisations and NGOs who are serving democracy alongside the IFP. And we welcome the media, for you are our constant companion, for better or worse, in strength or in distress.

We thank God that at this point in the IFP’s journey, the Party is walking in strength. The electoral results of 2019 have said more than I ever could. I believe this conference will speak for itself as well. There is democracy in this Party, and robust debate. But above all there is unity, for we all subscribe to that great vision of a just and free South Africa.

I thank you.