THE HONOURABLE VELENKOSINI HLABISA MPL
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Ulundi: 24 August 2019
President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP;
Deputy President of the IFP, the Honourable Inkosi EM Buthelezi MP;
National Chairperson, the Honourable Mr Blessed Gwala MPL;
Deputy National Chairperson, the Honourable Mrs T kaMadlopha-Mthethwa;
Secretary General of the IFP, the Honourable Mr SL Ngcobo MP;
Deputy Secretary General, His Worship Mayor Albert Mncwango;
National Chairperson of the IFP Women’s Brigade, the Honourable Princess Phumzile Buthelezi MPL;
National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade, the Honourable Mr MN Nxumalo MP;
Treasurer General, the Honourable Mr Narend Singh MP;
Members of National Council;
Representatives of all our structures; and patriots in this, our beloved country.
I rise with a deep sense of humility by the trust and confidence demonstrated by the Conference when electing the new leadership to take the baton from His Excellency the IFP President Emeritus, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. I am fully aware of the magnitude of the great responsibilities that come with the mandate to lead that you have given to me as an individual and the collective NEC.
I am also fully conscious of the great expectations that you and South Africa have of the IFP. I stand here, elected by you to lead, and I accept. But deep within me is a greater conviction than the responsibility to lead, and that is the conviction to serve. I stand here at this historic moment as your servant leader.
I assure you, that with your support, I am equal to the task; and together we the IFP are equal to the responsibilities and challenges ahead.
It is our historic mission from inception 44 years ago to pursue the liberation of the oppressed, dispossessed and vulnerable in our country. We recommit ourselves today as the IFP to ensure that political freedom translates into social and economic justice to take forward the collective dreams, hopes and aspirations of those we serve.
As we conclude the 35th National Elective Conference of the IFP, we open the new season of struggle for social and economic justice in our country. This new season will require the contribution and commitment of every member of the IFP. We must face this struggle as people with hope and vision; not with a spirit of despair, but with a conquering spirit. For we are a powerful people. We are a party united.
I believe that the most powerful weapon we have at our disposal at this point in the IFP’s history is our unity. It is this that makes our opponents tremble.
They know that we are not a small party. In numbers, we are the fourth largest party in the national political landscape. In truth, we punch way above our weight. The IFP is known for making timeous interventions in the national discourse, saying what needs to be said, in a rational manner. We change the debate, and we change the spirit of the debate.
In this new season for the IFP, we will build on that legacy. This will be a time of strategically positioning the IFP at the centre of the political discourse, not through populism or demagoguery, but by bringing the truth into every conversation, at every level.
Ours is the voice that South Africans can trust. We are trusted to be reasonable, honest and constructive. We are the voice of social cohesion and national unity. We are the voice of the most vulnerable, and of those who are not heard in the discordant discourse of politics.
We must restore trust between people and politics. This means we must be firmly rooted amongst the people anew, for the people are our masters and we are their servants.
I want to hear every voice of every South African as we craft new solutions for the development of our country. As President Julius Nyerere said, “If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved.”
To this end, I will be embarking on a nationwide tour to meet the people from village to village, township to township and city to city; to hear the forgotten voices, and to unearth the wealth of wisdom of our people. Our people know what needs to be done; we are just unfortunate to be governed by those that do not listen.
We in the IFP will listen, and importantly we will do… we will act… we will work… we will serve!
We are called upon to improve the daily lived realities of our people by working with them and working for them.
As we commit to listening to our people, we must also listen to employers, employees, investors and innovators by engaging in a new discussion on the best way forward possible for our country. So we must also move from boardroom to boardroom; workplace to workplace; from big corporates to street vendor, in all sectors.
The discussions and engagements we have should act as an indication of an IFP preparing and readying itself to govern. We are a government in waiting. We are the only credible and viable alternative.
Hereinafter the letters “IFP” must individually and collectively mean I’m For People, I’m For Progress and I’m For Purpose.
The IFP must champion the fight for justice.
We will meet injustice with justice.
We will meet government failures with successful solutions.
We will restore hope for our people by doing well wherever we govern.
We will replace the ANC’s failing government with a successful IFP government.
We will replace divisions with unity and teamwork.
The IFP has been endlessly resilient. We have remained as a significant player on the political landscape because of the strong relationship we have built over so many years with the people we serve. It is time now to reap the harvest of that relationship, for the sake of saving South Africa.
Today I am making a clarion call to all those that love South Africa to join hands in partnership with the IFP to fix that which is broken in our country, and to strengthen that which is functional.
To those who hate hatred; join the IFP.
To those who stand against racism and tribalism; the IFP is your home.
To those that want South Africa to grow and prosper; partner with the IFP
To those fighting patriarchy and gender-based violence, let us fight together against these ills.
To those that love this country and want that which is good for this country; we in the IFP are your partners.
My clarion invitation goes out to all South Africans, black, white, Indian and coloured.
The IFP is the home of all; the Xhosas, the Pedis, the Vendas, the Zulus, the Afrikaners, the Ndebeles, the Tswanas and the Sothos. The IFP is the home of diversity, and the paragon of National Unity and Social Cohesion.
There is wisdom in the words, once again, of President Julius Nyerere when he said, “There is no time to waste. We must either unite or perish.” This wise counsel stands true for both the IFP and South Africa.
Make no mistake, South Africa needs saving. We are on the brink of economic collapse and are burdened with unethical leadership. It is common cause that South Africa’s economy has not served the best interests of our people. The political freedom we enjoy is half baked for it has not translated into economic and social justice. The elaborate plans of government have not worked. South Africans do not work. We must get South Africa working.
Freedom without jobs, is injustice and indignity.
Freedom without opportunity is injustice and hopelessness.
Freedom without accountability is injustice.
When in a free and democratic South Africa there is no impactful change in the material socio-economic conditions of our people, then those that govern are guilty of recycling back into the system the oppression, poverty and indignity of our people that we as the IFP have historically struggled against.
We meet at this conference when South Africa has hit rock bottom. Having hit rock bottom, from here South Africa only has one way to go and that is up. Bu those that got us into this precarious situation are not the ones to get us out. The IFP must strategically position itself, for we are the only credible way out of this mess. We are the Party of social and economic justice.
It is time for the IFP to redirect the course of our country.
The smoothness of our conference must be the best assurance to our people that we are a party of stability and unity. We knows that we don’t fight ourselves, but we fight the enemy of oppression, dispossession, poverty, unemployment, inequality and vulnerability.
We wish to thank His Excellency our President Emeritus for the final mandate he has given to the IFP; to protect our women and children. As a father and a husband, I am grateful for this wise instruction. As the new leadership of the IFP, we will champion this noble cause with all our energy.
The national leadership of the IFP will support our Women’s Brigade and our Youth Brigade, not only in this mission, but in the commission to reignite grassroots activism and to reignite political education at branch level. Through this we will strengthen democracy and reposition democratic ideals at the centre of our nation’s politics.
We want to thank our President Emeritus as well for sounding a warning on the political violence that continues to haunt this Province in particular. Violence is becoming pervasive in our country, and it must be stopped. The IFP has a unique role to play in this mission, for we have championed non-violence for 44 years. We have called for peace, for tolerance, and for reconciliation. And we will continue to voice that call.
The IFP is in a time of resurgence. Not by chance, but by design. We have walked a difficult path to reach this point, and now we are reaping the rewards.
Let me speak for a moment about the role you have asked me to play as the President of the IFP in this new season.
How does one walk in the shoes of a giant? In October 2017, when the Extended National Council nominated me to stand for election as Party President, I posed this question in private to Prince Buthelezi. I hoped that he would have words of wisdom to guide me in doing what the Party was asking me to do.
As always, he did indeed have words of wisdom. He told me that a giant doesn’t start out a giant. Like everyone, a giant starts as someone small. It is hard to identify a future giant before they have been tested by history. But there are signs of what the future might hold when you look at someone’s character, their courage, their fortitude, their faith and their desire to serve.
I am humbled that Prince Buthelezi saw in me a person worth mentoring. I am humbled too that our Party has expressed confidence in my leadership. I realise now that I cannot walk in the shoes of a giant. I will have to walk in my own shoes. But I can do that with courage, because I have the great good fortune of walking alongside a giant.
Prince Buthelezi is still here. He is still a member of the IFP. We are able still to draw on his wisdom, to seek his advice and to tap his considerable wealth of experience, to find the right way forward in what lies ahead. We are deeply grateful that he has expressed his willingness to serve in whatever capacity conference chooses.
I tabled the motion I tabled in yesterday’s session, after having considered what is done throughout the world when a senior academic or a senior member of the clergy retires in good standing. The word “emeritus” is given to them in title. Accordingly, when Dr Frank Mdlalose retired after 19 years of service as the IFP’s National Chairperson, the Party bestowed on him the title Chairperson Emeritus.
Therefore, as the newly elected President of the IFP, I used my presidential prerogative for the first time, to propose granting this title to Prince Buthelezi. I asked that conference pass a resolution today declaring Prince Buthelezi “President Emeritus of the IFP”. This indeed is what we have done.
This bestows on Prince Buthelezi the right to attend any meeting of the Party, at his pleasure, and it will ensure that the leadership of the IFP can consult him at any time, to seek his advice.
It also enables Prince Buthelezi to continue engagements in those political projects in which he is deeply involved, for the benefit of our country. He is an elder statesman and our greatest patriot. We dare not lose the benefit of his wisdom in the service of South Africa.
We thank our President Emeritus for accepting this title, as well as the responsibility it conveys to continue serving. We will not abuse his time in this latter part of his life, but we cannot surrender the right to seek his advice, when his advice is needed.
We owe a debt of gratitude to his family, to Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi, Princess Phumzile Buthelezi and Princess Angela Buthelezi, for they have generously allowed us to continue having access to their father in a time in which they themselves deserve all his attention. In this they have proven their loyalty to our country and their utmost patriotism.
Comrades, we have taken to heart the belief that what lies ahead for the IFP is far greater than what lies behind us. Knowing the great legacy that we come from, this is cause for tremendous excitement. I want to say to the observers among us, to the media and to all our friends: watch this space. Get ready for headlines that will change our country, because the IFP is on the move.
As President, I call on you Comrades to rise up for the good of the country we love. Let us take forward our Party’s historic mission into the future; that mission being the struggle for freedom for the politically, socially and economically oppressed.
The theme of our conference is self-explanatory: BUILDING ON A STRONG LEGACY IN A NEW SEASON OF STRUGGLE FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL JUSTICE STRUCTURED ON DEMOCRATIC IDEALS.
With that mission, let us now move into the future!
I thank you.