Funeral Service of the Late Hon. Dr Lionel Percival Hercules Mbeki Mtshali Stalwart of the IFP and Leader in our Nation
Message of Condolence by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium, Clermont: 19 December 2015
Many tears have been shed in the days since Dr Mtshali’s passing. We still walk in the valley of the shadow of death. But like the psalmist, we will not be afraid, for we know the comfort of the Lord which passes all understanding. We lean on Him in this difficult time and pray that His hand will be upon the family of our beloved friend.
Our prayers and sympathy are with Mrs Daphne Mtshali and with the children and grandchildren of Dr Lionel Percival Hercules Mbeki Mtshali. His was an extraordinary life. It seemed wholly comprised of long hours and late nights, labouring in the service of our people. But there was much more. He was a dedicated husband, a loving father, a gentleman, and a faithful friend.
It is rare for a man to be mourned by strangers as well as friends. But that is the case with the Honourable Dr LPHM Mtshali. Today as the leaders of our nation gather to pay tribute to a stalwart colleague, a formidable political opponent, and an exceptional patriot, there are many who – from a distance – remember Dr Mtshali with gratitude.
In the absence of a man with Dr Mtshali’s integrity, courage and faith, thousands of South Africans would have found their lives cut short at a very young age. I feel it appropriate, as we bid our final farewells, to honour Dr Mtshali for the pivotal action he took to turn the tide on HIV/Aids. Of the many contributions he made to our freedom, democracy, education and development, his greatest contribution is no doubt the saving of lives.
Dr Mtshali’s skill and political acumen saw him appointed as Premier of KwaZulu Natal in 1999. Building on the foundation laid by Dr Frank Mdlalose and Dr Ben Ngubane, Dr Mtshali continued the IFP’s administration of KwaZulu Natal. At the time, our province was waging a terrible battle against HIV/Aids, in which some 40% of our people were testing positive. We knew that no matter what we did to develop, build and serve KwaZulu Natal, if we could not save lives, it would all be meaningless.
Under Dr Mtshali’s leadership, intensive investigations were engaged to find a way of arresting the spread of HIV beyond the conventional methods. It became apparent that the distribution of the anti-retroviral, Nevirapine, was an essential tool. A single dose administered to a mother before she gave birth, and a single dose administered to her newborn baby, effectively prevented mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids. It was that simple to save lives.
Thus Premier Mtshali instructed that Nevirapine be rolled out to all birthing clinics across the province. We partnered with Boehringer-Ingelheim and provided Nevirapine to everyone who needed it. For the first time, we began to see the incidence of HIV decrease.
It is difficult to express the full impact of what Premier Mtshali did in mere numbers and statistics. To really understand his contribution, one would need to speak to the mothers whose babies survived because of his intervention. One would need to speak to the young South Africans who are alive today, finishing school, and looking ahead to the future, because Dr LPHM Mtshali had the courage of his convictions.
Based on the success of Premier Mtshali’s initiative, the Treatment Action Campaign approached the Constitutional Court, urging the court to instruct national Government to follow suit throughout South Africa. Government carries the constitutional responsibility to save lives. It thus seemed obvious what had to be done. National Government, however, averred that it was logistically impossible, which tied the hands of the Constitutional Court.
Again, Premier Mtshali intervened, joining the court case as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. He provided evidence of how it was logistically possible, and fairly inexpensive, to roll out Nevirapine on a grand scale. We were doing it in KwaZulu Natal. It could be done nationally.
Premier Mtshali’s intervention allowed the Constitutional Court to order that the ANC- led Government follow the example of the IFP-led Government, and save lives. But it was not a political victory. It was a victory for the whole of South Africa. Premier Mtshali remains the only Premier to be sued by his MEC for Health. And he stood his ground. The court ruled in his favour that the Premier carried final responsibility on all provincial issues, including health. Dr Mtshali was thus fulfilling not only a moral imperative, but his duty of office.
He did this many times, in many positions, as an inspector of schools in KwaZulu, as Minister of Education in my Cabinet, as a Member of Parliament, as our national Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in the Cabinet of President Thabo Mbeki, as Premier of KwaZulu Natal, and as the IFP’s Leader in the Provincial Legislature.
In all of these positions, Dr Mtshali became known as a man of substance and integrity. He was a skilled administrator and a political giant. We are grateful that he chose to live out his calling within the IFP. Dr Mtshali was among the founding members of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe in 1975, and he remained a committed member of our Party for forty years. He shared our journey in the service of South Africa from the very beginning, and he made an immeasurable contribution to our survival and success.
His admirable character attracted respect from both friends and political opponents. During constitutional negotiations, Dr Mtshali provided political stewardship to the IFP’s negotiating team, enabling us to focus the debate onto issues of substance, such as the form of state.
When the IFP received more than 10% of the vote in 1994 and entered the Government of National Unity, Dr Mtshali became our Caucus Chairperson and ably led our parliamentary team through those first years of democracy. Under his leadership, our Caucus was able to provide an objectively necessitated constructive opposition. We supported anything in the interests of South Africa, but raised the red flag whenever necessary.
Dr Mtshali understood the need for reconciliation between the various components of our first democratic government. He embraced the IFP’s call for peace and unity in diversity. Thus, when discussions about reconciliation began within the KwaZulu Natal provincial government, Dr Mtshali welcomed the opportunity to play a leading role.
With my blessing and with that of the then Deputy President Mbeki, discussions were engaged, and a permanent committee of three-a-side was established 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. 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 may never know how many more lives were saved through the leadership of Dr Mtshali as he pursued reconciliation and peace. But his legacy will live on wherever conflict was resolved and peace established.
There is another aspect to Dr Mtshali’s legacy that I pray will live on and begin to thrive in our country, and that is his commitment to leading with integrity. Dr Mtshali often lamented the toll that corruption is taking on South Africa. With each report of the Auditor General, we have seen just a handful of municipalities capable of running efficiently and with financial integrity. For an administrator like Dr Mtshali, this was painful to see.
He knew that when we administered the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, we did so without a single allegation of corruption ever being levelled against us in 19 years. Governance and corruption are not synonymous. If we are to honour Dr Mtshali’s memory, there is nothing more fitting that we could do than to escalate our fight against corruption at all levels.
The man we remember today was a hero in the truest sense of the word. Beneath his gentle nature lay an indescribable strength. He would not give up and not give in, even when his health began failing. He would not discuss retirement, for even in the twilight of his life he felt that more could be done for South Africa. And for Dr Mtshali, if something could be done, it should be done, and it should be done by him.
I admired him tremendously and will miss him both in the work that we shared and as a friend. How sad it is that I can never pick up the phone again and ask Dr Mtshali for his advice. Nevertheless, I would not keep him from the heavenly rest he so richly deserves. He has entered eternity and the crown of glory is rightly his. May we find comfort in remembering his life, and Dr LPHM Mtshali rest in peace.