Speaker of the National Assembly from 1994 to 2004
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Parliamentary Leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party
And Minister of Home Affairs from 1994 to 2004
Read on His Behalf by the Hon. Mr Narend Singh MP
Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party
City Hall: 6 February 2023
His Excellency the President; the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly and the Honourable Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces; Honourable Ministers and Honourable Members –
Before I pay tribute to our country’s first Speaker of a democratically elected Parliament, allow me to express my condolences to her family. As you listen to our praises being poured out for your Aunt, I pray it will be a healing balm. Thank you for sharing Dr Frene Ginwala with the country she loved so much.
By the time we convened our first democratic Parliament, on 9 May 1994, Dr Ginwala had already earned the respect of every party that stepped into the Government of National Unity. Already, she had lived a remarkable life. Already, she had a formidable library of academic achievements. Already, she had served South Africa with every fibre of her being.
For the sake of our liberation, she had spent thirty years away from the soil in which her heart was planted. We in the liberation movement held her in high regard. We knew the role she played in exposing apartheid’s worst aberrations to the world, and her equally valuable role in communicating the ideas of our movement.
When Inkatha disagreed with the call for international sanctions against South Africa, I found Dr Ginwala an articulate and informed adversary. She was the ANC’s spokesperson on sanctions in the United Kingdom at the same time that I was visiting Heads of State like Prime Minister Thatcher, President Reagan, Chancellor Kohl and Prime Minister Uyl, persuading them against disinvestment.
When we achieved democracy, it was natural that Dr Ginwala play a central role. Her appointment as Speaker of the National Assembly augured well for our first Parliament. She played this role as it was meant to be played: with dignity, impartiality and firmness. Undoubtedly there was greater decorum in Parliament at that time, but that is not to say that her patience was not tested.
Within the first ten years of democracy, some 700 major pieces of legislation were passed. My own Immigration Act was passed with the Hon. Dr Ginwala presiding. It was no easy task to transform the entire body of law in our country so swiftly, yet that is what our work demanded.
For the first two years, Parliament also doubled as a Constitutional Assembly, in which the Hon. Dr Ginwala made her great contribution to crafting South Africa’s final Constitution. She was an astute negotiator.
The IFP had 48 Members in the Constitutional Assembly, and we produced a full analysis of what we felt was needed, evaluating the alternatives, and explaining why our options were preferable. His Excellency President Ramaphosa will remember scolding his Party, saying that at least the IFP knew what it wanted!
For the ten years that Dr Ginwala served as Speaker, I served as Minister of Home Affairs. I watched how deftly she positioned our young democracy, earning for herself well-deserved international awards.
I am honoured to have served our country with such a dedicated patriot. May she rest in eternal peace.