My dear friends; two years ago, a terrible loss was visited on us with the passing of the Hon. Mrs Constance Ntombikayise Zikalala. We have not yet recovered from the pain of that loss, and we still feel the absence of Mrs Zikalala every day. It is therefore a great consolation to us to be able to honour the memory of MaZikalala. I thank her family for erecting this tombstone and for inviting the IFP to be present, as her extended family.
While I sadly cannot be there in person, it is right that my tribute be brought to you by the President of the IFP, the Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa, for this expresses not only my gratitude for the late Mrs Zikalala, but that of the entire Party. Mrs Zikalala was our stalwart and a mother to many of us. She was a leader whom I described as our Rock of Gibraltar. Indeed, she was a great oak within our Party, giving shelter to many.
When I first met Mrs Zikalala, she was a young teacher working on the East Rand in the then Transvaal. She was a member of what was known as the Zulu Royal Guards, who dignified occasions whenever His Majesty the King visited. The Guards were predominantly male, but Mrs Zikalala graced their company. Thus I met her when I accompanied my cousin, His Majesty King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, on his visits to Gauteng.
From the start, I had a high regard for Mrs Zikalala, for she had some wonderful attributes even at that young age. She had tremendous empathy and was very direct, speaking her mind quite openly. She was an exceptional mediator as well, which would be a blessing to us all in what was to come.
When I founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe in 1975, Mrs Zikalala was among the first to join us, serving as our Chairperson on the East Rand. She developed strong relationships with our people, both in the townships as well as in the hostels, and gained the respect of all our members. She worked closely with Izinduna, and became someone to whom our people looked for wisdom and assistance.
It is not surprising that when the ANC’s strategy of People’s War was turned against Inkatha in the eighties and early nineties, Mrs Zikalala found herself at the forefront of our petitions for peace. She played the role of mediator and peacemaker, securing the lasting respect not only of our own members, but of the leaders of the ANC.
In fact, to the end of her days she was held in the highest regard by the ANC Women’s League. She interacted with them also as a member of the National Executive Committee of the IFP Women’s Brigade. This was but one of the high offices she held in our Party, for she was a member of National Council and Chairperson of the Provincial Women’s Brigade in Gauteng. She was one of our delegates to the CODESA talks and a member of the Wits-Vaal Peace Accord.
Her work on behalf of our people, to serve their needs and secure good governance, made her an excellent representative of the people in the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly. Accordingly, when we achieved democracy, the IFP made her one of our candidates to serve in the National Parliament of South Africa. When we won more than two million votes in 1994, the Hon. Mrs Connie Zikalala joined me and 41 of our colleagues in the National Assembly.
Throughout her life Mrs Zikalala was a tower of strength to our Party, not only in Gauteng and in the Women’s Brigade, but to the IFP as a whole. Throughout the ups and downs of the IFP she remained steadfast and provided excellent counsel to us all, and to me in particular. There was never a problem in which Mrs Zikalala did not play a mediating role. She was a great peacemaker.
Even after she retired, and even when she became unwell, she remained a source of wisdom to us all. Our members, especially in Gauteng, looked up to her for her wisdom and advice. I know how much it cost her husband and her children to lend her to us all for so many years. I just do not have the words to thank them for allowing her to give so much to the IFP and to the service of our nation.
To Mrs Zikalala herself, I could never explain the depth of my grateful. Her contribution was one of the great blessings of my life. Having people of her calibre serving alongside me made it possible to give my all to South Africa. It is no exaggeration to say that she helped shape history. We are forever grateful for her life.
As we remember her today, I want to assure her family that Mrs Zikalala will continue to be remembered. Her name is etched in prominent letters among the outstanding leaders of our nation. It is painful, still, to look at the Party without her. But, because of her, we can courageously keep going in the knowledge that it is all worthwhile.