Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The news dominating the airwaves this week has surely been the wedding of Vega and Aakash, who were married yesterday in Sun City. The furore was created by the fact that this was a Gupta family wedding, coupled with the controversy over a plane of guests being granted permission to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base, which is a military airbase at which commercial planes may not land.
The links between the Gupta family and the first family of South Africa are well known. Thus many people assumed that permission for the plane to land at a military airbase was granted straight from the top, as a favour to friends. It seems, however, that this was not the case.
The full story behind this incident will certainly need to be investigated for, as political analyst Steven Friedman has pointed out, this is perceived by the public as another abuse of power and state resources.
For the sake of transparency, I wish to place on record my own attendance of the wedding, by personal invitation. I was invited to attend the three day celebration, which encompassed Workers’ Day on Wednesday. As one does with invitations to weddings, I wished to honour the invitation. But I was only able to set aside one day to attend.
I therefore flew, with my aides, from King Shaka International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport, from where we drove, unescorted, to Sun City.
The cost of the flights was paid for by the IFP, as was the cost of the cars. I joined the many guests to witness the marriage ceremony yesterday, and then returned to Durban, via OR Tambo again, again at the cost of the IFP.
One aspect of this wedding that few media outlets are mentioning, is that it was a beautiful celebration. As weddings go, this one spoke not only of wealth, but of love, hope and community spirit. The colours and the music, and the constant enthusiasm of family and friends, made this a joyful celebration for the young couple, and all their guests.
For me, it was a refreshing moment away from the hurly burly of politics, despite being in the company of Ministers and political figures. I particularly enjoyed a conversation I had with one of the first ladies, Mrs Bongi Ngema-Zuma, as we shared a table throughout yesterday’s ceremony.
We spoke in depth about her work through the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation, which raises awareness around Diabetes. I must say that I have great admiration for what she is doing. I am deeply impressed by her commitment to fighting the escalating incidence of Diabetes, a passion she shares with the first lady of Zambia.
The hospitality shown by the Gupta family was exceptional. I have no doubt that the bride and groom have been launched into their life together with the full assurance that their union is supported by their families and the people they love.
If I think of my own marriage, which has endured for almost 61 years, I realise that the support of family for our union was of paramount importance. I will remain forever grateful to my mother, Princess Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu, for welcoming my wife, Princess Irene, into our family and for being such a support to her for many years. My wife and I have been blessed with a supportive family.
There has, of course, been pressure placed on me over the years, though not from my immediate family, to take another wife, as is the custom among Zulu men, particularly of royal descent. But although I am proudly Zulu and honour my royal lineage, as the grandson of King Dinuzulu ka Cetshwayo, I am first and foremost a Christian. I have therefore shared my life with one wife, who has given me the privilege of sharing her life with me.
Sadly, as she is no longer in the best of health, Princess Irene is not able to travel with me and thus does not attend functions like yesterday’s wedding. But she remains wonderfully supportive and encourages me as I continue to serve my nation, whether in Parliament or in our own community.
My wife has taught me many valuable lessons in life. Although she trained to become a nurse, when we married she dedicated herself to raising our eight children, supporting my demanding career, and doting on our grandchildren.
In some ways, her calling has been more demanding than mine!
Watching her raise our children, I learned that work is not defined by an income, or office hours. There are many people within our society who work extremely hard, yet are not formally employed.
This is why I have often said that Workers’ Day is not only for the workers who bring home a salary, but for everyone who productively participates in building our society through their own effort; whether that be by looking after children in the neighbourhood whose parents are unable to be there, or by accompanying an elderly person to a pension pay-point, or a sick neighbour to the clinic.
There are many heroes in our midst who contribute to building a healthier, safer, happier society, but do so without financial compensation or reward.
We need to honour these individuals, and ask how we too can do more, not because of what we can get out of it, but because the more we put into it, the better life will be for all of us. This is the spirit of Ubuntu botho.
In that spirit, on Freedom Day 2013, I joined more than a hundred leaders of industry, business, politics and other spheres, in signing a Citizens’ Charter for responsible citizenship. Together we committed to certain basic principles, such as respecting the identity of South Africans from cultures different to our own, to not buying stolen goods or sheltering criminals. We also agreed to increase our active contribution towards job-creation, environmental protection, education, crime-prevention or any other area of responsible citizenship.
I want to encourage you to commit to these same values, because each of us makes South Africa richer, or poorer, through our own actions. It is not only those in full time employment who contribute to our country. Every individual living in South Africa has an impact on their family, their community, their society.
You may think there are not many people within your own sphere of influence.
But everyone you come in contact with will be affected by how you relate to them. So, in the spirit of Ubunto botho, let us spread hope and kindness in whatever we do. In this way, we all become workers, for we all become part of building social cohesion in our nation.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP