Provincial Elective Conference Of
The IFP Women’s Brigade In Kwazulu Natal
“Restoring Strength To The IFPWomen’s Brigade
As The Active Driver Of Our Future”
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
National Chairperson of the IFP Women’s Brigade, the Hon. Mrs kaMadlopha Mthethwa MPL; Members of the IFP National Council; Members of the Women’s Brigade Provincial Council and the Provincial Executive Committee; representatives of the District Executive Committees and Constituency Executive Committees; delegates from the various branches of the Women’s Brigade across this province; public representatives in KwaZulu Natal; delegates from SADESMO; and all our champions in the fight for freedom.
When we laid the foundation of this Party in March 1975, we knew that women would be the backbone of the IFP. We chose leaders from among our women and empowered them with training and support. Those leaders raised up more leaders, and the strength of our Women’s Brigade grew. From the very start, Inkatha’s Women’s Brigade was the driver of political activism, community development, and the fight for freedom.
Today, the IFP Women’s Brigade in KwaZulu Natal will elect a new crop of leaders, and these women will lead us into the Local Government Elections in 2016. They will carry on their shoulders the responsibility of the future, and the legacy of the past. It will be up to them not only to maintain the strength of the Women’s Brigade in KwaZulu Natal, but to revive the Women’s Brigade as a whole. For the tragic truth is that the Women’s Brigade of today is not what it was or what it should be.
Over the years, our conferences have provided a showcase for the talents and skills of women. Whenever we gathered to discuss the issues of our country, we were inspired by a display of the crafts, vegetables and handiwork of our women. It reminded us of the founding principles of Inkatha: self-help and self-reliance. It renewed our faith in the knowledge that we are able to change our own circumstances through our own efforts.
But these days we see very little of this. Although our women are still working hard, in the fields, at home, in shops and factories, in classrooms and community centres, that work seems to happen behind the scenes. I want to celebrate the women of the IFP. I want people to see your talents, your work ethic and your ingenuity. I want to see people inspired by you, for many of you are deeply inspiring. Not because you run a company or head a boardroom, but because you face everyday hardships and still maintain a spirit of faith and goodwill.
There is undeniable strength in our women. I therefore believe that the foremost challenge and the greatest priority for the leaders you elect today will be the revival of the IFP Women’s Brigade.
With this in mind, I ask you to choose carefully. Consider not only who is best equipped to lead, but who is most dedicated to the restoration of our Party. The leaders you elect today must bring unity to the KwaZulu Natal Women’s Brigade. The most damaging thing you can do at this conference would be to create or entrench camps.
Camps and slates are foreign to the IFP, for the IFP is founded on the principles of unity, cohesiveness and democracy. Voting according to a slate is in fact antithetical to democracy, for it leaves no space for a free and fair election where people vote according to their conscience. Slates and camps have had a devastating effect on other parties, creating weakness and discontent. We dare not dip our toes in this turbulent water, for the current is merciless and it will sweep us away.
Our greatest hope for a strengthened Women’s Brigade is unity. This election must reflect the will of our rank and file members, not the selfish ambitions of a few. It must be democratic and it must be free and fair. The leaders that emerge from this election must be leaders that unite, include, and draw together, so that our work to strengthen the backbone of the IFP will be conducted in harmony.
The long-term future of our Party will be decided in this venue, for our next step will determine whether we are going forward, or backwards. As we march towards a Local Government Election, we must be aware of the enormous competition we face from outside. We know that the ANC is still hell-bent on destroying us. We know that the DA has already overtaken us as the official opposition in KwaZulu Natal. We know that the EFF is preying on the most vulnerable, channelling our people’s frustration into far-fetched dreams and angry rhetoric. We also know that the NFP is desperate to survive; and a desperate creature is a dangerous one.
These elections are going to be tough. There will be fraud. There will be manipulation. There will be excessive expenditure to buy people’s votes. There will also be slogans, mudslinging and increased social upheaval. In the midst of this, we need to position ourselves as an anchor and a lighthouse, so that people will know where to come to hear the truth. The IFP must be a sanctuary in the political turmoil; not because we are passive, but because we are consistent, honest and unified.
In this, as in any other election, women will be more active and more involved. It is a simple fact that most of our votes come from women. When we hold rallies and meetings, those who attend are predominantly women. When we call for volunteers, it is women who respond. There is a unique strength in women that calls them to give and to serve selflessly. That is the greatest asset of the IFP.
Just as the majority of our support comes from women, so too do the majority of our votes come from KwaZulu Natal. Thus the IFP Women’s Brigade in this province is key to the strength of our whole Party. It is from this structure that revival must come. And the primary way to achieve that, is through branches, branches, branches.
This is the clarion call of the IFP. We know that wherever our branches are active and strong, votes flow in. And wherever our branches or weak or passive, support dwindles. Focussing on branches is an established political strategy, not just in the IFP, but in all political parties, for branches are where people build relationships and become involved. It is in branches that people decide who they are going to vote for.
Moreover, the work of political mobilisation and recruitment is accomplished largely by branches, which are converted into election committees whenever we enter a campaign. I spoke earlier about leaders raising up other leaders. That happens in branches. It doesn’t happen in Parliament or provincial legislatures, or even municipal councils. It happens in communities, through branch activities, as women work together for a common good.
Thus, if you want to become a leader, you need to get more deeply involved in a branch. And if you are already a leader, you need to be expressing your leadership in a branch. Every one of us, wherever we exercise our role, must be actively and consistently involved in branch work. We will know that this goal is being achieved when branches begin to grow and multiply.
Another vital function of branches which we cannot underestimate is their capacity to empower women through shared projects and activities. The reality of today’s South Africa is extremely harsh for the majority of our women. We may have entrenched gender equality and human rights, and secured political enfranchisement. But we as a nation have yet to achieve freedom from poverty, unemployment and economic inequalities.
Let us speak frankly. South Africa is in crisis. Our economy is failing to grow, and the needs are by far outpacing the resources. What we do have is often redirected from what it is supposed to achieve, into someone’s pocket. Corruption, mismanagement, incompetence, and a simple lack of ethics, are paralysing the civil service, so that government fails to deliver. On top of this, we are faced with drought and increasing water shortages. We face electricity shortages. Indeed, the only place where money never seems to run dry, is in the election campaigns of the ANC.
Far from eradicating poverty, South Africa is seeing poverty increase. Far from creating jobs, we are seeing job losses. This sounds a warning of greater hardship to come. Those leaving school now are going to struggle to enter the work force, but next year’s matriculants may have it harder, and the next harder still, unless we do something now to avert this crisis.
We are not helpless. It may seem impossible to influence the national economic policies of our government, but those of us in Parliament and the Legislatures are working hard to do that. What is possible, for all of us, is reconnecting to the heart of the IFP, and looking again at how we can make self-help and self-reliance the solution to economic hardship. We put bread on the table under apartheid. We can do it under the present economic crisis.
I therefore urge the branches of the IFP Women’s Brigade to focus their attention on what can be done at community level to generate income. Cooperatives, vegetable gardens, community savings and small businesses need to be revived on a grand scale. School-leavers and high school learners must be drawn in, so that they may begin to create something solid for the future.
Imagine a community in which people help one another, in which everyone takes pride in seeing their neighbour well-fed, in which the safety of children is the responsibility of everyone, in which sowing and harvesting is a shared activity, and where everyone makes a contribution according to their ability.
They key to this is for every individual to accept responsibility for themselves, and responsibility for others. We are indeed our sisters’ keeper. We cannot allow anyone to go hungry, or quietly suffer abuse, or sink into a dangerous lifestyle. We cannot stand back while a sister stumbles. We must take hands and walk together.
This is the strength of the IFP Women’s Brigade. It is for this reason that I emphasise unity.
As you engage discussions at this conference, I encourage you to look beyond the single agenda item of elections. There are issues of national importance that must be discussed. Who will lead our women is only one part of the question. The direction they will lead in must also be decided. In this way, the provincial Women’s Brigade will walk together in one direction, with one goal. Empowered and united, this structure will be revived.
My greatest hope is to see the proud results of revival in my own lifetime.