Telephonic interview on Freedom Day 2020 with Mr Stephen Grootes – Newzroom Afrika

Statement by
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi mp
Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party

27 april 2020


Let me begin by commending Newzroom Afrika for providing continuous and excellent news coverage during this difficult time. We recognise that it is not easy to do what you do under these new and often trying circumstances. Thank you to you, and also to your families, for the sacrifice you are making to bring us the information we need.

The celebration of Freedom Day today is done under circumstances that none of us could have imagined twenty-six years ago. In so many ways the freedoms we by now take for granted have been taken from us again; not by an oppressive government, but by a global pandemic. Indeed, in this case, government is the good guy, so to speak. It is our government that is providing the leadership we need to keep our people safe.

What we are facing in South Africa is being faced throughout the world. The medical, social and economic effects of Covid-19 are being felt by every nation. We are grateful that here, in South Africa, we have seen the kind of leadership that is needed in this crisis: a proactive leadership, working cohesively and focusing on the goal.

Of course, regardless of how proactive our leadership, if our people had not responded as quickly and as well as they did to what is required of us, our country would be in a dire predicament. I am tremendously proud of the way our nation has rallied under these unprecedented circumstances, heeding the instructions of the President and adhering to the regulations that have been put in place.

I admire how families and individuals have adjusted to staying at home, working from home and teaching their children. I admire how we have reached out over social media to connect with one another and offer support for those whose lives have been devastated by a lack of income during this time. It is wonderful to see the depth of ubuntu botho at work right now.

Because the truth is, that we are not all in the same boat. We are simply all in the same storm.

There are many whose livelihoods will not stay afloat. Many need help right now, and many more will need help before this is over. If there is one message I would give on Freedom Day 2020 it is this: “Help someone.” Give assistance on a grand scale if you are able, but if you can only help one person or one family, do it.

I am talking about material assistance. But I want to speak for a moment about other forms of assistance as well. Ask the people around you what they need. We are all struggling in some way with the trauma of isolation, fear of the future and personal anxieties. There is undoubtedly someone in your sphere of influence who needs a phone call, a word of encouragement and probably even a virtual shoulder to cry on.

In particular, now more than ever, we cannot turn a blind eye when we see evidence of domestic abuse. If you have a concern about anyone, contact the police or contact an organization that assists the vulnerable. We need to protect our women and children, our elderly and those living with disabilities. Everyone needs help in some form right now. That is why I say, again, “Help someone.”

I have been encouraged by the way South Africans are doing what we need to do to stay safe. We have seen through the media and heard through our leaders how people are complying with restrictions, and we applaud them. But sadly we have also seen pockets of non-compliance, where communities just seem to be going about their lives as usual, as though Covid-19 doesn’t exist.

I am shocked by the videos I have seen on social media of people, particularly in eThekwini, walking on the streets, visiting friends, ignoring the lockdown and disregarding the need for social distancing.

Every individual who makes the choice to place themself in harm’s way is endangering all of us. They are jeopardizing all our lives, because they are enabling Covid-19 to spread. Despite everything we do to flatten the curve, all our efforts can be defeated by the few who refuse to comply.

I just cannot fathom what people are thinking when they flout the rules of lockdown. It is a slap in the face to every South African who has lost their income, their business, and their freedom for the sake of our country’s survival. What more can we say or do to get everyone to comply?

It is embarrassing that civil disobedience is happening in eThekwini, when by and large our nation’s people are complying with the needs of lockdown. Perhaps we need the police and military to tighten the screws in this Province to ensure that people do not turn Durban into an epicenter of outbreak.

We are all endangered by irresponsible behaviour. I am struck, in fact, by the similarities between 1994 and 2020. While we were fighting for our freedom, our progress came on the back of individual sacrifices which, joined together, became a force for good. The same applies now as we fight Covid-19. It will take individual sacrifices from every South African to create a force great enough to overcome this.

Everyone needs to make their contribution, from acting responsibly to providing assistance.

On behalf of the IFP, I want to thank every healthcare worker and every worker providing essential services during this time. These are our great patriots. We need to honour them and support them. As we begin to move through the levels of lockdown, more and more people will make the transition from staying at home to returning to work. Although we will all breathe a sigh of relief, this will come will new anxieties and complications. We must educate ourselves on exactly what is allowed and what is not allowed, and we must stick to the regulations.

On a personal note, I must say how grateful I am for the time I have had with my son and my daughter-in-law, and with my grandson, during lockdown. The bonus of family time has been one of the unexpected positive spin-offs of this pandemic. In many ways, it has forced us to slow down, to re-evaluate and to think differently.

Today, as we contemplate our freedom, I think the idea has taken on a whole new meaning. Never before have we appreciated our freedom the way we do now. Sadly, we need to endure great hardship a little longer, so that we will have our freedom again.

I thank you.