Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As we celebrate national Women's Day, our thoughts turn to the women who make their contribution to South Africa every day, quietly, without fanfare or applause. These women are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our aunts.
These women work hard, whether they are formally employed or not, for it often falls to them to cook and clean and raise children. South Africa's women, by and large, do fulfil a traditional role. Some not only cook the food, but also grow the food, tilling and planting and harvesting. Or they work informally to buy the food and ensure that there is a meal on the table not only for themselves, but for the whole family.
Poverty is widespread in our country, and it places an unjust burden on women as they struggle to keep their families fed, clothed and educated. As they fight to overcome these daily challenges, there is not always enough time or energy left to impart a sound value system to children, never mind sit together to do homework, pray or discuss character.
I was moved by Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's words in her book "491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69" about the anguish of mothers who waged the liberation struggle, giving their all to the cause of freedom. During that time, many children were caught up in criminal activities because their parents were not there, or not available, to guide them. Mrs Madikizela-Mandela writes that activist parents whose children did not turn to crime often fell to their knees and thanked God.
Today's struggle is not against political oppression, but it is no less brutal or demanding. The struggle against poverty has left many children without adequate guidance and has exposed many children to despair, criminality, broken relationships and abuse. Today, parents who are fighting the hardships of poverty and unemployment still thank God when their children make good choices.
On national Women's Day, let us salute the women who are ploughing into the next generation. Let us thank those who are keeping children fed and clothed, whether they work for a care centre, for vulnerable children in their community, or for their own grandchildren. Let us honour those who are giving children what they need to make good choices: values, faith and love.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela has often been called "The mother of our nation". I was impressed by her candour in "491 Days", which contains her prison journal, kept in secret, during her sixteen months' detention between May 1969 and September 1970. It also contains letters written by her husband, Nelson Mandela, from his cell on Robben Island, to her, to their daughters Zenani and Zindzi, and others in their family.
One letter, written to my wife, Princess Irene Buthelezi on the 3rd of August 1969, reveals the closeness of our friendship. Mandela wrote, "I feel mighty and strong and confident because of the good wishes and messages of solidarity that have come from my trusted friends, among whom I am privileged to include you and the Chief… Always remember that I highly value my association with your family and that I hold the Chief in esteem. My fondest regards to you all… (and) many thanks to the Chief for his inspiring message."
In the epilogue, Mrs Madikizela-Mandela honours the great liberation leaders like Mr Walter Sisulu and Inkosi Albert Luthuli. She recalls cooking for them in the Mandelas' house in Orlando, and writes, "I even used to cook for Gatsha Buthelezi when he would come with the King of the Zulus and they would have dialogues with Tata (Mandela) through the night… Buthelezi was going to use Inkatha to fight apartheid from within. That is why originally the colours of Inkatha were the colours of the ANC. He was one of the greatest fighters in his day and he was entrusted, with Matanzima, with fighting the system from within.
And that is what people do not know."
It is rare to find this kind of unadulterated truth in today's political environment, where spin dominates, particularly so close to a national election.
So this week has been quite remarkable for candour.
On Tuesday, the ANC in KwaZulu Natal released a press statement that left no room for misinterpreting the state of the relationship between the ANC and the NFP. This is the relationship that was announced in 2011, with a statement by the ANC KZN, in the following glowing terms –
"…we have come to the conclusion that our respective parties share the same values, desires and vision for the future of the people of this province… this relationship is not based on political whims…
The two parties commit themselves in this working relation for the entire term...
(This) heralds a new beginning for cooperation, tolerance and peaceful future of our province and its people. Both the Leadership of our parties are committed to the values of good governance, passion for community development and leadership integrity. This is the bedrock upon which our relationship has been founded…"
Two years into this five year term of cooperation, the ANC KZN has now released a less glowing statement -
"The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is outraged by the fallacious statement by the NFP that it has been joined by some ANC members at eNkandla and eSikhawini. (This is) nothing but a hogwash informed by opportunistic paranoia and desperate efforts by its President Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi to get media coverage. There is no right-minded member who can leave the ANC to join a soon-to-die party.
The NFP is just a fledging organisation which is desperately yet unsuccessfully trying to position itself… It has nothing in common with the ANC…
The so called leadership of the NFP, if it does fit the definition of leadership, goes around fundraising and renting people from the streets… This conduct of Mrs Magwaza-Msibi clearly demonstrates that she sees the people as nothing more than a political market...
Let us educate Mrs Magwaza-Msibi to understand that organisations are not built through lies and media… The NFP in reality is an event and a short-term show existing through media parades."
Next year's elections are set to be an interesting time.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP