BNC#6 – the 2024 Biznews Conference

Mar 12, 2024 | Press Releases

Address by the Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

Bringing Integrity Back to the Table:
The Value of Principled Leadership

Hermanus: 12 March 2024

It is a great pleasure for me to join my colleagues to speak to you in this influential forum. The IFP has engaged a vital conversation with South Africa. Through our participation here, at BizNews6, we hope to go deeper into that conversation, for the sake of our country.

I am mindful as I speak today that my session is book-ended by the Hon. Mr Steenhuisen, who has just spoken, and by Mr Mashaba, who will speak next. Both are my colleagues in the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.

We, the signatories in the Multi-Party Charter, intend to work together as a coalition government in 2024, bringing real and fundamental change to South Africa. The moment the electorate rejects a failed ANC government, which we – and countless experts – believe will happen on 29 May 2024, the Multi-Party Charter is ready to take over the reins of government and provide our country with the leadership it needs.

South Africa’s Constitution provides just 14 days in which to form a coalition government. That is why the signatories to the Multi-Party Charter have already committed, not merely to forming a government, but to the governance principles that will unpin our administration.

We as the leaders of signatory parties have been meeting consistently for many months, to find one another and to ensure stability in our working relationship. We are at an advanced stage of readiness, which will enable South Africa to be governed efficiently, justly and well, right from day one.

The Charter has already agreed on a high-level approach to the five most pressing crises in South Africa. Mr Steenhuisen, Mr Mashaba and I will in fact be together tomorrow for a joint press conference in one of the highest crime areas of the Western Cape. We will present a Charter Government’s approach to securing law and order, to end crime, corruption and drugs.

By presenting our shared approach, in advance, to growing the economy, ending the energy crisis, combatting crime, creating a professional public service, and delivering basic services, the Charter is enabling voters to know what they are getting when they vote for a Charter Party.

Having said that, however, each party within the Multi-Party Charter is contesting these elections individually. Our party logos will appear separately on the ballot paper, and a vote for the IFP will go to the IFP.

Each of our parties has its own brand, its own background, and its own set of offerings to the electorate in 2024. As leaders, we are campaigning for votes for our own party, because the relative strength of each party in the coalition government will determine the strength of our individual influence, as we collectively administer governance.

It thus matters a great deal whether the voter who wants a Charter Government votes for the IFP, for the DA, for the ACDP, the FF+, ActionSA or any of the other signatories. So Mr Steenhuisen, Mr Mashaba and I are unapologetically asking you today to vote for our party, rather than any of the others, because we all believe that our own party has something valuable to offer in the next Government of South Africa, and we all believe that our own contribution is the most valuable!

So my task here today is really to tell you why the IFP must become a dominant voice in the government of our country, at both provincial and national level.

I have chosen therefore to speak to you on the subject of principled leadership, and why South Africa needs to bring integrity back to the table.

The IFP is known as the Party of integrity. It has been our proudest, and most fiercely protected attribute: that the people of South Africa can Trust Us. We have provided a leadership of integrity for almost fifty years, through the liberation struggle and through thirty years of democracy. Inkatha may not be the oldest liberation movement, but we have long outlasted our struggle peers in terms of consistency of principle.

We have remained true to our foundational values, believing that integrity, servant leadership and accountability are vital to fulfilling the role we have been called upon to play in the political arena.

The IFP is therefore a known quantity. We have been tried and tested, and we have always proven ourselves worthy of trust.

It is easy for anyone to criticise government and to base their message on the failings of the ANC. Opposition parties are spoiled for choice when looking for a hook on which to hang our message that change is needed. A collapsing economy, an unstable energy supply, crippling debt, excessive violence, massive unemployment – it would be easy to campaign on the basis of what is wrong in our country.

But the IFP, even in opposition, has taken the role of a constructive opposition. We bring solutions to the crisis, rather than just a summary of our nation’s woes. We are able to identify solutions and know what will work, because the IFP has extensive experience in government.

Even before 1994, Inkatha administered government in the then KwaZulu for 19 years. In 1994, as South Africa entered democracy, the IFP became part of the Government of National Unity, on the basis of more than two million votes. For the first ten years of democracy, from 1994 to 2004, the IFP led the provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal. We held ministerial positions in the Cabinets of both President Mandela and President Mbeki.

The IFP has thus played a powerful role, not only in the liberation of our country, but in the transformation of the full body of policy and legislation, from a segregationist framework to a democratic, just and equitable framework for governance.

At every step along the way in this long journey of serving South Africa, the IFP has acted on principle and in the best interests of good governance.

We were known, at the constitutional negotiating table, as the champions of federalism – although I am sure our opponents had a more colourful way of describing the IFP’s obstinate insistence on the devolution of powers.

It was the IFP that insisted on the creation of Provinces. The IFP was alone in focussing on the form of State, insisting that it be discussed at the negotiating table; while the ANC and the National Party Government were merely concerned about the how and the when of the exchange of power. The IFP wanted to ensure that the South Africa we were shaping would not merely be politically free, but also socially just, economically viable, and administratively efficient.

The inclusion of Provinces in the Constitution of South Africa was ultimately a victory of the IFP. Because of the IFP, the position of provincial premiers was created. When the ANC’s Mr Tokyo Sexwale became the first Premier of Gauteng in 1994, he alluded to this bonus when he told the IFP: “We like your leader, because he shakes up the trees, and we pick up the apples.”

The IFP has never been afraid to stand on the side of principle, regardless of who it angers, and regardless of whether we benefit from the outcome. I am sure you all know that the IFP’s Founder, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was willing to sacrifice the IFP’s role in a democratic South Africa in order to have everyone represented at the constitutional negotiating table.

When the National Party Government came to accept that its oppressive system of government had no future, it approached Prince Buthelezi as the representative of the oppressed masses within South Africa, to begin bilateral negotiations towards a democratic settlement.

Prince Buthelezi was the established face of the liberation struggle within South Africa. Internationally, it was widely expected that he would become our country’s first black President – and I must add that this was widely welcomed, because Prince Buthelezi championed a free-market economy and opposed communism. He was seen as both rational and stubborn: two qualities one needs in a champion!

Had he entered into bilateral negotiations with the South African Government, on behalf of the disenfranchised majority, there is no doubt that Prince Buthelezi would have become the first President of a democratic South Africa.

But he declined to negotiate. Instead, he tabled a firm prerequisite to negotiations, demanding that first political parties must be unbanned, exiles must be allowed to return, and political prisoners must be released. Everyone should be brought to the negotiating table if we were to forge a truly democratic dispensation.

He dug his heels in, surrendering personal ambition, until eventually President FW de Klerk was forced to announce the release of Mandela and other political prisoners, and the unbanning of political parties. When he spoke in Parliament on the 2nd of February 1990 and announced this decision, President de Klerk thanked only Prince Buthelezi by name for having helped him reach the conclusion that this was the only way forward.

It was thus not surprising to us in the IFP that President Mandela, at the very first opportunity, appointed Prince Buthelezi Acting President of the Republic. Prince Buthelezi played that role more than 22 times over the subsequent ten years.

Interestingly, it is often the actions for which he was most vilified that point to his absolute integrity. In Parliament even now, when the ANC was irked by my response to the State of the Nation Debate, one of their Ministers tried to defame Prince Buthelezi for, as he put it, “invading Lesotho”.

In reality, this is what happened: President Mandela and Prince Buthelezi were together at the SADC Summit in Mauritius in 1998 when rumblings of a threatened coup d’état arose in Lesotho. To prevent the rising number of coups in Africa, SADC had resolved not to recognise any military juntas. As Chairperson of SADC, President Mandela was obliged to implement SADC’s resolutions.

But within hours he would be leaving for the United States, while Deputy President Mbeki would be in Singapore. Much to the chagrin of his Party, President Mandela appointed Prince Buthelezi as Acting President, which transferred onto Buthelezi both the role of Acting Chair of SADC and the obligation to implement SADC’s resolutions.

Prince Buthelezi acted with integrity. In constant consultation with Mandela, he engaged Botswana’s President Mogae; and when Prime Minister Mosisili and His Majesty King Letsie III called him to say that the coup was imminent, SADC soldiers from both Botswana and South Africa were mobilised.

Two years later, when King Letsie III got married, Prince Buthelezi was welcomed with African Heads of State at Maseru’s Setsoto Stadium. At the announcement of his presence, the Stadium shook with ululation and applause. Afterwards, during the VIP lunch, judges and businesspeople thanked him, saying: “You averted a bloodbath in Lesotho.”

Many times in his long political life, Prince Buthelezi must have thought back to the words of the esteemed Jordan Kush Ngubane, who wrote to him upon his appointment as Prime Minister to King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon. Ngubane warned Buthelezi with these words –

“I know you are going to make enemies; you will be misunderstood. And you might even find yourself disgraced. That is the lot of those who build the new Africa.”

Every leader in the IFP draws inspiration from Prince Buthelezi. He modelled integrity in leadership, and was absolutely firm in keeping corruption out of our Party and out of our politics. He would not tolerate any abuse of power, no matter how insignificant, throughout the almost three decades in which the IFP administered governance.

When we entered democracy in 1994, the IFP asked South Africa to consider our track record. There had been not a whiff of corruption for 19 years in the governance of KwaZulu. What the IFP had done, however, was build more than 6 000 schools, countering Bantu Education, and giving our children more places of learning than exist even today in KwaZulu-Natal.

The IFP, through its governance of KwaZulu, had provided hospitals, clinics, police stations, and a professional public service, laying the foundation for a new Government in 1994. We had established the KwaZulu Finance and Investment Corporation, through which we built KwaZulu’s industrial base and provided black South Africans with the financial services and seed capital to buy farms, start businesses, build houses, and become financially independent.

We had established the Mangosuthu University of Technology to provide vocational training that would enable disenfranchised youth to participate in the labour market and find jobs. We had collaborated with business, attracted international investment, and founded iThala Bank.

We had pursued a form of broad-based economic empowerment, that invested in business projects in the townships.

We had provided South Africa’s first social grant to protect vulnerable and indigent families. We had created South Africa’s first Department of Nature Conservation, embracing government’s responsibility to sustain environmental health long before the conservation conversation even started.

And we had placed the communal land of the Zulu Kingdom into a Trust, to keep it in the hands of the people, when communal land across South Africa was set to automatically transfer into the hands of the State in 1994. Today, State-owned land is under-utilised and under-developed, while the land under the Ingonyama Trust supports millions of people and remains the most economically accessible land in KwaZulu-Natal.

Thus the IFP entered democracy with a powerful track record of effective governance. And we didn’t stop there.

Through our governance of KwaZulu-Natal between 1994 and 2004, and through our impact in the Government of National Unity, the IFP expanded its track record a thousand-fold. At last, we had the resources of a democratic government to run the programmes and projects that were so sorely needed for development and the empowerment of our people.

But resources alone are not enough to govern effectively. The necessary and sufficient condition for effective governance, is integrity.

As I close, let me give you an example of where the IFP acted with integrity in its governance of KwaZulu-Natal, in sharp contrast to the lack of integrity on the same issue by an ANC-led Government.

In 2002, the HIV/Aids pandemic was a deadly crisis in Southern Africa. KwaZulu-Natal had the highest prevalence of transmissions, yet South Africa’s Government was in its period of Aids denialism. The President was publicly claiming no link between HIV and Aids, while his Minister of Health was advocating the African Potato, garlic and beetroot as a remedy. Hundred of thousands of lives were lost because government was led by the ANC.

The Government of KwaZulu-Natal, however, was led by the IFP. Our IFP Premier, Dr LHPM Mtshali, undertook to find the most effective treatment and roll it out to everyone who needed it.

What he learned was that a single dose of the antiretroviral drug, Nevirapine, administered to a mother just before giving birth, and then to her newborn baby, effectively stopped mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids.

Immediately, the IFP’s Government rolled out Nevirapine to all clinics across KwaZulu-Natal. It was free, it was accessible, and it worked. The tide was turned on the HIV/Aids pandemic, and today the outcome of this single intervention is lauded as South Africa’s greatest success story in the fight against Aids.

But the ANC’s Government would not follow suit. Their MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zweli Mkhize, actually took our Premier to court, trying to stop him from instructing the roll out of antiretrovirals. But the Premier’s authority was upheld.

Then the ANC declared in the Constitutional Court that it was impossible to roll out antiretrovirals on a large scale. They claimed that it couldn’t be done, absolving them from the responsibility of doing it.

But the IFP was doing it in KwaZulu-Natal, the hardest hit province for HIV/Aids; and we were doing it efficiently with spectacular results. Our Premier was able to join the Constitutional Court case and present evidence that it was not only possible to save lives, it was already being done by the IFP.

On that basis, the ConCourt was able to instruct the ANC Government to do nationally what the IFP was doing in KwaZulu-Natal. They were forced to comply with their constitutional obligation to save lives.

So what stands between South Africa and another failed government in 2024? The answer is a leadership of integrity. We need, above all, to bring the principled leadership of the IFP into the new Government of South Africa. We need to strengthen that voice that says no to the abuse of power, even when we are the ones wielding it.

We need a strong IFP within the coalition, to ensure that principle and integrity remain at the core of our country’s next Government.

That is what the IFP brings to the table. Experience. Integrity. Principle.

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