Debate on the State of the Nation Address

Feb 13, 2024 | Press Releases

Remarks By
The Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

Cape Town City Hall: 13 February 2024


Honourable Speaker; Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP; Your Excellency the President; Honourable Members.

As I speak in this debate, I feel the absence of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Founder of the IFP and South Africa’s trusted voice of reason. For twenty-nine years, Prince Buthelezi spoke in this debate, giving us the real state of the nation.

In honour of his leadership, let me echo his final warning to the ANC.

He quoted from the very first State of the Nation Address to a democratic South Africa, when Madiba said –

“The government I have the honour to lead… is inspired by the single vision of creating a people-centred society… (free) from want, hunger, deprivation, ignorance, suppression and fear.”

Three decades later, that vision has disappeared. As Prince Buthelezi told us: “If the promise of South Africa is truly still alive, it is thanks to the resilience of our people. But how far is this Government willing to test our resilience? They are playing a dangerous game.”

I am afraid, Honourable President, that one year after this sober warning, our people’s resilience is gone. Every day, in every corner of our country, our people live with the instinctive understanding that what is being done to them by this Government is wrong.

We have felt this feeling before.

My generation grew up with a government that showed nothing but contempt for the struggling people of South Africa. We entered democracy full of hope for change. And in those first years of a government for the people, of the people, by the people, we were finally going in the right direction.

As a Government of National Unity tore down every discriminatory law and replaced it with what is good and fair and just, we believed that South Africa would continue moving from strength to strength.

We witnessed how Prince Buthelezi, as the Minister of Home Affairs, tabled landmark legislation that is widely considered the high-water mark of migration policy and law. We saw South Africa’s doors being opened to skills and investment, a balance being struck between human rights and national security, and our interests being aligned with our values and international obligations.

Under an IFP Minister of Correctional Services, our prisons became more than centres of punishment, on the principle that rehabilitation for safe reintegration into society is essential to stop the revolving door of crime.

Under an IFP Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the National Arts Council was birthed, and the Pan South African Language Board, the South African Heritage Resources Agency and the National Heritage Council. Technical colleges were supported to increase innovation among SMMEs, and the Women in Science Programme recruited young women to career paths in science and technology.

Between 1994 and 1999, when our country was led by a Government of National Unity – and KwaZulu-Natal was governed outright by the IFP – our country flourished.

Reviewing the first ten years of democracy, the International Monetary Fund said (and I quote) –
“…South Africa has made impressive gains in stabilizing the economy and laying a firm foundation for higher economic growth and a broad-based improvement in living standards. The public finances have been strengthened significantly, interest rates have been lowered, and inflation has been brought firmly under control… The rate of economic growth has more than doubled on average since the end of apartheid…”
(Close quotes)

Hon. President, that is the South Africa you would have us remember, But that South Africa no longer exists.

Twenty years into democracy, after the ANC had enjoyed unfettered power for ten years, the IMF’s review was far less glowing. They said (and I quote) –
“…living standards have improved substantially in the first twenty years of democracy. But in recent years the economy has underperformed peers. The outlook is lackluster, with low growth, high unemployment, and elevated twin deficits.”

Thirty years into democracy, the IMF could only shake its head and say –
“The country has faced rolling blackouts after years of mismanagement… The elevated public debt level—one of the highest among emerging markets—limits the government’s ability to…meet growing social and development needs… Persistently high food and energy prices have pushed up inflation… Stabilizing the country’s debt…will require reducing the government wage bill and transfers to state-owned enterprises.”

Now, listen closely, Honourable President, because this is where the lie is exposed.

You cannot point to 1994 as a measure of how far we have come under an ANC Government. Because the ANC did not govern this country alone between 1994 and 2004. The strong and stable democracy that was built from 1994 to 1999 was built by a Government of National Unity; a Government in which the IFP served. From 1999 to 2004, as the good work continued, the IFP remained in Cabinet.

It was only when the ANC gained unfettered power that governance began to falter. Let’s look at the facts.

After years of a negative growth rate, in 1994 South Africa’s GDP began growing at a steady pace under the Government of National Unity.

But then the ANC took power.

The President laments that the global financial crisis brought an end to a decade of strong growth. What he doesn’t mention is that, a decade after the global financial crisis, and even before Covid, our economy was still stagnant at a growth rate of just 0.26%.

We certainly did have nine wasted years under the ANC. But, after that, things only got worse. Since you took office, Honourable President, the Rand has weakened from R11.55 to the Dollar, to R18.63. We are poorer in every way from this presidency.

Over the last eight years, foreign investors have dumped South African stocks to the tune of R990 billion.

What about unemployment? Under a Government of National Unity, the unemployment rate decreased year upon year, every single year. Indeed, for ten years, while the IFP held seats in Cabinet, unemployment consistently decreased. But, over the next twenty years, with the ANC firmly in power, unemployment leapt by a staggering 15%.

And what about crime? For the first ten years of democracy, the crime rate decreased annually for 8 years out of 10.  By 1999, after five years of a Government of National Unity, crime had decreased by 11%.

Then, the ANC took full power. And by 2021, crime had increased by 23%.

The ANC is moving in the wrong direction.

Stop looking for a pen to sign the NHI Bill into law. The IFP supports universal health access. But the NHI is a recipe for disaster. Where will the funding come from? The Minister has already confirmed that Government does not have the funds to hire doctors. The NHI Bill has been overwhelmingly rejected by the healthcare sector, business and the opposition. Like Outcomes-Based Education, which handicapped our education system and had to be abandoned, the NHI will cripple our health sector.

This last SONA of the 6th administration was not about the South Africa we live in. South Africa is in crisis. Our country is in the autopilot mode, as President Mbeki confirmed.

Tintswalo’s story is not the story of today’s youth. Unlike Tintswalo, 41% of our youth is unemployed. Thousands of NSFAS beneficiaries are sitting at home with their degrees and diplomas, without jobs. Their dreams are fading away. Millions of children of democracy still live in shacks and informal settlements, with no clean water, toilets or refuse removal.

Their only connection to Tintswalo, is that she too sits vulnerable in the dark, on Stage 6 loadshedding.

The ANC’s failures are unforgivable. Consider what was achieved in just ten years under IFP Premiers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Under an IFP Premier, anti-retrovirals were rolled out free of charge for the first time, turning the tide on the HIV/Aids pandemic. The IFP set the trend for the whole country, enabling the Constitutional Court to instruct an ANC Government to do in South Africa what the IFP was doing in KZN.

That is how the IFP serves the vulnerable.

By contrast, in January 2023 the ANC fed millions of learners with rotting food because of corruption in the School Nutrition Programme. And they failed to distribute 48 000 blankets, despite procuring them fraudulently for R22 million. That is how the ANC treats the vulnerable.

Under an IFP Government, Ithala Bank provided loans to emerging farmers and entrepreneurs, funding countless small businesses. Under the ANC, Ithala Bank is closing.

Under an IFP Government, 279 202 houses were built in KwaZulu-Natal between 1994 and 2004. That is, on average, 404 more houses per month than was built by an ANC Government in its first ten years in KwaZulu-Natal. At the national level, twice as many houses were built in the first 9 years of democracy than were built by the ANC over the next 15 years.

So no, Honourable President, do not keep telling us what the ANC has done since 1994. Again, the ANC did not liberate South Africa nor build democracy alone.

But the ANC did, when given the chance, destroy the economy single-handedly. The ruling party did create the conditions for crime to flourish and for corruption to run rampant through the public service. You did cripple the education system and the healthcare system, destroying our hope of building our future.

The ANC and the ANC alone gave us State capture. The ANC gave us loadshedding. The ANC gave us “nine wasted years”. The ANC gave us close to 8 million unemployed citizens.

Let us not pull the wool over our people’s eyes and pretend that the ANC is the only party that can protect South Africa and do what is best for her. The ANC serves only the ANC. How many MPs and Ministers implicated in State capture have been taken to task?

Honourable President, you have put party before country. The damage done to South Africa is huge. Another five years under the ruling party is hard to contemplate. The IFP stands ready to be an alternative government to save South Africa. Honourable President, be ready for the change of government.

Honourable President, my generation grew up knowing the injustices of apartheid and witnessing how the IFP and a Government of National Unity put this country on the right path. If we had not seen the subsequent disaster of an ANC Government, you could perhaps have appealed to my generation for support.

But what do you do with the generation that grew up in the Mandela era, the ones who saw our country flourishing and moving in the right direction? Unlike Tintswalo, they are wholly disillusioned by the ANC, for they have lived through the destruction of our country at the hands of an ANC Government.

You are left, Honourable President, with the youth. How do you appeal to first time voters to vote for the ANC when they have grown up never knowing a country without loadshedding, never knowing an economy that was stable, an education system that worked, the hope of equitable land reform, or the possibility of work?

Do you tell them how far we have come since 1994? That is not good enough, and it’s not even truthful. The truth is that the 2024 SONA was empty of solutions. South Africa was rescued once before, when the electorate gave its mandate to the IFP to be part of government in 1994. Now, South Africa needs rescuing again. The IFP will stand with the people of South Africa to protect the remaining achievements of our democracy. It is now or never.

Let me close by quoting Madiba who said, in 1993, “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”

It truly is now or never. We did it in 1994. And the IFP is ready to do it in 2024. We will do it with our votes.

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