Keynote Address By Hon. VF Hlabisa MPL IFP President and Leader of the Official Opposition In the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature

May 1, 2023 | Press Releases

Good morning to all who have joined us here today, as we commemorate Workers’ Day.

I wish to say a special “thank you” to the community of Mandeni for this warm welcome.

I bring you greetings from His Excellency, the Prince of KwaPhindangene. Earlier, we paid a visit to iSithebe Industrial Park, a site Prince Buthelezi was instrumental in establishing. When he was Chief Minister of KwaZulu in the 1980s, many factories were brought to the area, as part of economic development under his administration.

Sadly, I know that iSithebe in the years after the IFP, does not have a good story to tell. There were the devastating riots in 2016, where 20 000 people – mostly from the surrounding areas, lost their jobs. As we well know, this does not end with 20 000 jobs: the loss of income is felt by 20 000 families, which means easily 100 000 people would have been left to go to bed hungry.

Then, five years later, when those businesses brave enough to return had managed to re-establish themselves and provide new job opportunities, KwaZulu-Natal was again shattered by the violence and destruction of the 2021 unrest. Mandeni was not spared. After days of looting and protest action, the damage was great. Reports indicate that hundreds of jobs were lost, and again, hundreds of families left to suffer.

In times of economic crisis, it is most often the small and medium-sized business, or the entrepreneurs, that are forced to close their doors, and to let their staff go.

I believe Workers’ Day is a day of reflection, rather than a day of celebration.

This is especially true as we gather here on Workers’ Day in 2023. South Africa’s economy is in crisis. There is little growth, and few opportunities. Yes, we can – and must – remember the role that the working class plays in our society today, and the role that the unions and the working class played during the dark days of apartheid.

However, I believe it is also important to recognise the impact of not being able to work, of not being able to find a job and provide for oneself and one’s family, and how it effects a person’s dignity.

The dignity of black South Africans was crushed under apartheid, but where do we stand now, in this ‘new South Africa’?

It is 29 years since South Africa became a constitutional democracy. However, although our people are now free to vote, have freedom of movement and are all equal in the eyes of the law, economic freedom has not been achieved.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate stood at 32.7%. According to the same report, at the end of last year, South Africa had 7.8 million persons who were without work, looking for work and available to work, of which 6.1 million were in long-term unemployment and 1.7 million in short-term unemployment.

How can we measure this? Are we making progress as a nation? Let us look back to the start of our democracy. According to Statistics South Africa, in 1994, the official unemployment rate was 20.0%.

Since the ruling party has been in government, unemployment has grown steadily, with the percentage of unemployed people having almost doubled over the past 29 years.

In 1994, one in five people were without work, but in 2023, it is now one in every three people unable to feed their families.

The state of Mandeni gives us a bird’s eye view of the challenges faced by South Africa as a whole, much of which has only become worse under the ruling party.

It is not for me to come and tell you, the residents of Mandeni, about the challenges you face on a daily basis. However, according to the Municipality’s Annual Report, your local government admits it struggles and faces risks in the following areas, which include, among others:

  • Poor maintenance of roads and storm water channels;
  • Failure to ensure reliable and adequate supply of electricity within municipal distribution license area;
  • Failure to attract and retain investors;
  • Failure to ensure reliable and equitable provision of houses; Inability to eradicate Human Settlement backlogs;
  • Stagnant rate of housing delivery and development;
  • Lack of municipal cemeteries and failure to maintain existing cemeteries;
  • Failure to ensure sustainable waste management solutions;

The people of Mandeni deserve so much more.

According to the 2016 Census, there were approximately 150 000 people living in Mandeni. I am sure this has increased over the past seven years. At that time, two out of every three people were of working age, being between the ages of 15 and 64. This means that about 100 000 people in Mandeni were of working age and needing employment. Again, I am sure these numbers would have increased for 2023.

Therefore, for the Mayor of Mandeni Municipality to announce proudly in their most recent Annual Report, of 2021/22, that they created 821 infrastructure-related jobs, and another 823 education-related jobs through LED/EPWP initiatives, is nowhere near enough.

Mandeni needs many thousands of jobs.

It is also of serious concern that according to the same Annual Report, the Municipality recorded over R1 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the last financial year, and there also appears to be over R10 million in irregular expenditure, which was written off.

How many jobs could Mandeni Municipality have created with R11 million?

The Auditor-General also noted that the “Provincial Department of Human Settlements together with the municipality is investigating allegations of fraudulent acts”, while the “Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs is investigating allegations of maladministration, fraud and corruption covering the period 29 September to 30 June 2020”.

None of this inspires confidence in the current leadership’s ability to manage finances properly, or to provide services and create much-needed jobs.

It is also concerning to note that the ‘iLembe District Family of Municipalities’, which Mandeni forms part of, launched the iLembe District Municipality Fraud Hotline Service in June last year.

The reason for this hotline? It was launched “in an effort to stop the widespread corruption activities in government.”

If I understand this correctly, the iLembe District, including Mandeni Municipality, has such a widespread problem with corruption that they needed to create a hotline.

This is not something to be proud of. Further, how much has been invested in this hotline, again, that could have been used for job creation or entrepreneurship programmes?

Unlike the ruling party, who also govern here in Mandeni Municipality, the IFP is a party committed to good governance. We do not tolerate corruption in any form.

We do not need to launch anti-corruption hotlines in IFP-led municipalities.

On this point, I must repeat what I said to the nation after the 2021 Local Government Elections: “We are serious about running clean municipalities… Jobs for pals is out. Tender fraud is out. Mismanagement and wasteful expenditure are definitely out. Consequence management will be the order of the day. We will not tolerate a hint of corruption.”

The IFP believes in leadership that is accountable to the people that they serve. This is why we hand-pick people who, we believe, will serve their community with integrity. Each IFP Councillor signs a Contract of Good Governance, wherein they, among others, make a commitment to accountability, integrity and to uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law. They also commit to saying “no” to any and all forms corruption.

These are not empty promises.

The IFP has a proud legacy of servant leadership and good governance, personified in the IFP’s Founder and President Emeritus, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

As President of the IFP, I – and all other members of the IFP’s leadership – have spent decades working with and learning from him.

The IFP exists as a political party to serve the people of South Africa, and to do so in the spirit of ubuntu/botho. Our primary purpose is to serve. We contest elections and we seek power in order to serve the people by addressing their needs.

The IFP are the servants, not the masters, of the people.

Further, unlike the ruling party, the IFP is a party with decisive leadership.

Although we strive to appoint fit and proper people to leadership roles, there are, at times, issues that arise. However, if an IFP councillor or representative is found to be guilty of any form of mismanagement or improper behaviour, they are suspended with immediate effect, and removed from their positions of leadership. We believe that everyone is equal before the law, and if they have broken the law, they must face the consequences.

Unlike the ruling party, we do not allow individuals who are clothed in controversy, and worse, that have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law, to continue to hold positions of authority.

I believe that the people of South Africa are tired of paying the price for the mistakes of the ruling party.

Their mistakes are costing South Africans their livelihoods.

Look at Eskom. How many hours have you been without power this past week: that is, those of you who have the necessary infrastructure installed to get electricity at home? The IFP has been raising the issue of Eskom with government since 2008, but our cries have fallen on deaf ears.

In February, President Ramaphosa announced that he was appointing a Minister of Electricity to focus on – and resolve – the power crisis. That was almost three months ago, and we have yet to see anything of substance. Even worse, instead of trimming his Cabinet, President Ramaphosa has added yet another Ministry to the public wage bill.

This means millions of rands have been spent to give one man – Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa – a job.

How many job opportunities could have been created using the budget allocated to this new Ministry? Ten? One hundred? One thousand?

We must also consider the fact that Eskom already has two Ministers – the Minister of Public Enterprises and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy – that should, in all fairness, take responsibility for this crisis.

As the IFP, we are deeply concerned at how the ruling party manages the country’s finances. In 2020/21, government recorded R3.21 billion in unauthorised expenditure, R1.72 billion in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and R166.85 billion irregular expenditure.

In the words of the Auditor-General, “Government cannot afford to lose money because of poor decision-making, neglect, or inefficiencies. However, high levels of unauthorised, irregular, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure caused government to lose R171,76 billion in 2020-21.”

These huge sums of money are nothing to government, yet millions of South Africans are forced to survive on R350 a month. This is almost less than half of the R663 a month considered to be the Food Poverty Line, which is the minimum amount a person needs to afford the minimum daily foods for a month.

As the IFP, we have long been in favour of a Basic Income Grant, and we believe if the corruption, mismanagement, and widespread looting on the part of government were stopped, there would be money for this Grant, which could provide millions with a living wage.

We will continue to fight for this and speak up on behalf of the people. The IFP will not stand and watch while our people are being left to starve.

When the KZN government’s disastrous decision-making left millions of vulnerable children in without food at schools for the past two weeks – often their only meal in a day – the IFP in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature took them to task. We spoke to the media and shared stories of how schools were receiving rotten food, or no food at all, and called on the Premier to cancel the tender within seven days.

Two days later, it was announced that the tender had been cancelled.

We further demanded that the service providers used before this new tender came into effect must be re-appointed, so that all children across KZN will have food when they return to school tomorrow.

Our MPLs and Councillors will be out in the communities to ensure this happens!

The IFP promised to focus on food security in our Election Manifesto during the Local Government Elections in 2021, and ensuring that the National Food Nutrition Programme delivers on its mandate is surely part of this promise.

Another example where the IFP has taken action is with the introduction of the IFP’s Private Members’ Bill, the Employment Services Amendment Bill, in 2022. The Party started working on this Bill more than three years ago, following concerns about growing youth unemployment and the number of foreign nationals working in the unskilled and low-skilled occupational levels.

In a nutshell, the IFP PMB’s aimed to “prioritise the employment of South African citizens who are ready, willing, and capable of taking up the available job opportunities”.

Our lobbying for these changes resulted in the ruling party then publishing very similar amendments, which specified, among others, that “Any person who employs a foreign national to work within the territory of the Republic of South Africa must—  satisfy themselves that there are no persons in the Republic, other than foreign nationals, with the requisite skills to fill the vacancy, before recruiting a foreign national to occupy such vacancy.”

We view this as a real victory in the fight against unemployment.

This is another promise made by the IFP in 2021: to empower people through job creation.

We did not promise unrealistic things like bullet trains and smart cities. As the IFP, we do not believe such things are impossible, but we believe that in order to build the country of our dreams, we need a strong foundation.

We need to get the basics right.

That is why, in the Municipalities where the IFP governs, we focus on food security, community safety and building and providing decent homes. We make sure that communities have access to healthcare and clean water, and on getting electricity to homes and businesses. We partner with traditional leaders, because we acknowledge how important their role is within communities. We are committed to prioritising ECD initiatives and bursaries.

Once our communities are thriving, we can build and grow.

Across KwaZulu-Natal, communities are placing their trust in the IFP. During the 2021 Local Government Elections, the IFP’s support grew in leaps and bounds. Where we had governed in 13 municipalities, we gained 16 more, and now the IFP serves communities in 29 municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is only the beginning. In the almost two years since, the IFP has been making huge strides in by-elections, taking Wards that have long been ANC strongholds with outright majorities.

In conclusion, the people have had enough. Everything is moving from bad, to worse. The country is not working, people are not working, the economy is not working, Eskom is not working and jobs are not available. Enough is enough. This is a moment for change. The people want a party that they can trust and that can bring change now.

I am here today to tell you, that Party is the IFP. You can trust us. We work for you.

I thank you.

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