Just a few weeks ago, I visited Nongoma ahead of a by-election in Ward 12. We spoke to each other very honestly and frankly, considering the political situation at this juncture and considering what was best for Nongoma. We discussed the political coalition between the ANC and the NFP, and how it has trampled the democratic voice of many voters. We judged for ourselves whether the partnership Nongoma has had with the IFP over 37 years was worth maintaining. In the end, we agreed that the only coalition that will serve Nongoma, is a Nongoma/IFP coalition.
I was grateful when you carried that message to the ballot box on the 28th of March and voted to keep Ward 12 under an IFP leadership. You gave the IFP your vote of confidence and, in return, we will give you a leadership you can work with. I want to thank you for your support, not only on the 28th of March, but over the past 37 years. Together, we have built a legacy we can be proud of. Together we have faced many hardships and many storms, and together we have survived.
Today we have come together to celebrate Workers' Day, and to encourage one another to recognise the work we do as valuable and important, no matter how unimportant it may seem.
Throughout the world, the first of May is set aside to remember the historical struggle of workers and trade unions to achieve fair employment standards and a culture of human rights in the labour market. The IFP is proud to be a part of that struggle. Let me tell you where it started.
In South Africa in the 1970s, black workers were excluded from trade unions because the definition of "worker" in the Industrial Constitution did not include Africans. Thus black workers had nowhere to turn if they were mistreated, if their wages were withheld, or they were forced to work overtime, or were fired without reason and without notice. The Director of the South African Institute of Race Relations, Mr John Kane-Berman, explained it as follows: "Apartheid rests on the fundamental absurdity that one can make use of blacks as labour, but deny their existence as people."
Even before I founded Inkatha, I sought ways to support black workers. With the support of Professor Lawrence Schlemmer, I formed the Institute for Industrial Education in Durban. The then KwaZulu Government was deeply involved in the big strike which took place in Durban in 1973, which became a turning point in labour relations in this country.
As the Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I sent my then Minister of Interior, Mr Barney Dladla, to support the strikers in Durban. The then Minister of Labour, Mr Marais Viljoen - who later became the State President - resented the role we played. He said Durban was outside the area which government defined as ?KwaZulu'. I retorted to Mr Viljoen's attack by saying that when the government set up the homeland governments, they stated that they were to regulate the affairs of "Zulu people wherever they are". Most of the workers in Durban were Zulu and their rights, I said, were therefore a matter for my concern.
In reality, my concern was for every black worker who had no trade union. I am proud to have made a difference. Because of my efforts to support black workers, I was awarded the George Meany Human Rights Award by the largest trade union in the world, the AFL-CIO in the United States of America. I received it jointly with a trade unionist who worked for black industrial workers in Johannesburg, Dr Neil Aggett, who later died under suspicious circumstances. We were the
second recipients, the first being Lec Walesa, the founder of Solidarity in Poland and perhaps the most famous unionist of the last century.
My commitment to bolstering workers' rights continued through all the years of my public life. I believe that workers are at the forefront of any development of a country.
When I was a Minister in our national Government, President Thabo Mbeki announced the macro-economic strategy of Growth, Employment and Redistribution - or GEAR, as it was known. I was delighted, because the ANC had previously believed in Socialism. It seemed as though Government had finally heeded my warnings that our labour laws were too rigid, and was willing to pass a law to remove that rigidity in the interests of investment.
But members of the Tripartite Alliance; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party, revolted against what the Government intended to do. They threatened to roll mass action, and that was the end of that. To this day, we still need greater flexibility in our labour market.
When GEAR was announced, I expressed concerns that the economy cannot be stimulated merely by virtue of making the correct policy statements, and I pointed out that many of the actions of government were moving in the opposite direction to the one espoused by GEAR. Among such contradictions were the policies adopted in respect of the entire construct of the labour market and labour relations. I was very critical of the Labour Relations Act and the corporative-state-type system it imposed on South Africa.
My criticisms were partially accepted by President Thabo Mbeki who entrusted then Deputy President Jacob Zuma with the job of investigating how to bring back flexibility in our labour market. But this effort resulted in nothing and was somehow stillborn because of the overwhelming opposition of the trade unions.
At times I am criticised as being against trade unions, particularly when I chide SADTU for neglecting learners. But history shows that I am one of the strongest supporters of workers' rights. What I am against is our Government basing economic decisions on politics. Economic realities will not yield to mere declarations of policy, just as workers will not be treated fairly just because Government organizes a Workers' Day rally.
Leadership is about more than just words. It's about doing what is needed, regardless of how unpopular it might make you. That is one of the challenges I have faced throughout my life. Even today I face criticism for doing what is needed. I am criticized as "clinging to power", even though I have twice announced to the IFP's Annual General Conference that I want to retire. Twice the delegates to Conference unanimously asked me to remain, to lead the IFP as its President.
In October 2009, confronted with deep ructions, treachery and sabotage in our Party, the National Council asked me to consider staying at the helm to oversee a smooth leadership transition. Since then, the IFP has walked through the fire. We endured a split engineered by Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi, supported by some leaders in the ANC. We suffered a setback in the Local Government Elections, and then watched our former supporters come flooding back to the IFP as the NFP's true colours were revealed.
But the attempts to destroy the IFP have not abated. Indeed, even during the by-election on the 28th of March, witnesses saw the NFP bringing people from other areas into Nongoma to vote. The NFP learnt these shenanigans from the ANC. But they also learnt that the best form of defence, is attack. While I wrote to the Independent Electoral Commission to alert them to voter fraud, the NFP ran to the media and
accused the IFP of bussing in voters. That was the ridiculous reason they gave for losing the election. In reality, they lost because the voters rejected the ANC/NFP coalition. Voters still want the IFP.
In fact, the IFP's support in Nongoma increased from the 46% we got in 2011 to 51% in 2012. You have clearly expressed your support for a Nongoma/IFP coalition. Now the IFP is moving forward.
You have no doubt heard that we have a Roadmap that will guide the IFP to a place of greater strength. Our detractors are attacking the Roadmap from every angle, because they fear its success. A lot of nonsense is being spoken about it. But the Roadmap is an internal discussion document and I urge you to discuss it within our structures. It is not for discussion in public meetings where anyone with any agenda can create confusion.
The truth is, the IFP is committed to holding Conference as soon as possible. But we know that bogus branches are still being created so that bad faith delegates can be sent to Conference with a mandate to disrupt and sabotage elections. Some members of the NFP who defected from the IFP still have IFP membership books. They are using these books to sign up bad faith members, to create bogus branches. Clearly, if we want a successful conference and a credible election, we will need to deal with this problem.
The National Council has considered the options and resolved that all members of the IFP will need to rejoin the Party as of 30 April 2012. As of today, new membership cards will be issued, with enhanced security features. This is an extraordinary step by the Party, but it is the best way to ensure that those who come to Conference are legitimate, good faith members of the IFP. It is the only way to ensure a credible election and a viable future.
I am aware that the R10 joining fee will be a hardship for many people, particularly those who have already paid their membership fees for 2012. Nevertheless, I ask you to consider the interests of the Party. We cannot fail to counter every attack and take every precautionary measure for the sake of conference. I therefore ask you to do everything in your power to rejoin and receive the new membership card.
The IFP had always been a membership based organization. When I think of the two million South Africans who voted for the IFP in 1994 and the excruciating poverty many of them endured, it becomes clear that a liberated South Africa was built not only on selfless sacrifice but on ideological conviction. People believed in freedom. It was an ideal worth sacrificing for.
What are our ideals today, and are we willing to make sacrifices to achieve them? On this Workers' Day, I realize that many South Africans are unemployed. Many of us here are struggling to find work and some of us have given up looking. But that does not make Workers' Day irrelevant. I want to challenge you to look at the work you do, and recognize its value. Not everyone is formally employed, but most of us fulfill some responsibility in our home, in our family or our community.
Today, together with the workers who contribute to growing South Africa's GDP, I want to salute the men and women who serve out of love and duty. I salute the mothers and grandmothers who raise young children, giving endless energy and patience to the next generation. I salute the men who honour their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, even when they struggle to provide. I salute the many volunteers who assist the elderly, the lonely and the frail. I salute those who give their time to community anti-crime initiatives, to those who support child-headed households, to those who care for sufferers of HIV/Aids. I salute everyone who gets up every day, confronts the hardship of life, and asks, "How can I make a difference?"
We are the workers. A liberated South Africa was built on the efforts of ordinary people who often had no stable source of income or formal job title. But they did work. They worked their fields. They worked in community projects. And they worked as political activists. Getting involved in politics is a good way to make a difference. Today, if you find yourself without work, I encourage you to start working as a political activist. Renew your IFP membership, and get your new IFP card. Then partner afresh with the party that knows how to get things done.
There is work enough for all of us in the struggle to build South Africa. We have democracy, but we do not yet have economic freedom. We are still building a country in which poverty and unemployment are overcome. We are still working on a South Africa in which education provides opportunity, and opportunity finds no obstacles. This work will take a collective effort. I ask you to consider what you can contribute.
Right now, even if you have no formal work, you can choose to contribute to a better South Africa. You can choose to obey the law. You can choose to respect your elders. You can choose to study hard. You can choose to nurture your family. You can choose to stop drinking. You can choose to make a difference. You can choose to join the IFP. This Workers' Day, we have many choices. Let us make good
I thank you.