fwdk butheleziMy dear friend, Prince Buthelezi, members of Inkatha, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honour for me to be able to say a few words during this commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Inkatha grew from roots deep in the culture of the Zulu people. It takes its inspiration from an organisation first created in 1920 by King Solomon kaDinizulu. It derives its name from the traditional ‘inkatha’ head ring – which includes thatch taken from the dwellings of all the great Zulu indunas and thereby signifies the unity of the Zulu people.

Inkatha’s other roots lie in the political traditions of the old ANC. At first the Inkatha and the ANC co-operated with one another as brother organisations. However, with time the two organisations diverged, until in the 1980s and early 1990s, they became deadly enemies. For several years they were locked in a bloody civil war for control of the KwaZulu-Natal that cost the lives of more than 15 000 people – including the systematic killing of several hundred IFP leaders.

The question is which organisation remained truer to the original vision of the ANC – Inkatha or the ANC itself? The two organisations diverged as the influence of the SACP within the ANC Alliance increased. Indeed, the SACP has dictated virtually all of the ANC’s ideological initiatives for the past 60 years.

I could keep you busy for a long time to prove this statement. However, today is not the appropriate time for this.

Fact is that because of this today’s ANC drifted further and further away from the ANC of Chief Albert Luthuli – and from the IFP. Throughout its existence the IFP championed tolerant African nationalism – and like Chief Albert Luthuli – rejected violence. It supported federalism, free market principles and flexible labour markets – all of which became anathema to the ANC.

Prince Buthelezi and the IFP were widely criticised by radicals for participating in the government of the KwaZulu homeland. However, the IFP used the real power base that participation offered to help change South Africa from within by peaceful means.

Prince Buthelezi consistently rejected the premises on which apartheid was based; he repeatedly demanded the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and insisted that he would not participate in constitutional negotiations that did not include Mandela and the ANC.

More significantly, he refused repeated requests by the South African government to accept independence for KwaZulu. His refusal to accept independence for one of the most populous and influential national states made the whole scheme of grand apartheid unviable. It led to the acceptance by President Botha that the political aspirations of black South Africans would have to be accommodated within a common political dispensation.

Botha’s announcement – that signalled the end of “grand apartheid” and that changed South Africa forever – was lost at the bottom of page 12 of his Rubicon speech. It is sufficiently important to the history of South Africa to quote President Botha’s words in full:

I would, however, like to restate my Government’s position in this regard, namely that independence cannot be forced on any community. Should any of the black national states therefore prefer not to accept independence, such states or communities will remain part of the South African nation, are South African citizens and should be accommodated within political institutions within the boundaries of South Africa.”

Those words will forever be a monument to the role played by Prince Buthelezi and the IFP in the peaceful transformation of South Africa. When we negotiated a new Constitution from 1990 to 1994 the IFP at times withdrew. I am critical of this, but again today is not the day to argue this.

Fortunately, the IFP re-joined the negotiation process in the nick of time to participate in the 1994 election. There is no doubt that had it not done so, the election result would not have been a true reflection of the will of the South African people.

Prince Buthelezi went on to serve with distinction in the Government of National Unity – and has, with the passage of time, become one of our most respected and experienced national leaders.

I hope that the IFP will continue to play a principled role in South Africa’s politics – and that it will join the growing number of South Africans from all our communities who would like our country to return the foundational values in section one of our Constitution: to a society dedicated to human dignity, equality, human rights and freedoms; non-racialism and non-sexism; the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law; and a genuine multiparty democracy that is committed to openness, accountability and responsiveness.

I should like to wish the IFP a happy birthday. I hope that it and other moderate parties will grow in strength and popularity. We need now, more than ever, the balanced, moderate and rational approach that inter alia the IFP has always brought to our national politics.

Delivered on behalf of former President FW de Klerk by the Treasurer-General of the IFP