I am more than honoured to deliver this message of support as well as congratulations to the Inkatha Freedom Party on this historic occasion of its Fortieth Anniversary.
For these past forty years the IFP has been a key and vibrant part of the evolving history of our nation in remarkable ways.
It has drawn sustenance from its historical analogue, ‘Inkatha’ formed by King Solomon kaDiniZulu in the 1920s as a countervailing force against the encroaching westernisation embedded in colonial modernisation.
While its predecessor did not reject modernisation, it correctly rejected westernisation, which spelled cultural domination, expressed through political oppression and economic exploitation of Africans.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi himself has been a notably visible presence in this history, with his towering individuality part of the core of the totality of South Africa’s journey to reinvention from the racial domination to a free, just and democratic society.
This history of struggle culminated in the 1994 democratic breakthrough, a moment that redefined the common, indissoluble future of our country.
Since the formation of the then Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement in 1975 to help advance the political interests of the oppressed people of South Africa, history has indeed never been the same in South Africa.
In this regard, it should be noted for the purposes of historiography that the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement was formed with the inspiration and encouragement of the African National Congress (ANC).
It was understood within the ranks of the ANC, including its highest reaches of leadership in exile and at home, that the Inkatha Cultural Movement would serve as a liberation front, advancing the cause of the struggle.
Some even saw it as the ANC in another guise. Whatever the perspective, it was clear that the formation of this cultural movement would broaden the struggle front, strengthening the side of the forces of liberation.
As a matter of fact some founding members of the Inkatha ye Nkululeko ye Sizwe at the time were also former members of the ANC or at least sympathetic to its cause, here I remember people like Bishop Alpheus Zulu as well as former Robben Island prisoner Joshua Zulu.
This reflected the tacit climate of mutual understanding among all the forces ranged against the apartheid state, implicitly or explicitly, that whatever we do should be ultimately geared towards the fall of apartheid oppression.
To its credit, even at that time when it was well-neigh impossible to say no to the apartheid establishment the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement refused to submit to the apartheid designs for independence, a move calculated by the regime to emasculate any claims by the oppressed to freedom and democracy.
In its political calculus, the apartheid regime had aimed to undermine the liberation movement through the creation of independent, ethnically defined territories known as Homelands.
In the eyes of the Apartheid regime the acceptance of independence by the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement would deal a death knell to real freedom and delegitimise anti-apartheid struggle generally.
By the same token, the leadership of the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement, under the stewardship of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, rejected this political manoeuvre by the apartheid state, insisting that an enduring solution to the problem of the country needed an all-inclusive, open and free political dialogue.
The leadership of ANC understood that the homelands were not the creation of our people; these were created by apartheid in its endeavour to divide the people and balkanise the country. And so the leadership approached the key figures in all communities in the homelands and asked them to utilise the political space available to them to preach the message of the unity of the African people. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was one of those who consistently adhered to that directive.
Yes, while it is true that tactical differences did emerge between Inkatha and the ANC, specifically around economic sanctions and the armed struggle — which led to great deal of loss of life— we are glad to note, with hindsight, that, that, as they say, is history. Things have changed; we have moved on and that which set us apart has disappeared like a morning mist.
In this regard, our specific points of difference no longer exist because the choices to which they applied do no longer exist; nor will they ever exist again quite the same way.
Once again South Africa’s history took another turn with the formation of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) on 14 July 1990. Interestingly, the IFP showed the ability to move with the times as the cause of the liberation struggle neared a climax.
In this regard, not only did the IFP become a political party, evolving from a cultural movement, but also, it fully espoused the emergent vision for the new society, becoming a non-racial party.
Posterity will applaud the wise decision the IFP took to participate in Congress for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) which led to the very first non-racial election as well as the creation of South Africa’s system of democracy.
What future generations would find outstanding in this process was the decision to participate in these elections, a move that demoralised all forces opposed to political change in South Africa, and who had, in their nefarious calculations, banked on the genuine concerns of the IFP to boycott the poll.
Today, South Africa is a normal democracy and the IFP is an important if not a critical element of this vibrant democracy.
From what one can observe this democratic renaissance of our country will grow from strength to strength thanks to this history of political inclusivity and an understanding of a shared destiny.
At the same time, let us admit that our country faces challenges of varying magnitude at his moment. This is not surprising, as all nations go through their own peculiar challenges at some point or another in their lives.
Mostly, problems we face are directly or indirectly, problems stemming from history. At the core of the issues that weigh against us is the economy. We speak of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Yet some of the key problems threatening to sink the ship that the late President Mandela bequeathed to us are of subjective nature. Corruption, especially among those of us charged with the important task of governance, of ensuring that the dividends of democracy reach all our people, must be eradicated root and branch.
Along with other political forces, the IFP has a considerable role to play in helping us fight corruption. Further, as a nascent nation we also face a variety of other challenges, including residual social racism, tribalism, xenophobia and other forms of social pathologies choking off our vision of a free and just society.
After forty years in existence the IFP is among the uniquely placed social players to lend a helping hand in this colossal task of lifting society from backward looking disposition and the mire of crass individualism through the promotion of the values of ubuntu-botho.
I am confident that the IFP will continue to play a significant role in the evolution of our system of democracy, ensuring that our country remains a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous society for its entire people.
As the IFP marches on into the future, it will need to address itself to these new challenges that define our times. It cannot be otherwise.
Indeed forty years are no child’s play. Living to the age of forty years as a political party is a sign of inner strength of spirit and fortitude of character.
I therefore wish you everything of the best going forward so that those lucky enough to be around in the next forty years will see you celebrate eighty years of existence and continually contributing to the growth of the human family right here at the furthest reaches of our continent.
Cde Kgalema Motlanthe is the Former President of the Republic of South Africa and Former Deputy President of the African National Congress