Buthelezi faced criticism when three years ago he took up an invitation to visit Israel because of his belief that there was far greater value in enabling engagement with both sides, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, praised Muslims during a speech at the historic Grey Street Juma Masjid in Durban recently, saying he admired their character of social cohesion and unity in diversity adding “we are either all going to swim together, or we are all going to drown together.”
Buthelezi addressed the congregation on an invitation by A. V. Mohammed, Trustee of the Grey Street Juma Masjid. Buthelezi said he was honoured to address Muslims “about important issues for this community and for our country.”
He told congregants during his pre-Jumu’ah talk that he had fond memories of the mosque.
“Indeed, the Grey Street Mosque is a landmark of Durban. It has stood for more than a century and has witnessed remarkable changes in both the physical and political landscape. I remember passing the Mosque many times when I lived in Durban as a young graduate, for I frequently visited Inkosi Albert Luthuli, whose offices were at Lakhani Chambers in Grey Street. Because it has remained for so many years, while much around it has changed, this Mosque has become a symbol of stability and continuity”.
“This is of course not my first visit to this Mosque. I remember visiting here and being entertained by the Late Mr Deedat, and being blessed with a copy of the Holy Quran.
I further remember other occasions when I visited this Mosque such as on the sad occasions of the passing away of my dear friends Mr Rajab and Professor Fatima Meer,” he said.
Buthelezi said his party constantly campaigns for greater social cohesion.
“We believe that strong communities are the best defence against social injustice. Where there is unity, there is a sense of shared responsibility, so that no one is left vulnerable without being cared for. I admire this characteristic of the Muslim community. Solidarity is in fact one of the three cornerstones of the IFP. We believe in solidarity, freedom and unity in diversity.
“We also believe in respect for the rule of law. This is why you never hear a fiery rhetoric from the IFP, like calls for land grabs and stirring of division. Ours is the voice of reason, calling for discipline, integrity and shared responsibility. We know that in South Africa, we are either all going to swim together, or we are all going to drown together. We need to embrace our diversity and realise that equality extends to every aspect of life.
“It is because I believe in the dignity of all human beings that I cannot condone violence for any reason. I have stood against violence all my life, even rejecting it as a tool of political liberation. When the ANC engaged an armed struggle during apartheid, the IFP refused to take up arms. We paid a high price, as I and the IFP were vilified, even being portrayed as collaborators. But we could not be the conduit of bloodshed and loss of life.”
Buthelezi pointed that he has always campaigned for non-violence everywhere, and had called for an end to the conflict in the Middle East.
He said when senior SA parliamentary leaders were invited to visit Israel, he took up the opportunity given by the Israeli regime – and he was criticised for it.
He made it clear that when he took up the offer, he insisted that they also visit Ramallah and meet with Members of the Mukataa.
“I was criticized for visiting Israel, but I believe there was far greater value in enabling engagement with both sides, than there would have been in avoiding interaction.
“That is the way I have lived my life. To me, there is no more powerful political tool than negotiation, negotiation, negotiation. It is when talking ends that violence begins. In this same spirit, I have tried to keep our citizens talking, so that together we can address the many challenges we face. There is a vibrant national dialogue in which we should all participate. But we need to be aware of our voices and the impact it has on cohesion or disunity.
“When the IFP speaks, we speak with the voice of bridge-builders. We speak to mend relationships, heal communities and restore unity. We seek reconciliation and peace.
I think this is something that should resonate with the Muslim community. I hope that we might find more similarities than we thought, because the IFP would like t work more closely with this community.”