Constance Zikalala - Giving honour where it is due
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Sometimes the people who are loved and admired seldom feel or witness the love others have for them, at least not as often as they should.
In an act of trying to avoid this omission, the IFP in Gauteng held a thanksgiving and 81st birthday celebration in honour of its stalwart and former member of Parliament Constance “Connie’”NZ Zikalala, on November 14.
IFP leaders, Zikalala’s close friends and family and former colleagues from Parliament including non-IFP leaders attended the intimate occasion. Speaker after speaker commended Zikalala as a loyal and fervent member of the IFP since its inception in 1975.
Each of them shared jovial anecdotes about the stellar work ethic, empathy, and integrity. The common thread in all of them was that she remains constant in her responsibility as a committed leader, serving the people of South Africa by holding the executive authorities in government to account.
The message from the Honourable Prince Buthelezi MP, IFP president emeritus, read: “Through the most difficult times, we knew that Mrs Zikalala could be relied on to bring order and restore peace.”
This was the most poignant and fitting tribute, considering the key role played by Zikalala in brokering peace and political tolerance between the IFP and ANC in the early 1990s, particularly in Gauteng. As a conscientious citizen, witnessing the trend of political killings of young men and women in the East Rand, where she lived, the IFP veteran acted to end the violence.
It impressed upon her the need to reach out and help because struggle and pain were affecting everyone around her neighbourhood.
As a representative of the IFP Women’s Brigade, in the then Transvaal, she worked closely with the late Bertha Gxowa, from the ANC Women’s League. Together they mobilised women to take initiative in ending the political violence between IFP and the ANC which was most rife in Gauteng’ townships during the early 1990s.
Sadly, the history and role of the IFP Women’s Brigade and ANC Women’s League leaders are often overlooked, even though they set the example of placing aside political differences as an act of service for the people.
The foresight of their actions was a testament of their wisdom and vision to imagine and build a peaceful political coexistence when it seemed like a pipe dream.
Eventually, the political parties came together to negotiate the National Peace Accord, which contributed to ending political violence and paved the way for the start of our democracy. Today there is a peaceful coexistence between the IFP and ANC, so much so that we even co-govern some of Gauteng’s local municipalities.
The ability to transcend political party lines and work towards better governance has been modelled to us by unsung veterans such as Zikalala and the late Gxowa through their can-do attitude and activist work.
Zikalala worked without resting for decades in the National Assembly serving on portfolio committees such as environmental affairs and tourism among others. She has also served as a valuable member of the IFP’s national council which is the party’s highest decision-making body in between conferences. And well before that, she was working as a teacher, moulding the young minds to lead the democratic future we enjoy today.
I owe a debt of gratitude to her as my political leader and most dependable advisor Her honest, affable character, generosity over many years is extraordinary in politics.
She continues to be an open well water of wisdom to many of us thirsting for knowledge. Even in her old age, she maintains a youthful passion for improving the lives of others, always ready to get the job done, devoting herself to serving the country and her beloved party – the IFP.
We often hear that people never get to feel and see the full extent of the love and honour they deserve while they can still feel and witness it. We can avoid this by giving honour where and when it is due. Zikalala is one such South African who deserves to be honoured for her life’s work serving the nation. I cannot think of a better way to do so than celebrating her life while she is still alive to feel and witness it.
* Bonginkosi Dhlamini, Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Chairperson of IFP Gauteng.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.