Propaganda Is A Powerful Thing

Dear friends and fellow South Africans,

Propaganda is a powerful thing. It can shape opinions, relationships, voting patterns and nations. It can change the way we see history and the way we approach reality.

South Africa endured decades of propaganda, not only because of the polarisation of white and black, but as a result of the complex strategies of liberation and hegemony that played out on an international stage of Cold War politics.

When the powerful propaganda machine controlled by the ANC’s mission-in-exile was turned against Inkatha in 1979, we urged people to judge what was being said against what they knew to be true. The ANC had learned its propaganda techniques from Vietnam, as part of a People’s War which it imported into South Africa.

Propaganda became so much a part of the ANC that even as we approached the 1994 elections their slogans read more like propaganda than fact. Rather than declaring that we had reached the first step on a journey to freedom, they announced the unrealistic promise of immediate jobs and houses for all.

Twenty years into democracy, South Africans have become accustomed to propaganda from the ANC. We have come to expect statements like “education is our APEX priority”, while mathematics teachers are failing school level exams and learners matriculate still functionally illiterate. We have come to expect big talk on anti-corruption initiatives, while Ministers, MECs and Police Commissioners are caught red-handed.

Indeed, we have become so accustomed to propaganda from the ANC that even opposition parties brush off what they say as “politicking”. That was the case this week when NFP leader, Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi, announced that she would take legal action against the IFP for raising concerns over alleged mismanagement of municipal funds under her leadership; but not against the ANC who made the very same allegations.

People expect it from the ANC, she said: “it is just politicking”. But when the IFP speaks, “actions should be taken to stop that”. Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi is quite aware that people trust what the IFP says, and for good reason. We have maintained moral integrity and we only speak when there is a sound basis for speaking.

So despite the fact that the ANC Youth League marched on the Zululand District Municipality, led by the ANC’s NEC member, Mr Bheki Cele, and despite the ANC calling on the Public Protector to investigate Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi for allegedly using municipal funds to campaign for votes, she has not so much as asked for an apology from the ANC.

But when the IFP suggests that she account to SCOPA, considering that SCOPA has already raised questions about under-spending in the municipality, Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi threatens us with legal action.

She has taken us to court before. When Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi was our National Chairperson, and became engaged in a strategy to divide our Party. Over the course of more than a year, we gave her every opportunity to clear her name.

But she declined.

Eventually, the IFP’s National Council called a disciplinary hearing, to enable her to confront the accusations against her and present her side. At that point, she realised she had run out of time and excuses, and would likely be exposed before her supporters. So, before the hearing could be held, she took us to court.

She lost her case, and went on to form the NFP.

Now the IFP is again urging Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi to use the opportunities offered to clear her name. But again, she chooses to take us to court.

The ANC is predictably silent on its earlier allegations, now that Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi is part of their Government. She knows she can fob off their brief dalliance with integrity, as politicking and propaganda, in part because the ANC is known for propaganda, but surely also because it won’t happen again.

In the IFP’s experience, though, propaganda doesn’t go away that easily and it should always be answered, whether it is obviously propaganda or not. It is dangerous to assume that people recognise the difference between propaganda and truth.

It is extraordinary, for instance, that newspapers today at times repeat the same discredited lies of the past, as though they were fact. On Tuesday this week, The New Age carried a brief description of events on “This Day in History” in which it claimed that, on 21 July 1991, the South African Government “admitted” to secretly funding Inkatha “to the tune of R6.8m”.

That never happened.

The IFP was the greatest threat to the ANC’s hegemony as we approached 1994, and they saw the need to connect us, in the mind of the people, with the Apartheid regime, so that we would be rejected as a leadership for a liberated South Africa. Every opportunity was taken to portray Inkatha as a surrogate of the Apartheid Government.

This was patently not the case. Indeed Inkatha was the great thorn in the flesh of the Apartheid Government because of my steadfast refusal to accept nominal independence for KwaZulu. The grand scheme of Apartheid to balkanise South Africa was derailed by my refusal. Indeed, years later, the Head of Anglo American, Mr Gavin Relly, called me “The anvil on which apartheid ultimately faltered”.

But because I refused independence for KwaZulu, we had no army with which to face the army of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe, which brought a bloody black-on-black war to South Africa. Intelligence was continuously received on assassination plots against me, planned attacks on my Ministers in the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, and plans to destroy government buildings.

With only a small police force, we could not protect against such attacks.

I therefore reported these threats to the national Government. In response, my Secretary of Administration, Mr Zakhele Khumalo, was asked to send 200 men for training as VIP Protectors, to protect me as the Chief Minister, members of my Cabinet and Government buildings. Where they would be trained or what it would cost was never discussed with me.

Unfortunately, when they returned from training, one of these VIP Protectors was involved in an act of violence. The ANC took the gap and claimed that the South African Government had trained “hit squads” for Inkatha which, they said, proved collusion and a shared agenda of destroying the ANC.

The truth of this accusation was tested in a criminal trial in 1996 against the former Minister of Defence, General Magnus Malan, and the IFP’s Administrative Secretary, Mr Zakhele Khumalo. The trail continued for 18 months, and ended in acquittal by the Durban Supreme Court when it found, as the Judge put it, no convincing evidence that the Caprivi training had intended to equip Inkatha to carry out unlawful killings.

Thus the lie was discredited. There was no covert support from the SADF to “IFP militants”, as The New Age article claims.

There was also no funding of Inkatha from the South African Government. I never sat in any meeting with any Government representative to discuss funding for Inkatha, and I never received a cent from Government to support my Party.

What baffles me the most is the figure of R6,8m which The New Age claims the Government “admitted” to giving us. The SA History website, which is apparently this article’s source, refers to $600 000. It seems The New Age converted this figure, from 23 years ago, into Rand, at today’s exchange rate.

But even the figure of $600 000 is wrong. What came to light is that the Department of Foreign Affairs had deposited R250 000 into a public account held in Durban, into which supporters could make anonymous donations to our Party. The money was earmarked by an IFP official for an imbizo called by His Majesty the King, and for an Inkatha rally in March 1990 to give thanks for the release of Nelson Mandela. The official later admitted that he had not told me, because he knew I would not approve.

When this came to light, I returned the full amount to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The other amount mentioned at the time was R1,5 million, which the Government gave to the United Workers’ Union of South Africa. The ANC claimed that UWUSA was an IFP organisation, because I had been invited to the launch of the Union. However, when I spoke at the launch of UWUSA, I warned that trade unions should not be linked to political parties, because of the way SADTU had suffered when the ANC was banned. UWUSA was not part of the IFP.

Despite the old propaganda being discredited by facts, it is often still taken as truth, because propaganda, as I said, is a powerful thing. It falls to those of us with moral integrity and accurate memories to answer every instance.

Yours in the service of our nation,

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Contact: Ms Lyndith Waller on 073 929 1418