It Is The Time To Honour Our Women

Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter

Dear friends and fellow South Africans,

Women’s Month heralds that time when we open the records of history and honour South Africa’s daughters for serving our ideals, our cause or our people in one way or another. This is the moment to remember Mama Nokukhanya Luthuli, Mama Albertina Sisulu and Mama Adelaide Tambo.

It is the time to remember the women who were arrested and imprisoned under apartheid law; women like Ms Zohra Meer or Mrs Jackie Arenstein, who was forced to leave her two young daughters when she was charged with treason in 1956. We will honour the many who were banned, and the many who – like Lillian Ngoyi, the trade unionist – did not live to see our freedom. We will also honour those who did, and those who continue to give their wisdom and passion to South Africa, like Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

As Women’s Month gives us cause to recall these women of strength and courage, my mind always returns to my mother, Princess Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu, who gave her own contribution to our struggle for freedom, dignity and identity. I recall women who distinguished themselves in our struggle when I was still a member of the ANC; Mrs Bertha Mkhize, Mrs Dorothy Nyembe and Mrs Florence Mkhize.

Within the IFP, we often remember Mrs Eileen ka Nkosi Shandu, who served in the KwaZulu Government and was appointed Minister of Education in KwaZulu Natal after 1994. We also remember Ms Thoko Zungu, Mrs Ella Nxasane and Ms Abbie Mchunu. And we recall our late colleagues who contributed to CODESA; Faith Gasa, Harriet Ngubane and Elizabeth Thabede.

These, and many others, are the heroines of our past.

I think the time has come, however, for us to begin honouring a new generation. There are women who are creating their legacy even now; women who will be remembered by our posterity as Women’s Month is celebrated far into the future.

These are women like Dr Anthea Jeffrey, the astute academic who dared to scratch beneath the surface of the black-on-black violence that characterised the eighties and early nineties in South Africa. She is one of the few who challenged the image of the past that the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission tried to portray. In her seminal work, "People’s War", published in 2009, Dr Jeffrey exposed the real dynamics behind the low intensity civil war.

I am saddened that popular works, like the recently released film "The Bang Bang Club", still peddle the propaganda of the apartheid era, even after the facts have been so comprehensively documented. The book upon which the film is based contains glaring lies, even suggesting that I "broke with the ANC" in 1980 to "take part in the homeland process" (p.115).

The Homelands Act of 1970 was foisted on South Africa by the apartheid Government. We did not have a choice in whether to participate or not. But before a leader was chosen for KwaZulu, Mr Oliver Tambo and Inkosi Albert Luthuli asked me to accept the position if I were elected, so that we would have the opportunity to undermine the system from within. In the end, that is just what I did. My refusal to accept nominal independence for KwaZulu disrupted apartheid’s scheme of balkanization to the extent that it had to be abandoned.

My ideological split from the ANC took place in 1979, and had nothing to do with the homelands process. Rather, it was because of Inkatha’s refusal to support the armed struggle and the international call for disinvestment and sanctions against South Africa. I was vilified and targeted for assassination for taking this stand, so I know the depth of sacrifice one must accept in order to speak the truth to power.

Because of this, I admire Adv. Thulisile Madonsela, our Public Protector, who is another South African woman creating her legacy. Hers will be a legacy of integrity and courage. Whatever happens to the recommendations in her Report, Adv. Madonsela will be remembered as the fearless woman who exposed the truth about maladministration in our democratic government.

Courage is also the byword right now for Ms Ferial Haffajee, the Editor of City Press, who has dared to take on the ANC Youth League President, Mr Julius Malema, questioning how he funds his extraordinary lifestyle on his official salary. She has raised such a furor that the controversial journalist, Mr Eric Miyeni, says she would have had a burning tyre around her neck had this been 1980.

Miyeni’s remarks are unacceptable, and reading them in the context of his racist and derogatory article in the Sowetan, I am surprised that they were even published. This is not the eighties. This is not the time to vilify people for questioning the integrity of South Africa’s leaders. And it is certainly not the time to suggest that anyone deserves necklacing.

It is the time, as I said, to honour our women; to thank those who serve our country through their integrity, sacrifice and courage. As we remember the heroines of our past during this Women’s Month, I hope that we will give some thought to the heroines among us.

Yours in the service of the nation,

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP


Liezl van der Merwe

Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

on 082 729 2510.