ANNUAL DINNER OF THE MICHAELHOUSE OLD BOYS’ CLUB DURBAN BRANCH
“EQUIPPING THE NEXT GENERATION: WHY EDUCATION CAN MAKE OR BREAK OUR NATION”

 

PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION

Mr Antony Clark, Rector of Michaelhouse; Mr Steven Boast, Chairperson of the
Durban Branch of the Michaelhouse Old Boys Club; Alumni and distinguished
guests.

I am delighted to be joined this evening by my son, Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa
and his wife, Indlunkulu Michelle (Ma-Mohale), and by my grandson, Prince Zakithi.
My grandson, my son and I represent three generations with ties to Michaelhouse,
although Zakithi is the first to be blessed by the foundations laid by those who came
before.

I feel honoured to speak to the Old Boys Club here in Durban. I know that we have
several things in common beyond our affiliation with Michaelhouse. We are,
undoubtedly, all patriots, champions of education and people with a deep concern for
the future of this nation.

My topic this evening covers all these bases, to answer the question why education
can make or break our nation and to encourage us to equip the next generation.

Let me begin, however, by explaining my first encounter with Michaelhouse and why
it had such an impact on me.

In 1944, when I was just fifteen years old, I entered Adams College under the
renowned Principal Dr Edgar Brookes. Ours was a very different country back then.
To put it in perspective, some of my fellow students were from the British
Protectorates of Bechwanaland and Basutoland, which are now the Republic of Botswana and the Kingdom of Lesotho. We had students from East Africa, from what
is now Uganda and Kenya. It was a cosmopolitan institution in an era of segregation.
Within a few short years, apartheid would be born.

The Bantu Education Act was still to come, nine years later, but already the idea of
different education for black and white was entrenched. Just two years earlier, Acting
Prime Minister JH Hofmeyr had opened a session of the Native Representative
Council with these words: “I have… never believed that the African should develop
simply as an inferior type of European… There should be something distinctive
about the aims and methods of education for the African, especially the rural Africa.”

Professor ZK Matthews responded by saying: “The danger which I see… is that of
going off into this blind alley of African civilisation and not marching together with the
rest of the peoples of the world towards a world civilisation.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what Verwoerd proposed. When Bantu Education was
introduced, he explained: “The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in
all respects. There is no place for him in the European community above the level of
certain forms of labour… It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its
aim absorption in the European community while he cannot and will not be absorbed
there. Up till now he has been subjected to a school system which drew him away
from his own community and misled him by showing him the green pastures of the
European but still did not allow him to graze there. This attitude is not only
uneconomic because money is spent on education which has no specific aim, but it
is even dishonest to continue with it…. It is abundantly clear that unplanned
education creates many problems, disrupts the communal life of the Bantu and
endangers the communal life of the European. For that reason it must be replaced
by planned Bantu Education.”

Clearly when I entered Adams College in 1944, the mixing of white and black
students was highly unlikely. But Dr Edgar Brookes believed that we should have the
same education, emphasising that we were citizens of one country. Education, he
felt, could not be divisible, with inferior education for black children. He was joined in
this belief by Mr Frederick Snell, the Rector of Michaelhouse.

To give expression to their belief, they designed an exchange programme. For one
week of the year, two boys from Adams College would visit Michaelhouse, and two
from Michaelhouse would come and stay with us in Jubilee Hall at Adams College.

It was eye-opening for us boys. The Michaelhouse students ate with us in the dining
hall and took classes with us. We became exposed to each other not just as race
groups, but as boys, with the same interests; namely grades, games and girls – in no
particular order.

What I found quite remarkable was the emphasis on principles and values being
instilled at Michaelhouse. It was clear that these boys were being trained to become
men of principle and faith. They were being prepared to lead, administer and serve in
the country of their adulthood.

This same spirit prevailed at Adams College. Indeed school, at that time, was
intended not merely to educate minds, but to mould character. Teaching was a noble
profession; a calling really.

At Adams, for instance, our teachers were highly educated. Dr Donald Mtimkulu had
a Master’s Degree from Yale in the United States, and another Master’s from the
University of South Africa. Dr Selby Ngcobo also had a Master’s from Yale, and an
Economics Degree from the University of Natal. Among our teachers was a wealth of
degrees in the various Humanities. It was inspiring for us as students to be taught by
such erudite black teachers.

It is no exaggeration to say that the teaching profession contributed more to South
Africa’s liberation struggle than any other profession I know. Consider for a moment
the great leaders of our struggle.

Inkosi Albert Luthuli was a teacher, before being called to lead the Amakholwa in
Groutville as a traditional leader. Inkosi Luthuli was the last President General of the
ANC before it was banned in 1960, following Sharpeville.

Inkosi Luthuli had been at Adams College with Professor Zacchariah Keodirelang
Matthews, who later taught me at the University of Fort Hare. Professor ZK
Matthews served as Chairperson of the ANC in the Cape Province.

Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo who was sent abroad to launch the ANC’s mission-in-
exile, was a teacher of Mathematics at St Peter’s College in Rosettenville,
Johannesburg, before qualifying as an attorney. He taught many well-known figures,
such as Kgosi Lucas Mangope and Advocate Joe Matthews.

The founding President of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, Mr Robert
Mangaliso Sobukwe, was a teacher at Standerton before going on to lecture at Wits
University.

When I cast my eyes further north and look at Tanzania, Dr Julius Nyerere, the
founding President of Tanzania, was a teacher. In fact, throughout his life he was
referred to as “Mwalimu” which is “teacher” in Swahili. Even the Founding President
of Zambia, President Kenneth David Kaunda, at one time was a teacher.

In those days, integrity was at the core of the teaching vocation. Teachers were
considered in loco parentis. In other words, we deferred to our teachers as we would
defer to our own parents. So, in those most formative years of life, teachers were at
the centre of what was being formed.

Of course, it has been many years since I was at school, and I know that much has
changed. Back then, for instance, Twitter was something birds did, Amazon was a
jungle, Apple was something we ate, and a Tablet was something you took when
you were ill. There are other changes though that are far more serious.

The norm in our education system today is overcrowded classrooms, producing
unemployable school-leavers. Physical, verbal and sexual abuse is rife within
schools, and violence is an ever-present threat. Drug and alcohol abuse is present

even at the level of primary school level. There are functionally illiterate Grade Nines.
Teenage pregnancy and the phenomenon of sugar-daddies is rampant. School is not
so much a place of learning, as a minefield of social malaise.

This is not the view of a cynic, but the evidence of statistics. Of course, not every
school fits this description, but every school is affected. One of my biggest concerns
is violence and abuse in our schools.

Over the past five years, reports of sexual abuse by teachers increased by more
than 230%. According to the latest Report of the South African Council of Educators,
the highest number of misdemeanours committed by teachers against pupils was in
KwaZulu Natal. This includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse,
harassment and defamation. What is happening in our country?

Friends, this is an ugly conversation to have and I wish that I didn’t need to raise it
this evening. But I am a leader and a patriot, and as such I have a responsibility to
say the things that need to be said, even when some prefer not to talk about it.

Our whole nation is in distress. We have learners being assaulted by teachers, and
teachers being assaulted and even murdered by learners. In some cases, they are
fighting over a girl with whom the teacher is involved in immorality.

Sadly, the South African Council of Educators has not done enough to protect the
teaching profession from being tarred with the brush of immorality, nor has it done
enough to protect learners. The Council needs a far better vetting process.

Last year it was discovered that the Council didn’t even check the Sex Offenders
Register when considering applications. Statistics tell us that the majority of teachers
involved in sexual offences are between 45 and 54. So it is not even enough for the
Council to check new applications against the Sex Offenders Register. It needs to go
back and check all its members.

In a situation where we are failing the basic responsibility of protecting learners from
abuse, is it just a dream to believe that tablets and digital textbooks will be in every
school within the next six years, as the President has told us?

There are still children in dilapidated classrooms with no ablution facilities. There are
still teachers who arrive drunk, when they arrive at all. There are still children who
walk for hours to get to school, and classes that are so big that individual attention is
impossible. There are children slipping through the immense cracks in our system
every day and, for these, there is no safety net.

Just this year at the opening of Parliament President Ramaphosa announced that
4000 schools in South Africa still have unsafe, undignified and inappropriate toilets.
That’s more than two million children who were completely forgotten when it comes
to creating a dignified life. How can Government tell those children that education is
the key to their future, when their school doesn’t even have a toilet?

It saddens me that the education system we hoped to see in a democratic South
Africa has not been fully achieved. The right to education is enshrined in the
Constitution and every child is equally entitled to access to quality education. That is
a big step forward. But, in reality, South Africa’s children still have vastly different
experiences, depending on where they are born.

Measured against the international norm, our Government spends proportionally
more on education that many other countries. Yet through poorly thought-out policies
we have already produced a generation that is largely unemployable. Too many still
lack the chance to be educated consistently in a properly equipped, structurally
sound classroom, by a skilled educator.

How do we turn that around? Who will become the safety net and the champion of
disadvantaged learners? It is a simple fact that many of the future decision makers
and thought leaders will emerge from private schools. The young South Africans who
matriculate from schools like Michaelhouse have a greater capacity to change the
future, for they are already equipped with principles, conscience, confidence and
ability.

The responsibility we have is therefore not merely to maintain and continually raise
the standard of quality education, but to instill among learners a sense of social
responsibility. This sense will be the catalyst of change, while the skill, knowledge
and character of our matriculants will provide a vehicle to achieve it.

Michaelhouse has been exemplary is this regard. It has actively and consciously
prepared young boys for all aspects of life in South Africa. My son, Prince
Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, was part of that for ten years, when he served on the
Michaelhouse Board of Governors. He served under the chairmanship of Mr Jamie
Inglis, followed by Mr Bruce Dunlop and then Mr Gary Ralfe.

His son, Prince Zakithi, was a student at Michaelhouse during this time. But even
after he matriculated, Prince Zuzifa continued to serve on the Board. During his
tenure, Prince Zuzifa chaired the Transformation Committee which came up with
Vision 2015. I was honoured to address the Committee in 2007, as we considered
how an education at Michaelhouse could prepare young men to make a constructive
contribution to our country.

I had been thinking about education for several decades. I had been elected Chief
Executive Officer of the Zulu Territorial Authority in 1970, and had then become
Chief Executive Councillor of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly. In 1976 I became
Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government. I found myself, therefore, carrying the
responsibility for millions of oppressed South Africans.

There was an ocean of need, and a tiny lifeboat of resources. The National Party
Government in fact allocated to KwaZulu proportionally less than any other
homeland, in retribution for my refusal to take nominal independence for KwaZulu.
My administration was forced to choose between competing priorities, while finding
creative solutions and keeping a very tight rein on finances.

We managed, through diligent and careful administration, to build houses and clinics
and community centres. We started cooperatives and assisted small businesses. We
attracted investment and increased food security. But above all we chose to prioritise
education.

I had been close to my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the South
African National Native Congress. In my matric year I spent many hours with Dr
Seme, and I remember vividly hearing for the first time from Dr Seme the truth that
“knowledge is power”.

By the time I was serving as Chief Minister of KwaZulu I had a firm grasp on the
belief that education could provide the lever with which to liberate a nation.

It was at that time that the idea of founding Inkatha was born. The ANC, PAC and
other liberation movements were banned. Many of our liberation leaders were in
exile, in Zambia and Tanzania and across Africa, as well as in distant places like the
United Kingdom. There was an hiatus in political activity within South Africa. I made
it a point to travel to Dar es Salaam and to Lusaka, to thank President Julius Nyerere
and President Kenneth Kaunda for giving sanctuary to all our exiles.

While I was in Zambia, in 1974, President Kaunda advised me to found a
membership-based organisation to reignite political mobilization on our own soil.
When I returned to South Africa I sought the advice of Mr Oliver Tambo, who was
still my leader in the ANC, and also Bishop Alphaeus Zulu whom I trusted implicitly
for sound advice. They both agreed, and so I founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe
in March 1975.

Inkatha was little more than a front for the ANC and our two organisations worked
closely together. But we began to experience ideological differences, for the ANC
was leading from exile, while Inkatha was at the coalface, working hand in hand and
side by side with suffering South Africans.

When the ANC’s mission-in-exile launched the call for an armed struggle, Inkatha
could not abandon the principle of non-violence which had been laid at the
foundations of our liberation struggle by Dr Seme and the 1912 founding fathers.
When the ANC’s mission-in-exile called for sanctions against South Africa and large-
scale disinvestment, Inkatha could not agree to job losses and economic distress,
which would be felt most keenly by the poorest of the poor.

There was another call we could not agree with. The ANC’s mission-in-exile decided
that South Africa should become ungovernable. They called on the youth to abandon
their classrooms and burn down their schools. The rallying cry was “Liberation Now,
Education Later”.

Inkatha could not agree. We could not watch young South Africans become cannon-
fodder of a people’s war, surrendering their lives and their future. I feared that a
generation who was taught to lay down their books and take up arms now, would
later become a generation of thugs and criminals. If we taught them to reject the rule
of law, to disrespect authority, to care little for the right to life, and to take whatever
they wanted by force, we would raise a generation of the entitled and corrupt.

Thus Inkatha opposed the call for “Liberation Now, Education Later” with our own
cry: “Education For Liberation”. We made sure that every school in KwaZulu opened
on time, that teachers taught and learners learned. We ensured discipline in schools,
focusing on building character as much as knowledge.

Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo had asked me to accept leadership of
KwaZulu. While we rejected the homelands policy, it was an act of genius, because it
gave us the opportunity to undermine Bantu Education. We used English as the
medium of instruction in schools across KwaZulu and ensured a high level of
excellence. Children, even from the townships, flocked to our schools.

My administration introduced a new subject into schools in KwaZulu, called Good
Citizenship: Ubuntu-Botho. We wanted to equip a school-going generation with the
knowledge, skills and character to administer a liberated South Africa. From the
schools of KwaZulu there emerged the lawyers, journalists, teachers, administrators,
thought-leaders and entrepreneurs of a democratic South Africa.

We went further to establish Teacher Training Colleges throughout KwaZulu.
Through my friendship with Mr Harry Oppenheimer I accessed funding to establish
the Mangosuthu University of Technology, where we could equip students with
vocational training, enabling them to participate in the labour market immediately
upon graduation.

All these years later, I still receive letters from South Africans who went through our
schools in KwaZulu. They thank me for all that I did, relaying how they were able to
help their families and how they had achieved success now in their chosen field.

This history holds a valuable lesson. It teaches us that there are two paths to the
future. The one is a path of tearing down, and the other is a path of building. The
future will come regardless. But whether or not we are equipped to live in it depends
on the path we choose.

Unfortunately, the ANC has a record of tearing down, rather than building. In 1994,
the subject Good Citizenship was removed from schools on the pretense that it
inculcated Inkatha propaganda. When the ANC took over KwaZulu Natal from the
IFP in 2004, teacher training colleges across the province were summarily shut
down.

What followed was teaching strikes and then the FeesMustFall campaign. The
present is too frightening to contemplate. No wonder there is need for patriotic
initiatives like the “I’m Staying” campaign. What parent wouldn’t leave, given the
opportunity to take their child out of South Africa’s education system?

When female students are raped on campus; when students must resort to living in
condemned buildings with no running water or sanitation, just to be close to campus;
when learners are at risk of physical abuse by their teachers and when bullying goes
unaddressed; when the Department decides to impart liberal sexual values as part of
the curriculum; when learners are killed in unroadworthy bakkies and overcrowded
taxis for lack of transport; when drugs are freely available in primary schools and when weapons are brought in unchecked: is this the education system we want for
our children?

Government must carry a large portion of the blame. But we are all responsible. If we
are not actively involved in fixing education through an NGO, through mentorship,
through engaging public representatives, through school governing bodies, and
through our vote, we are culpable of allowing the situation to continue.

That is a hard reality. But we are talking about saving our nation. We dare not tickle
each other’s ears in a venue like this and then go on our merry way. We are the
builders of tomorrow. It lies with us, the privileged, the educated, to equip this
generation for the future. We need to equip them with more than knowledge. They
need an understanding of social justice and a comprehension of social responsibility.
They need to know how as well as why.

I am proud of my grandson, Prince Zakithi. He and his peers like Mr Raymond
Mkhulisi are still actively involved in Michaelhouse even a decade after graduating.
They recognise the great treasure they received and they see themselves as
custodians of that treasure. I am encouraged when I see young people like this,
wanting to expand the blessing of education.

As I said, things today are quite different than they were when I was at school. But
there are things that haven’t changed. Whether you look at education 50 years ago,
or 80 years ago, or today, it is still true that knowledge is the key to empowerment.

I believe that everyone has a unique gift within them. The way to unwrap that gift is
through education. You can be as naturally talented as you like; you can be an
undiscovered genius. But if you never have the chance to learn about the world and
the way it works, you are likely to remain undiscovered, and unfulfilled.

It is at school that you discover your passion. It is at school that you acquire the skills
of social interaction, and learn the important lesson of responsibility. If you have
good teachers, you will also learn that education is an endless, open and exciting
journey. You will become a permanent student of life.

That is my prayer for this generation. And as I pray, I will keep working, to fix, to build
and to equip. For that is the duty of us all.

If you were to ask me whether I regret having had this kind of pilgrimage in my
lifetime, I would say not at all. I was fortunate during this difficult time to have as
one of my friends, Sir Lourens van der Post. And in the many conversations I had
with him, in his flat in London, he would always quote Robert Louis Stevenson who
said: “To travel hopefully, is a better thing than to arrive.”

It was that hope which sustained me in my long and difficult journey. Even in the
crisis we face in our country now, let us not abandon hope.

I was fortunate in meeting that great Prime Minister of the UK, Sir Harold Macmillan
on my first visit to Britain. He was still alive. There may be few or none in this room
who may remember how on a visit to this country, he shook the architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrick Verwoerd and the whole country with his; “Winds of Change
Speech.” I also remember a quote from him on the essence of political leadership;
“It is like rowing a boat. You keep your eyes fixed in the distant horizon, while rowing
firmly in the other direction.”

I thank you.

Image credit: www.michaelhouse.org