Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last week my family suffered the loss of my son, Prince Phumaphesheya Gregory Buthelezi, who finally succumbed to multi-drug resistant TB after a long battle. Messages of support and condolence flowed in from every part of the world, and we were again reminded of the kindness of strangers and the love of friends. I wish to thank the many South Africans who prayed for our family and sent notes of sympathy. Your support has been a balm to our souls.
Having lost five children, two in the tragically sudden circumstances of car accidents, I am familiar with grief. I know the pain of a parent who must bury their greatest treasure, and live on in the absence. I am also acquainted with the grief of losing friends, colleagues and mentors, parents, siblings and comrades. I have attended many funerals and cried many tears.
I therefore know better than to disregard the human aspect of political violence.
It has been painful for the IFP to witness the commemorations of political violence that are part of the centennial programme of the ANC, for all of these have been commemorations of violence perpetrated against ANC supporters, despite the fact that the People’s War waged by the ANC against their political opponents claimed some 20 000 black lives.
Over a short space of time, the public discourse has been flooded with memories of violence. There have been newspaper articles about the Boipatong Massacre and the Trust Feeds Massacre. SABC has aired “The Bang Bang Club”, a “docu-drama” that states as fact the lie that the IFP was an ally of the Apartheid Government in its covert war against the ANC. The ANC has unveiled a Heroes’ Arch to victims of the black-on-black violence, deliberately excluding the IFP. Presidential Orders have been bestowed on two men for exposing “collusion between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the apartheid security forces.”
Piece by piece, the narrative is being constructed that the ANC was the victim of violence during Apartheid, rather than the perpetrator. The truth about the ANC’s deviation into violence is being covered. The reality of the ANC’s People’s War is obscured. And the fact that the violence was for the ANC’s political hegemony, and not about ending Apartheid, is systematically being subverted.
I was grateful to read an article published in The Star on the 18th of June penned by Dr Anthea Jeffery from the South African Institute of Race Relations. It was titled “Cycle of violence led to Boipatong”, and was published on the very day that Sedibeng’s Executive Mayor called for the Boipatong Massacre to be recognised like other national days.
I have posted Dr Jeffery’s article on the IFP’s website (ifp.org.za) for it is a revealing account of the many incidents of violence against IFP members and supporters that brought the conflict to boiling point. In her book titled “People’s War”, Dr Jeffery documents the countless daily attacks on IFP supporters in the late eighties and early nineties, that inevitably and tragically provoked a response.
The IFP cannot say to the families of victims of violence that their loved ones should not be remembered. Next month, when the ANC commemorates the Seven Days War, we will not ask those who fled their homes or lost family members to keep silent. We stand alongside them in remembering the terrible pain of the black-on-black conflict, for the IFP bore the brunt of it, we remember it, we know their pain.
But we also know that when the ANC recalls the Seven Days Wars, it will not mention what happened in the days immediately before. It will not speak of the Elandskop woman and her baby who were attacked by ANC militants. It will not admit to the five weeks of harassment suffered by Inkatha supporters who were beaten, abducted, gang-raped and robbed. It will not mention the stoning of busses on the way to a peace rally I organised to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s release.
All that will be remembered is that the people reacted. The provocation will be ignored.
Must the IFP respond by holding commemorative events to honour the memory of the 400 IFP leaders and office bearers who were systematically assassinated? Is there any benefit in exposing this wound in our national psyche, again? I am concerned about what is best for our country; for reconciliation, healing and national unity.
It would be impossible for the IFP to commemorate every death, every attack, every abuse committed against our supporters during the ANC’s People’s War. And it may not be in the interests of our people to do so. But somehow, by parading their wounded, the ANC is telling our wounded that their pain is less significant. They don’t deserve to be remembered.
It worries me deeply that the ANC was willing to risk social fragmentation for the sake of creating this distorted liberation narrative during its centenary. It was deliberate. It was calculated.
Think of the sudden labour strike at Ilanga newspaper in April and the invectives hurled at the Managing Director. There is no coincidence in the fact that “Reclaiming Ilanga Newspaper” was on the programme of the ANC’s KwaZulu Natal Centenary Task Team in January already.
Next week, Government will hold a National Social Cohesion Summit in Kliptown to convene our country’s leaders on the issue of nation building and social cohesion. I marvel that the IFP has been invited to contribute to this discussion, when national leaders of the ANC, while bickering in their meetings, think that the worst insult they can hurl at their comrades is accusing them of once having been in the IFP.
This blind hatred of the IFP has been nurtured in the ANC for 33 years, ever since we refused to join the armed struggle and make Inkatha’s structures a vehicle for the ANC’s violence. We knew that the liberation struggle had been founded on the principle of non-violence for the express reason that violence would damage our country and our people for generations into the future. It was not in the interests of South Africa.
We also knew that the people of South Africa, the oppressed majority, did not want violence. The armed struggle was not the will of the people. It was the will of the ANC’s leadership, from exile.
On the 6th of May 1976, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to Prime Minister John Voster warning him that bloodshed was imminent. In that letter, he wrote, “I know violence and bloodshed and I and many of our people don’t want them at all…”
The IFP served the will of the people. We rejected violence, and we paid a high price. It seems we are still paying for going against the ANC.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP