Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I feel that I owe my fellow South Africans an explanation as some have asked me why the IFP is not mentioned in the current talks between the DA and COPE on political cooperation. For the benefit of young South Africans, I think I need to spell out where I come from as far as coalition politics is concerned.
After the banning of some of our liberation movements, the ANC and PAC in 1960, I continued to work with the leader of the ANC Mission-in-exile, Mr Oliver Tambo. When I founded INKATHA I consulted Mr Tambo and he agreed with me when I stated that I felt that it was time our people were given the opportunity to have a membership-based organisation once again. The two people who encouraged me to do so were President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia after my visit to Zambia and Tanzania and Bishop Alphaeus Zulu. This was in 1975.
In South Africa the Apartheid Regime passed the Political Improper Interference Act forbidding any participation of South Africans of different races in the same political organisations. That is why the Liberal Party was forced to fold. And that is why Mr Peter Brown was persecuted so much.
I founded INKATHA in what was then 'KwaZulu' and I did not forbid Africans of other ethnic groups from joining it. That is why I was summoned in 1977 to Pretoria by the Minister of Police Mr Jimmy Kruger. He threatened me with action if I did not confine membership of INKATHA to Zulus only. I told him that as long as the National Party allowed whites of different ethnic groups to be its members, I had the same right to allow Africans to join INKATHA. Mr Kruger argued that whites all had a Teutonic background. I asked him if this included the Jews, and he did not respond to my question.
I recall that the only one-on-one discussion that I ever had with Prime Minister John Vorster was when he also summoned me and quizzed me on why I allowed myself to be used by the Progressive Federal Party. I asked him in what way I was being used. Mr Vorster then asked why I addressed their conferences. I told him that if the National Party invited me to address their conferences I would also do so.
I told him that the leader of the Progressive Federal Party Mr Colin Eglin had invited me to go with him to visit African states. I asked him if that meant that he was using me. Mr Vorster said that Mr Colin Eglin was trying to use me and that he wanted to go to Africa riding on my back. He further accused me of being used by 'the Rand Daily Mail'. I asked him in what way I was being used. He asked why they always got comments on every issue from me. I told him that if they asked me for a comment I found no reason not to do so.
I was not intimidated by Mr Vorster. I continued to have a good relationship with the other leaders of the Progressive Federal Party after Colin Eglin left the leadership. I invited leaders of the Progressive Federal Party to our INKATHA Conferences and before Mr Colin Eglin departed from the leadership of the Party, I attended the Conference on Federalism at Bulugha in East London with him and other leaders. Dr Van Zyl Slabbert and I addressed joint meetings and also meetings of our respective parties.
I suggested to the leaders of the so-called "Homelands" that our oppression had nothing to do with our ethnicity. I suggested that weshould approach the government together to voice black grievances.
This was in September 1973 in Umthatha. That is how we had the joint meetings with the Prime Minister Mr John Vorster. It was at the 1974 meeting that I directly raised the issue of Mr Nelson Mandela's release in a face to face discussion with other leaders, in discussion with Mr Vorster.
Later, we formed the Black Alliance with leaders of black organisations. The Political Improper Interference Act forbade us from merging into one organisation. This alliance consisted of INKATHA National Cultural Liberation Movement, the Labour Party of the Coloured people led by Mr Sonny Leon and later by the Rev Alan Hendrickse, the Reform Party led by Mr Y S Chinsamny, the Dikwakwentla Party from the Free State and the Inyandza Party of KaNgwane led by Mr Enos Mabuza. I was elected its Chairman. We had meetings in Durban, in Nelspruit, in Port Elizabeth and other places.
When the Tri-cameral system was introduced our Black Alliance fell apart as some of its members joined the Tri-cameral Parliament. We disagreed on participation in the Tri-cameral system.
I continued to work with Mr Oliver Tambo and he was informed about all these things. I met with him over the years in London, in Nairobi in Kenya, in Lagos in Nigeria, in Mangoche in Malawi, in Lusaka in Zambia and in Stockholm in Sweden. We met for the last time with Mr Tambo in London in 1979. Each one of us with his delegation from his organisation. We discussed the strategies of the ANC of campaigns for economic sanctions against South Africa and disinvestment, and also the armed struggle.
This is when we disagreed. But we were supposed to be in touch later after the ANC mission-in-exile then intensified their international campaign of vilification against me and INKATHA. This was followed by the low intensity civil war between the ANC, UDF and INKATHA.
In 1989, Mr Nelson Mandela with whom I corresponded, wrote to me to state that he was looking forward to meeting with me after his release so that we could together deal with the carnage that was taking place between our members in that low intensity civil war. But that was not to be. Mr Mandela phoned me in February 1990 shortly after his release stating the urgency of us meeting as he had indicated in his letter to me in 1989. But this was not to be. When some of the Traditional Leaders asked him when he visited Umthatha later why he and I who were known to be friends had not met, he stated that the leaders of the ANC and the UDF were against the idea and he said they almost "throttled me".
So it was not until the 29th of January 1991 that Mr Nelson Mandela and I finally met in Durban, each one of us accompanied by a delegation from his organisation. We issued a joint communiqué that from that time onwards the ANC and the IFP were to have joint rallies addressed by both Mr Mandela and myself. And that both sides should not use what was described as "KILLING TALK" that fuelled the violence.
As leaders of the IFP in Pietermaritzburg invited me to address a rally at Taylor's Halt in Pietermaritzburg, I then invited Mr Mandela to address the rally with me and to make it a joint rally. Before the rally took place, the KwaZulu Natal leader of the ANC, Mr Harry Gwala, took a busload of ANC leaders from the Province to Johannesburg to forbid Mr Mandela from going to Taylor's Halt to address a joint rally with me. This is what Mr Mandela told me when I phoned to ask why he was no longer coming to address the joint rally at Taylor's Halt with me.
When Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr Walter Sisulu and Mr Cyril Ramaphosa visited Mr Harry Gwala, Mr Gwala said: "It's either that Buthelezi dies or I Harry am no longer with you". Mr Gwala said their attitude towards me was an absurdity. He said that they should not meet me or even shake hands with me. He said that the only way they can defeat me is when I am dead. He said that without me INKATHA will fade. He said that I should not be permitted to survive and that this must be done soon.
There were a number of efforts that were mounted by church leaders in an effort to bring about some rapport between the ANC and the IFP which came to nought.
When the Interim Constitution was passed it provided that any Party that had 5 per cent of the votes should participate in the Cabinet. When the IFP received more than 10 per cent of the votes in 1994, Mr Mandela invited me to participate in the Cabinet as his Minister of Home Affairs.
During the time of the Government of National Unity some of the members of the ANC and the IFP in Thokoza invited both Mr Mandela and I to unveil a memorial to the people in both organisations who died during the low intensity civil war between our members. Mr Mandela could not get a date because of the demands on his time. It was not until October 1999 that Mr Thabo Mbeki as leader of the ANC and I as leader of the IFP fulfilled the wishes of the people of Thokoza by jointly unveiling the memorial and later addressing a joint rally there.
I will jump a number of other efforts that have been made to bring about rapprochement between the ANC and the IFP which have not succeeded in spite of our serving in the Government of National Unity together and also in the government of the Province of KwaZulu Natal.
In 2004, I appealed to Opposition Parties to get together to present a common front. None of the opposition parties responded. It can be remembered that Mr Tony Leon and I agreed to form a coalition during the election which did not work out. It was rejected by the KwaZulu Natal leaders of the DA.
There has been a recent effort to get the parties in Parliament together and that included the ANC. I have attended these meetings and have gone along with the decisions that have been taken.
So, I found it difficult to understand what the Political Editor of 'The Business Day' meant when he wrote the following this week under the heading; "TIME FOR A COMMON FRONT, AGAINST ANC" ? Monday Comment by Tim Cohen (Business Day 3 August 2009): "Four major problems arise with unity discussions between political parties. The first is who should be included and who excluded. In this case the problem slightly solves itself. Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is 81 but has no intention of relinquishing leadership. Until he does the IFP is unlikely to join".
My whole history does not justify this statement by Tim Cohen. He has never met and talked with me even on the phone. I find no justification for such a highly placed journalist to write such a statement that I am not prepared to relinquish leadership of my Party.
And for him to conclude that as long as I lead my Party it is unlikely that the IFP can join such a common front is also without justification. Tim Cohen's pontifications are not justified by my past history.
In the dark days of apartheid it was I who tried to get the people of different races and of different political backgrounds together through the Buthelezi Commission and the KwaZulu Natal Indaba. I also invited representatives of the ANC and the National Party to participate in the KwaZulu Natal Indaba and both of them declined.
These efforts resulted in the only non-racial government that operated in South Africa, the KwaZulu Natal Joint Executive Authority.
I have great respect for what Tim Cohen writes from time to time. But he has demeaned himself in indulging in this mindless vilification of me. I put him on such a high pedestal that I would never have thought that he would also demean his integrity by indulging in the game that is so popular amongst so-called political analysts, journalists and academics; the endless Buthelezi-bashing. I must congratulate the ANC for having succeeded in portraying me in such a way that I have become the veritable bête noire of South African politics.
As far as the Democratic Alliance's negotiations with Cope, the UDM and ID are concerned, I wish them well.
In all candour, the prospects of South Africa becoming a consolidated democracy, one in which power alternates between different opposing parties, and for the opposition, have been very bleak indeed. Since 2004, opposition parties have largely cannibalized one another whilst their combined share of the vote has fallen. However, the DA's - and Mrs Zille's winning of the Western Cape with an outright majority - and Cope's success at the recent election could break the mould. I hope so. The fact of the matter is that the DA has not, to my knowledge, approached the IFP on this matter. We would certainly have participated in the discussions if we had.
The SA body politic, at present, does not contain an equivalent to, say, for example, the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) in Germany (the IFP has had a long relationship with this party), with which the IFP could be ideologically aligned. But I see no reason at all why the IFP could not form one of the core blocks of a future centralist/centre-right government of a Christian Democratic hue.
There is a political space for such a broad movement. I have always championed coalition politics with the general rule that it is better to form coalitions after elections than before. Mergers, of course, are quite another matter.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, MP