Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment of the late prominent businessman, former IFP Secretary-General and former Minister of Education in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, Dr Oscar Dumisani Dhlomo, who died after a long illness on 29 August 2008, as a 'pioneer of black empowerment'.
Dr Dhlomo was an erudite individual who possessed an undisputed talent for combining different roles and achieving simultaneous success in them. He was an intellectual, an astute politician, a ground-breaking educator, an effective negotiator and a successful businessman. He embodied the shining future of a new breed of proud and prosperous black South Africans freed from the bondage of oppression.
Before turning to that, however, let me speak of Dr Dhlomo the statesman and a man I was proud to call a friend and colleague.
As a patriotic South African businessman and political activist extraordinaire, Dr Dhlomo made an enduring contribution to the life of our country and to the political party I lead, the Inkatha Freedom Party. The story of the IFP and South Africa's remarkable transition cannot be told without reference to the leading role that Dr Dhlomo played.
It was in his role of Minister of Education in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, which I led as Chief Minister, that I came to appreciate - first-hand - his many human and professional qualities.
Dr Dhlomo understood the need for a respect agenda as one which we all, despite our vastly different backgrounds and circumstances, shared during the difficult years of the struggle against apartheid.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was classes in ubuntu/botho which he incorporated as Minister into our children's curriculum. From an early age, children need to learn the values of tolerance, acceptance, consideration and showing humanity towards the people around them. Dr Dhlomo gave these values the prominence in our children's education they deserved. But, as you recall dear reader, those were dangerous and fast-changing times.
Widespread international condemnation of the Soweto riots gave supporters of the armed struggle a fillip. But Dr Dhlomo and our cabinet colleagues rejected the call of "liberation now, education later" which prompted black people to undermine and destroy the black education system in order to foment students into supporting the armed struggle.
We juxtaposed the slogan with "education for liberation" in the belief that education should be turned into a tool of liberation and human growth.
His rationale that anti-social behaviour is alien to our African culture which has always been rooted in a strong sense of respect was the kernel of an educational program that was boldly championed by my government but, at the same time, led from the community upwards.
I strongly reject, as I have always done, the suggestions peddled by Dr Dhlomo's critics that our ubuntu/botho classes were a mere tool for disseminating Inkatha propaganda in schools. Dr Dhlomo was too generous-spirited to stoop to the level of political propaganda.
Dr Dhlomo, our stalwart colleagues and I shared an absolute conviction in the transforming power of the twin pillars of self-help and self-reliance. We therefore boldly asked the Amakhosi and the fine people of KwaZulu to pay a Rand per Rand of the government's contribution from our shoe string budget to build most of the schools that, to this day, exist in KwaZulu Natal. On a per capita basis we received less funding from Pretoria than all the so-called "independent states" and self-governing territories.
Dr Dhlomo, Inkatha and I refused to be honey-trapped by accepting independence for KwaZulu. For even if every so-called "homeland" other than KwaZulu had opted for independence, the blacks that remained in a common South Africa - the Zulu nation alone - would have still outnumbered the whites. Our rejection of independence struck a fatal blow to the government's attempt to balkanise South Africa into so-called "independent states" the way it had been disastrously done in Europe.
For the benefit of my readers under 40, this scheme was conceived by Hendrik Verwoerd as an instrument of "grand apartheid" as part of his plan to engineer the total separation of the races.
Four of the "homelands" had co-operated in this design to denationalise the various ethnic groups. The nominally independent homelands - Transkei, Venda, Bophuhatswana and Ciskei - were collectively known as the TBVC states. Their sovereignty was recognised by no one apart from South Africa and other homeland states. This, however, as a Time report in 1987 observed, did not prevent some of them from succumbing to political and financial excesses on a world-class scale - including the imposition of one-party rule, nepotism, official corruption and wildly extravagant spending.
By 1989 the National Party Government had come to realise that there was no prospect of them making the "homelands" policy work. President FW de Klerk frequently recalls the National Party's frustrations that we rejected the government's offer of independence. He testified to the TRC that "most notably KwaZulu under the leadership of Buthelezi - flatly refused to accept independence from South Africa". Dr Dhlomo staunchly supported me in the tactic and without his encouragement it would have been even more difficult than it was.
There is a campaign of deliberately distorting history such as appeared in one Sunday newspaper report on Dr Dhlomo's passing away, that he was a Minister of Education in "the KwaZulu Bantustan". The territory of South Africa that was designated as KwaZulu never became "a Bantustan" or an independent state. The people of KwaZulu's citizenship of South Africa was protected by our rejection of independence or Bantustan status. They were South Africans right through. During this period, people flooded from the TBVC states to KwaZulu to claim citizenship so that they could acquire a South African passport. We, of course, granted them citizenship and they became, once again, what they always were: South Africans.
To keep on referring to the territory or the self-governing territory of KwaZulu as a Bantustan, or to us who were part of that government as Bantustan leaders, is more than intellectual dishonesty on the part of those who show their hostility to me by keep on hanging that pejorative around our necks.
In 1979 in London at the meeting of ANC/IFP delegations led by Mr Oliver Tambo and myself, Mr Tambo commented on this issue. This was in the presence of President Mbeki and other people in our two delegations. Mr Tambo stated that those who had accepted "independence" were "traitors" to the cause, as distinct from those of us who did not accept it. And the only reason why he worked with me and Inkatha for so many years before 1979 was because of this fact.
The fact that I had entrance into offices of Heads of State in the West such as Lady Thatcher's in the UK, Chancellor Kohl's in Bonn, Den Uyl's office in the Hague, and Presidents Reagan and Bush in Washington, amongst others, was because I was accepted as an opponent of apartheid by these government's of different political complexions from Africa. It must be mentioned that Dr Dhlomo played a vital role in the two-and-a-half day discussions that took place between the ANC/IFP delegations in London in 1979.
I went to thank President Kaunda in Lusaka and President Nyerere in Dar es Salaam for giving sanctuary to our political exiles. On the day Transkei was celebrating "independence" in 1976, I was speaking at the Institute for International Affairs in Lagos. I was the guest of the then Head of State, General Olusegan Obasanjo, who sent tickets for me, my wife, Mr GJ Thula and Mr Eric Ngubane, who accompanied me to Lagos.
It was a deliberate plan for me to be there to avoid the so-called independence celebrations in Umtata. It is a disgrace that one of the people who are carrying on with these lies should be an editor of one of the largest newspapers because of his pervasive hatred of me.
Dr Dhlomo's name stands out in big gold letters in his stewardship as the Secretary-General of the IFP. He carried out many delicate negotiations on my behalf, including the deal to purchase Ilanga from the Argus Group. His famed and honed negotiating skills, needless to say, prevailed and we acquired Ilanga.
Then a little later, in the mid 1980's, Dr Dhlomo's involvement in the Buthelezi Commission and the KwaZulu Natal Indaba enhanced the already considerable respect that the people from all race groups had for him.
He was colour blind to race - he simply believed that we are all God's children. The Indaba succeeded in creating the KwaZulu Natal Joint Executive Authority, which became the first non-racial government in South Africa.
It has, of course, become fashionable in some quarters to denigrate the approach we took, but one is grateful - and I know Dr Dhlomo was - for the support we received from the likes of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, President Ronald Reagan of the United States of America, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, former Chancellor of Germany, Mr Rudd Lubbers, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and, just as importantly, so many ordinary - yet "extraordinary" - friends across the globe. Some of them read this letter and they too will mourn Dr Dhlomo's passing deeply.
When Dr Dhlomo resigned from the IFP, I was naturally saddened, but there was not a bit of rancour in either of our hearts. His shoes were, I freely admit, too big to fill. I do, however, want to make it clear that he did not leave because of any differences between us, as some of the IFP's and my detractors have tried to insinuate over the years to portray me in a bad light. He simply told me that he was leaving to enter into business but that he would not support any other organisation other than Inkatha.
After Dr Dhlomo resigned from politics, he got involved in black empowerment - before it became fashionable - and he made his presence felt in the casino and steel industry and in the retail and financial sectors, bringing together a lifetime of experience in politics and government. What a man! What a star! What a friend!
For now, alas, we must bid our brother farewell as he now resides in his eternal home. This is my prayer for Dr Dhlomo adopted from a traditional Celtic prayer -
GO forth upon your journey from this world,
In the Name of God the Father who created you;
In the name of Jesus Christ who died for you;
In the name of the Holy Spirit who shines through you;
In friendship with God's saints;
Aided by holy angels.
May you rest this day
In the peace and love
Of your eternal home.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 5557144