Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
Friends and fellow South Africans,
Two Sundays ago (March 14 2009), the editor of the Sunday Times, Mr Mondli Makhanya penned one of his periodical articles on the dangers of ethnicity (Remember lessons of the past and resist ethnicity in politics at all costs). As usual I am cast as the bete-noire: "the cantankerous chief" to use Mr Makhanya's put-down.
I, of course, agree with Mr Makhanya that ethnic entrepreneurialism poses a dangerous threat to the stability of any nation. As he rightly points out, citing the genocide between the Tutsis and Hutus in which over a million people were killed in Rwanda in 1994, as well as the bloody conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and, more recently, Kenya, ethnic strife has sparked terrible internecine violence in modern times.
And that is where Mr Makhanya and I depart.
To peg his article (he has to hang it somewhere I guess) which culminates in a warning about Jacob Zuma loyalists and the "Xhosanisation of Cope", Mr Makhanya paints his by-now-familiar picture of the villainous, armed Inkatha Zulu supporters mowing down innocent, defenceless, ANC Xhosa supporters in the early 1990s.
He remains blissfully ignorant of the heavy casualties suffered by the organisation I lead. The internecine violence between supporters of the ANC and the IFP soon developed into a low intensity civil war. This led to 400 of Inkatha's leaders and office bearers being killed in a systematic plan of mass assassination in their homes, workplaces and at taxi ranks. (As an aside, I still find it extraordinary that an editor with the largest newspaper circulation in the country has writ large enough to stigmatise the third largest democratic player in the country).
That aside, as a leader who witnessed the death of over twenty thousand people in the so-called 'black on black' violence in South Africa in the early nineties, I am keenly aware of the latent explosiveness of ethnicity. It is ugly and ends in death. Yet, Mr Makhanya avers:
"This scene (the violence) was playing itself out in many parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as Inkatha dug deep into the wells of Zulu nationalism" and "the aforementioned cantankerous chief ensured that the ground was a well-tended, fertile bed of Zulu nationalism and ethnic mobilisation".
There is a somewhat Alice in Wonderland sliding door quality to the histories presented about my role by the likes of Mr Makhanya, and I should add, that of many others, who had the temerity to pull at the ropes of grand apartheid outside of the ANC tent.
In KwaZulu, we successfully blocked the apartheid plan to create an artificial white majority in the Republic by stripping all non-white South Africans of their citizenship and making them citizens of one or another other supposed "homelands". This strategy was supported by the ANC leadership at the time, including Mr Oliver Tambo.
For the benefit of 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, Bophuthatswana and Ciskei - were collectively known as the TBVC states. Their sovereignty was recognised by no one apart from South Africa and other homeland states. .
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.
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.
My role aside, can Inkatha be described as a Zulu ethno-nationalist organisation?
It was after canvassing the views of Mr Oliver Tambo, Bishop Alpheus Zulu and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, we established a membership-based organisation strongly rooted in the black communities.
Inkatha's foundation as a national cultural liberation movement was an ingenious way to circumvent the apartheid legislation that banned black political parties. Our non-racial core was, in fact, the very opposite of ethnicity.
In August 1976, I met with the Justice Minister, Mr Jimmy Kruger, who said that he would ban Inkatha if we did not confine our membership to Zulus. I flatly refused.
During the same period, I was elected chairperson of the South African Black Alliance by a coalition of organisations that had coloured and Indian representatives. These include the Labour Party led by Reverend Allan Hendrickse, the South African Reform Party led by Mr YS Chinsamy, Dikwankwetla from the Free State, and Inyandza from what was then known as Kangwane.
A few years later, in March 1980, I established the Buthelezi Commission. Consisting of 46 scholars, politicians, lawyers, educationalists, religious leaders and businessmen, the Commission focused on the possibility of reconstituting KwaZulu and Natal as a single self-governing unit, in the hope of breaking out of the apartheid mould. The Commission also gave 'strong and consistent support' for 'the market economy system as opposed to socialist or communal alternatives'.
In 1986, I formed the KwaZulu Natal Indaba, which capitalised on the work of the Buthelezi Commission and implemented some of its extensive recommendations. The Indaba succeeded in creating the Kwa Zulu Natal Joint Executive Authority, which became the first non-racial government in South Africa.
How these irreducible facts fit into Mr Makhanya's contention that "the cantankerous chief ensured that the ground was as well-tended, fertile bed of Zulu nationalism and ethnic mobilisation", I do not know. I don't fit the profile! I also don't know how "South Africa, democracy and history" dealt me and my party a "painful blow" when democracy dawned.
At the first democratic election on April 27 1994, the IFP secured 10.5 percent of the vote, winning KwaZulu-Natal with an overall majority.
Under the terms of the interim Constitution, which entitled any party that secured 5 percent of the vote representation in the cabinet, the IFP entered the national government and I became Minister of Home Affairs. We quickly set about repairing our deeply scarred country and the hard business of government - upon non ethnic lines. The IFP also won the province in 1999, albeit without an outright majority and we continue to serve the nation today as the country's largest predominantly black opposition party.
In stigmatising me and the IFP as ethnic entrepreneurs, Mr Makhanya is also insulting the intelligence of the voters in KwaZulu-Natal and other regions of the country that support us and, I hope, will support us again. To them, and our political opponents, I have - to pick up Makhanya's contention that Mr Jacob Zuma's supporters are stirring up latent Zulu nationalism - appealed for non racialism to be the touchstone of our politics.
Just last weekend, in Nongoma, the scene of recent inter-party strife, I appealed:
"I plead with you not to return to the old politics of ethnicity. It is irrelevant if Mr Zuma is a Zulu. In terms of the competition of ideas and policies, ethnicity is irrelevant. It is the policies and ideals we champion which matters".
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Contact: Roman Liptak, 083 256 4902