Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
And Former Chief Minister and Minister of Police
Of the Erstwhile KwaZulu Government
I cannot tell you what a tremendous privilege it is to meet with men and women who have done so much for our country.
I know that you have come here today to thank me, as the former Minister of Police of the KwaZulu Government, for having trained you as members of the KwaZulu Police Force. That, I must say, touches my heart. It is a blessing to know that all we did made a difference in so many lives. But I am also glad for this opportunity to meet so that I can thank you. Serving in the police is often difficult and always dangerous, but is seldom rewarded with the kind of recognition it deserves.
I hope that today you will feel my appreciation and respect. I have never regretted forming the KwaZulu Police Force. Indeed, I remain proud of all that we achieved under very difficult circumstances. For eight years, the men and women of the KwaZulu Police Force committed themselves to serving the ends of justice by supporting what was right and defeating what was wrong. You were trained to serve South Africa and were prepared through your training to take your rightful place in a coming democracy.
At the very first passing out parade of the KwaZulu Police Force, I said, “All over Africa too little has been done during struggles for liberation to prepare people for the victories after liberation.” I am grateful now to see the fruits of what we did to prepare people for what would come after 1994. I knew then, as I do now, that each generation gives their contribution to establishing the kind of future they long to live in, and the next generation benefits.
Looking back today, it is evident that we acted with great foresight. I think today of the words of reassurance I gave in January 1987, at the second passing out parade. I said then, “You are young people and as you pass out from this police training course and take your place in society, you can be absolutely sure that when one day you reach the age of retirement, you will do so in the kind of country your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could only dream of.”
Thanks God, that has proven true. Some of you are retired already, and you have retired into a country vastly different from that which you first began serving in. Democracy, freedom, equal rights and opened opportunities characterise today’s South Africa.
Sadly, however, corruption, weak leadership, unemployment and high crime are also prominent features. There is no doubt that our country needs the same order, discipline and rule of law now that we worked to achieve through the establishment of the KwaZulu Police Force almost thirty years ago.
At that time, in 1986, KwaZulu laboured under the oppression of the apartheid regime. As Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government, I had refused to accept nominal independence for KwaZulu which would have led to the success of the grand scheme of apartheid to balkanise South Africa. In retribution, the national government in Pretoria allocated to KwaZulu less per capita than anywhere else. We were forced to administer KwaZulu on a shoestring budget.
We therefore chose to prioritise two aspects of governance over any other; education and agriculture. At that time, the ANC’s mission-in-exile, the UDF and COSATU were waging a campaign of ungovernability which saw schools, clinics, government offices and black-owned shops being burned down and vandalised. The cost to our government was enormous, which set back what we could achieve on the budget we were afforded from the national coffers.
The money used to build and rebuild this infrastructure belonged to all black people in KwaZulu. It was taxpayers’ money; our people’s money. The poorest of our people were being made to suffer more in the name of a misguided liberation strategy. Thus we decided to step up the training of police, to protect infrastructure and prevent further loss.
We also urgently needed to protect our people, for those who disagreed with violence as a liberation strategy and those who disagreed with the call for international sanctions and disinvestment became targets of violence. The homes of Inkatha members were petrol-bombed, and many were maimed or murdered. Yet wherever people banded together to protect their lives and property, they were branded as “vigilantes” and “impi”.
Thus we needed more trained officers of the law with full legal authority to protect lives, maintain peace and prevent violence.
The KwaZulu Department of Police established the first local training course in 1986, at Amatigulu Youth Camp. Through that first course, we successfully trained 499 officers, including three women who all had a background in teaching. I am pleased to say that, within months, the second training course included 73 women. And the average pass rate increased with each successive course.
For the next eight years, I proudly spoke at the passing out parades of each training course, for I served as Minister of Police at the unanimous behest of the Cabinet of KwaZulu.
Change was already evident in South Africa in the year that we started training.
Pass laws had just been abolished and there was need to heal the hostility that existed between the people and members of the police, who for so long had been obligated to demand passes from every black person. We worked hard to create good community relations, particularly through sports. Yet our efforts were made infinitely more difficult by those who perpetuated the myth that black police officers, soldiers and civil servants were the enemy of the people.
I remain grateful that our training college established the Police Student Christian Movement so that officers could support and encourage one another and pray together, both for our country and their own safety. They served in an extremely dangerous environment, for the ANC’s mission-in-exile had charged its military wing with targeting the police. As a result, members of the South African Police Force were being attacked, maimed and killed.
Through their broadcasts and pamphlets, the ANC had sentenced police officers to death. Unfortunately, in an attempt to placate the ANC’s external mission, some members of the South African Police Force dealt more harshly with Inkatha members, while failing to arrest members of the UDF and ANC when they attacked members of Inkatha.
The politics of intimidation combined with all kinds of criminal elements to sow discord and chaos. But behind each act of thuggery was a purposeful, organised political strategy to violently overthrow the South African Government and create, not a democracy, but a one-party Marxist state.
The KwaZulu Police Force was trained to protect people from political thugs, from political vandalism and violent intimidation. You showed exemplary courage under serious and constant fire.
It pains me, even now, to recall how our police officers were vilified during the ANC’s people’s war, simply because they served under Minister Buthelezi. The campaign of vilification against me spilled over to anyone who shared my ideals, values and vision for our country.
The vile propaganda against me and against those who served under the KwaZulu Government still rears its ugly head from time to time, even now, 21 years into democracy. Despite the facts being known, and despite intensive investigation into the truth that has led to books like Dr Anthea Jeffrey’s “People’s War”, some still propagate the lies of the past.
That is painful. But I draw strength from knowing that my conscience is clear. I know that I never once ordered, instructed, condoned or authorised a single assassination, attack or abuse of human rights. Those who served in the KwaZulu Police Force can say with a clear conscience that they served the ends of justice with morality. They were never asked to act against their conscience.
When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission offered political amnesty, many leaders of the ANC and half of the ANC Cabinet filed applications in which they admitted to having committed “grave violations of human rights”. The law defines this as involving murder, torture or mayhem. They all received blanket amnesty, without ever having to disclose what they did. The ANC’s military operatives were given almost automatic indemnity, with no investigation of their chain of command.
I, on the other hand, did not receive amnesty. I never applied for amnesty, for I had done nothing wrong. I publicly stated that if I had committed any crime or had orchestrated any criminal acts, the State should charge me. That never happened. My conscience is clear.
I believe that every act of service by our police officers at that time enhanced the cause of democracy, for chaos made negotiating a democratic future quite impossible. Black and black, and white and black, could not negotiate in the midst of chaos. There was both a moral and a political need to restore order.
To achieve this, I charged our policemen and policewomen to be non-prejudicial in performing their responsibilities. “Work only for justice,” I instructed, “work for justice for all.” I reminded them always that they were servants of the people. We would never tolerate members of the KwaZulu Police Force becoming bullies, lording it over their fellow human beings.
I remember telling our officers, “It takes a great deal more courage to walk quietly, to reason and to persuade, than it does to shoot, maim or kill.” The role I gave to our Police Force was that of peacemaker, to combat intimidation and stop black-on-black feuding. There is no doubt in my mind that the KwaZulu Police Force contributed to hastening and achieving democracy by acting against the violence to create space for negotiations.
When we finally achieved democracy in 1994, all police forces from all over South Africa began to be amalgamated into one new Ministry of Safety and Security, under Minister Sydney Mufamadi. In July 1994, the newly appointed Minister of Police Services in KwaZulu Natal, the Rev. CJ Mtetwa, invited me to be the guest speaker at the 12th passing out parade of the KwaZulu Police Force.
I was then no longer the Minister of Police of KwaZulu, but served as the Minister of Home Affairs in the national government of our country. The Minister of Safety and Security gave his blessing to Minister Mtetwa’s invitation.
It was a tremendous honour for me to speak to the men and women of the KwaZulu Police Force one last time, knowing that I had started that Force from scratch.
By July 1994, we had trained thousands of men and women in criminal law, statutory law, administration, conflict management, patrol techniques, humanitarian law, weapon skills and a number of other subjects.
At that 12th passing out parade, I had the opportunity to say farewell and to thank all the members of the KwaZulu Police Force, past and present, from the lowest to the highest rank. What a blessing it is to have some of those members return today to reciprocate that gratitude. We can all rightfully be proud of the KwaZulu Police Force, knowing that it saved countless lives, and created order where chaos constantly threatened.
Of course, after 1994, we faced an enormous transition. I urged our policemen and policewomen to act with integrity and discipline, to act responsibly and in the interests of the non-racial democracy we had struggled so long to achieve.
Transitions are never easy and they can bring out the worst behaviour, or the most commendable. There were cases of both from all sides in that transition.
The political tensions that existed before democracy were still present afterwards. The IFP had been elected into the Government of KwaZulu Natal and Dr Frank Mdlalose served as Premier of the Province. Those who had wanted political hegemony across South Africa, and who had waged a violent low intensity civil war to achieve it, were frustrated by the IFP’s success and sought to destroy us once and for all.
I read an interesting account of the 1994 elections in the Mail & Guardian a couple of years ago. The now Premier, Mr Senzo Mchunu, was recalling the counting of ballot papers in an IFP stronghold in KwaZulu Natal in April 1994.
He said this –
…“The woman removed the papers and started counting: ‘IFP, IFP, IFP, IFP …’
After about 2000 or so, she said, surprised, ‘Oh, ANC’ and then she kept counting IFP, IFP … I think we got about three votes… and as we drove away that day, we left with an idea of what we were fighting against… We lost again in 1999 and I remember Madiba, after the elections, saying that Buthelezi must be a formidable opponent to have beaten us twice. It spurred us on.”
A few years later, in April 2002, Mr Mandela made a public admission about the ANC’s attempts to destroy me. He said, “We have used every ammunition to destroy (Buthelezi), but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
Clearly the pre-democracy political tensions continued to play out in the first decades of democracy. Foreseeing this, I warned our police officers at that last passing out parade in July 1994. I said, “The way forward is not going to be easy, and it is how the security forces of our country protect democracy by maintaining law and order, that will decide how stable our newly found democracy is going to be.”
Today I find that those words echo with a resounding truth. The stability of our democracy still depends on how our security forces protect democracy through the maintenance of law and order. There is no doubt that South Africa is moving towards a securocrat state. With increasing political divisiveness, social anarchy, government incompetence and economic decline, the ruling party’s response is securitisation and the consolidation of political power. That trajectory bodes ill for our nation.
Our policemen and policewomen have come under fire in the past few years. We were shocked when the Minister of Police in a democratic South Africa gave the order to “shoot to kill”. Then came Marikana. More recently, there has been a furore as the Speaker of the National Assembly ordered police officers to enter Parliament and remove certain MPs. Our sitting President has even made the authority of an independent chapter nine institution subject to the authority of the Minister of Police over the issue of Nkandla.
All this has damaged the reputation of our police service and created antagonism between the police and the people they serve. Yet our police officers perform one of the most dangerous, difficult and stressful jobs in South Africa. Their salaries are not adequate and training is often lacking. Nevertheless, when 3,800 posts were advertised by the SAPS this year, over 200,000 people applied.
We are living in worrying times. I thank God that the Government of KwaZulu was in a position to prepare men and women for times like these. We equipped people with skills and we built strong character, knowing that the road ahead would not be easy.
When I look at the men and women who came through the KwaZulu Police Force and are serving their country today, I am reassured that our nation has hope for the future. This generation will surely leave an inheritance for the next. They will have a foundation to build on. Because of our efforts and our commitment, the next generation has a chance to establish stability, peace and a stronger democracy.
That is what you have created. For that, and for every sacrifice you so freely made, I thank you. I am deeply humbled by your visit, and immensely proud.
IFP Media, Parliament