PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY AND
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre
31 August 2018
How wonderful it is to have so many friends gathered in one place, and all in celebration of my birthday. It seems like only yesterday that we were together like this at the Durban Exhibition Centre, celebrating my 80th. I must say, it is good to see so many of the same faces, even if they have changed just a little. This is a reminder that I am blessed with many true and deep friendships which have withstood the passage of time.
The newer faces are equally good to see, because they speak of friendships formed in this late chapter of my life. There are not many who can say that the circle of their friends kept growing, even into their nineties.
Thank you to all of you for being here. Tonight it is my turn to express my gratitude. Over the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed by messages of congratulations and good wishes. Letters came from such diverse correspondents as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and a Grade 9 learner from Mitchells Plain. The warmth expressed by both those who know me personally, and those who support me in my role as leader, is quite touching.
It was not my idea to celebrate in such grand style. When my children came up with the idea last year, to celebrate my 90th with a series of events, I gave them my blessing; in part perhaps because the Lord alone knew whether I would still be with you. But I had no idea of the scale of celebrations that was being planned.
Two weeks ago the Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, His Grace Dr Thabo Makgoba presided over a thanksgiving service, which launched our celebrations. I hear that my children had originally planned to hold that service at KwaNzimela, which is where we held the very first meeting of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe in 1975. Logistically, however, it couldn’t be done.
I am not saddened by this, because it was equally fitting that we should hold our thanksgiving service in Durban, considering that I was confirmed at St Faith’s in the Diocese of Natal. If we were marking my journey of faith, that was exactly the right place to it. And we were blessed by the choir of St Faith’s who provided such a wonderful rendition of hymns and praises.
The magnificence of that day was followed by my birthday celebration in Ulundi on Monday. I was amazed to see so many, come from so far, to celebrate with me. More than fifty beasts were donated as gifts to feed our guests. I was humbled by the expressions of gratitude from His Majesty the King, Amakhosi and the Buthelezi Traditional Council.
This evening’s event is intended as a culmination of all our celebrations, and tonight we are joined by such an array of dignitaries that I wouldn’t know where to begin in naming them. Thank you for being present with us and for considering this celebration worthy of your time. I marvel that you consider me deserving of such attention.
But then I look back on my life and I realise that, by God’s grace, I have participated in some of the most significant moments of our nation’s history. I have been blessed to work closely with icons of our struggle and to enjoy friendships with people like Madiba and Inkosi Albert Luthuli. I fought for our political freedom, negotiated our democracy, and served in the Government of National Unity. I have led an extraordinary life indeed.
The remarkable thing is that I have never forgotten my utter reliance on the Lord. Could I have done even a fraction of the things I have done without the presence, intervention and direction of God? Not at all. He has been my constant refuge and defence; because one doesn’t live a life like this, and get to have it easy. It has been a difficult walk.
Aside from the slings and arrows of politics, the campaign of vilification, the assassination attempts, and the ocean of blood that was spilled, I suffered the more commonplace sacrifices of someone in leadership. I suffered the loss of time with my family, and the endless loss of sleep. I simply never rested.
I remember how the Cabinet of KwaZulu used to chide me because I didn’t take even a day off. Eventually they were compelled to pass a resolution of cabinet stating that the Chief Minister must go overseas, for one month, with his wife. I wonder now if there was a bit of conspiracy! I am sorry to say, though, that even that was never implemented.
My dear friends, Mr Nick Steele and Dr Ian Player, who were then with the Natal Parks Board, pressurised me from time to time to visit Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Mr Steele tried the excuse that even Christ, went into the wilderness! When they failed to extract a date from me, they would simply arrange it and say, “Go”.
Everything was fine, until they cottoned on to checking my luggage. That was when they found the stacks of papers. The trouble was, I got easily bored, and as much as I enjoyed being in nature, work was always beckoning.
I wonder now whether I am stupid. Surely anyone who works like that must be stupid, because no one is indispensable. I have seen graveyards filled with indispensable people. But a couple of hours on a boat on Lake St Lucia and I felt like I could take on the world, again.
I know I should thank the Lord for the strength He has given me. After all I am still healthy at this great age. Having surpassed man’s allotted three score and ten, according to the Psalms of King David, I have a few chronic ailments like diabetes and gout. But my health has never prevented me from serving my country or my people; and still I am serving.
What is more remarkable still is that my conscience is clear as far as my pilgrimage is concerned. There are very few things I wouldn’t do again, if given the chance. Like any human being, I have made mistakes. But I have no regrets concerning my political career. I obeyed my leaders, Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo, by agreeing to serve in the homelands system; a system which our organisation, the ANC, completely rejected.
History has proven it was the right thing to do. Even former President FW de Klerk admitted before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that my rejection of independence for KwaZulu was the straw that broke the camel’s back, collapsing the grand scheme of apartheid. The presence of His Excellency Mr F W de Klerk and Mrs de Klerk is quite special, for we would not be where we are as a country without his decision to release Mr Mandela and other political prisoners, and opening an opportunity for us to map out a way forward to our country’s freedom. I was quite humbled by the fact that President de Klerk when announcing his decision to release Mr Mandela, and to unban our political movements, that he mentioned me by name in Parliament as one of the people who encouraged him to make that decision. I am honoured that he is here today with Mrs de Klerk. He will certainly go down in the annals of our country as one of our greatest sons.
Despite the devastating consequences, I cannot regret the decision I took to oppose the armed struggle and the call for international sanctions. I held rallies in Johannesburg, in Durban, in Kroonstad and in Bloemfontein and Cape Town, asking our own people to guide me. Not a single voice supported sanctions.
Thus I visited Heads of State in America, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to persuade them against imposing sanctions and disinvesting from South Africa.
For this I was portrayed as a sell-out and an agent of the apartheid regime. But I would do it again, to protect my country’s economy.
Years later when an ANC-led Government was campaigning against the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe, by the European Union and the United States, I asked President Zuma why. He explained to me how sanctions hurt the poorest the most and create greater suffering. I responded, “That’s really amazing, Mr President. You people called me all sorts of names when I said the same thing.”
The rift between me and my leaders in the ANC was painful for me to bear. I was portrayed as a traitor to the very cause to which I had committed my life. There was no rhyme or reason for the vicious campaign that was waged against me, or for the terrible lies that were told. It hurt me, but I took comfort in the knowledge that I was serving my country in all the decisions I took.
What was harder for me was to see the hurt inflicted on my wife and my children, by what was being said about me. I cannot count the tears of my beloved wife. Let alone those of my beloved mother!
And then there was the violence that grew out of this campaign to destroy Buthelezi. I still feel the pain of every drop of blood that was shed.
I was sustained through that time by the friendship of Mr Nelson Mandela, who never withdrew his friendship even when the sluice gates were opened by his comrades. He continued to write to me throughout his incarceration, right up to 1989, just before his release.
It was painful when he was prevented from seeing me for almost a year by some leaders of the UDF and the ANC. The fact that our friendship lasted despite everything, speaks volumes about his integrity. For that, I thank the Lord. It is wonderful to have President Mandela’s wife, Mrs Graça Machel, with us tonight, together with her daughter, Ms Josina Machel.
I wish also to say how grateful I am for the message from His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, our former President. I can never forget for whatever remains of my own life the privilege of also serving this country with him under President Mandela, and also the privilege he extended to me when he appointed me Deputy President in 1999, which was unfortunately torpedoed by some ANC leaders in this Province. I thank him also for the privilege of asking me to continue to serve our country under him for another five years. But above all of this, Irene my wife and I, will ever be grateful for the friendship and support we have enjoyed from Ms Zanele Mbeki and President Mbeki. Mrs Zanele Mbeki attended more than one funeral of some of our 5 children who have departed this world.
I was humbled when former President Olusegun Obasanjo told me that he had visited Madiba on Robben Island, as part of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. He said, at the time, I was the only voice of our struggle in South Africa, and he therefore asked Madiba, “Who is this Buthelezi?” Madiba answered, “He is a freedom fighter in his own right.”
I remember chatting to President Joaquim Chissano, with whom I developed a close friendship. He told me that he too had asked Mr Tambo who I was, and Tambo had replied, “That is our man.”
But when I dared disagree on an armed struggle and sanctions, I was suddenly persona non grata. Despite the propaganda of my collaboration, President Vorster knew that I was no friend. If I was all that they said I was, how could patriots like Mr Alan Paton and Mrs Helen Suzman have remained so close to me?
If I was a lackey of the apartheid regime, why was I received with such warmth by Presidents; President Julius Nyerere, and President Obasanjo? Why did President Tolbert of Liberia award me Knight Commander of the Star of Africa? They had their intelligence sources. They knew the truth about me.
So too did President Kenneth Kaunda, who advised me in 1974 to establish a membership-based organisation to reignite political mobilisation within South Africa. I am honoured tonight by the presence of President Kaunda’s son, Colonel Panji Kaunda, who has brought his father’s good wishes.
The formation of Inkatha, with the approval of Mr Tambo, was perhaps the most pivotal moment of my career. In the 43 years that followed, I have had the privilege of working side by side with some of the greatest patriots I have ever known.
The commitment of the stalwarts of the IFP has profoundly touched me. I have seen men and women from all walks of life tying their destinies to mine, for the sake of serving our country. Their sacrifice and commitment is humbling.
There are certain individuals whom I know were sent by God to assist me on this formidable journey. Key among them is a man who will always have a place in my heart, Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini. He came to South Africa as a constitutional lawyer to advise our delegation during negotiations, and he stayed to become my Special Adviser in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
I thank God for the gift of placing the right people around me, including my Private Secretary Mrs Lyndith Waller, and her father Awie van der Westhuizen, before her. In this difficult atmosphere in which I have worked, I would not have been able to make this small contribution I have made to my country, without people like that slaving with me, working long hours, and sacrificing time with their own families for the sake of our nation.
People such as the late Mrs Sue Felgate, Mr Zakhele Khumalo, Ms Constance Sekati, Messrs Eric Ngubane, Amos Ngema, Godfrey Dlamini and Ms Bongekile Maphanga. Various officials who worked with me in the KwaZulu Government such as Ed Gregory, Stanley Armstrong. And many other friends who have made a contribution in my long journey such as Mr Arthur Konigkramer. There are too many friends who I cannot forget such as my late friend Mr ABC Motsepe, his son Mr Patrice Motsepe and Dr Motsepe. The late Mr Harry Oppenheimer and his lovely wife Bridget; and their son Nicky Oppenheimer and his wonderful wife Strilli, and their son Jonathan; Dr Richard Maponya and the late Mrs Maponya. Not least Mr and Mrs Arnold and Rosemary Zulman for their friendship which spans over 50 years. Their home in Durban became our home, away from home during the apartheid era, when we could not stay in hotels.
I can never forget the honesty and friendship of people such as Professor Lawrence Schlemer, Mr John Kane-Berman and Mr Bobby Godsell. Thanks to other families that have offered me hospitality over the years, the late Dr Mohamed Mayat and his wife; the late Pat Poovalingam and his wife Sakunthalay.
Mr Sunil and Mrs Magarin Laganparsad; Pastor Tim Moodley and his wife; Mr Nessa Branprakash and Anita; and Mr Logan Reddy and his wife; and Mr Prim Iyer and his wife Joyce; Mr Vivian Reddy and his spouse; Mr Motala and his son Hassan. There are too many even in this very room, and time and space does not allow me to mention them all. My special thanks to our sister-in-Christ Mrs Peta Hulett. Special thanks to very special friends Dr Aylen and his beautiful wife Pauline who have travelled all the way from the United Kingdom to be with me on this special day.
Now, there is a group of people who worked immensely hard in the past few months, to pull together these magnificent birthday celebrations. Tonight, I wish to thank the Legacy Celebrations Committee, under the chairmanship of my son, Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi. To the whole Committee, and to my family, thank you for all that you have done to honour me. It is quite overwhelming.
I wish to single out Prince Qedi who became a pillar of strength to the Legacy Committee. I am humbled by all the contributions that Prince Qedi made for all these functions. And I am proud that a member of King Dinuzulu’s family would have devoted so much of his time and resources to make all these contributions. I also thank God for the IFP’s General-Secretary of Administration Mr Mfanje Mbango.
I must also thank all the leaders of my Party, especially our Chief Whip the Honourable Mr Narend Singh, for all the hard work that has gone into this. You were helped by a wonderful team at Ikhono Communications, but I know the weight of work that fell on all of you.
Let me close my remarks by reminding us all that no human being is perfect. While I stand as a newly minted nonagenarian, with the gifts of a clear conscience and a great story, I know that along my journey I have caused offence by omission or commission, because I am human. I still spar almost daily with certain journalists and analysts who are committed to hating me.
Whatever has caused this poison in their hearts, I would like to apologise. Even Christ, the Son of God, refused to accept the compliment that He is good. No one is good, He said, except the Father.
So I am humbled by the grace that has followed me all the days of my life. I give thanks to the Lord. And to the good friends whose paths of life have crossed with mine, I say thank you, and thank you indeed.