Response By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
To Statements Made By The Kwazulu-Natal
Provincial Chairperson Of The ANC
In politics, a day is a very long time. This aphorism came to mind when I read in the media that Mr Sihle Zikalala, provincial chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu Natal, had ‘invited me back home’ during an ANC event in Clermont on Sunday. I understand his words were, “We want to say to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi: you are still welcome at home in the ANC. Please come back home.”
A few years back, this same Mr Zikalala, again through the media, called me “irrelevant” and told the IFP to “just shut up” because I had dared to point out corruption in the ANC’s approach to winning over traditional leaders. My warnings of corruption were, as I recall, “laughable”.
Considering how intent the ANC has been on courting traditional leaders not only towards themselves, but specifically away from the IFP, it is surprising that Mr Zikalala still talks in terms of “chief”. Would he call His Majesty the King “Paramount Chief”? These colonial terms were legislated out of existence under my leadership in the KwaZulu Government years before democracy. They are now used only to denigrate and insult.
So it is difficult to read Mr Zikalala’s true intentions when he invites “Chief Buthelezi” to return to the ANC.
It is true that I came from the ANC fold. I have never shied away from saying that Inkatha was founded on the 1912 principles of the South African National Native Congress, which was founded by my own uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme.
At certain points in history, Inkatha has been more true to those founding principles than the ANC itself, most particularly when we rejected violence as a tool of liberation. Inkatha refused to embrace an armed struggle and would not become a vehicle to hide MK soldiers.
But that was the first point of disagreement we had with the ANC. Up until that point, I had worked closely with Mr Oliver Tambo, and had taken up leadership of the KwaZulu Government on the instruction of Mr Tambo and Inkosi Luthuli, so that we could undermine the apartheid system from within.
We were engaging a multi-strategy approach. Thus when Mr Tambo called me to London in 1979 to discuss the armed struggle, I went, and I talked to him for two and a half days, explaining that the IFP could not abandon non-violence as a foundational principle. Mr Tambo accepted that we continue with a multi-strategy approach, each doing what we could, where we were.
But immediately after we left London, the ANC issued a statement denying the meeting had taken place, and the sluice gates of propaganda and vilification were opened against me.
I recount all this to illustrate how Inkatha and the ANC were once united, but also how the ANC turned against me with a vicious poison I could never have anticipated. As Nelson Mandela later said, “We used every ammunition to destroy him. But we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
After decades of vilification, hate speech, assassination attempts and the murder of thousands of my supporters and comrades, it is not difficult to see that a process of reconciliation would be needed before anyone could suggest “coming home”.
The IFP has pursued that process for more than two decades. We have lived the values of reconciliation and continually engaged processes that could bring our two parties closer to healing. And there has been a degree of responsiveness on the part of the ANC.
I think for instance of Mr Mandela who, upon his release, spoke at his first mass rally of the ANC and publically thanked me for all I had done to secure his release. There were those who jeered and shouted at him. But he knew the truth and believed it had to be spoken. I think also of his commitment to attend joint rallies of the ANC and IFP, so that the two of us could appear at the same podium and call for reconciliation and peace between our supporters. I think of how President Mandela appointed me Acting President of the Republic on the very first occasion that he and the Deputy President were out of the country, to signify his confidence in me and his desire for reconciliation.
I think also of President Mbeki, who stood beside me in Thokoza as we unveiled a monument to all the victims of violence who died during the People’s War. And I think of President Mbeki’s intention to appoint me as Deputy President of South Africa.
These were presidents of the ANC, and they welcomed reconciliation. But other leaders in the ANC, most notably from KwaZulu Natal, scuppered every peace initiative and derailed every attempt at reconciliation.
It was the ANC leadership in KwaZulu Natal that prevented President Mandela from fulfilling his commitment to attend joint rallies. Likewise it was the ANC leadership in KwaZulu Natal that demanded I give the premiership of the province to the ANC in exchange for the freely offered position of Deputy President, knowing that the IFP would never subvert democracy in that way.
Over the past few years, whenever the ANC in the province unveils memorials and remembers the victims of the violence of the past, they purposely exclude the IFP, as though we had lost no one to their People’s War.
It is therefore significant that this invitation for me to “return to the ANC” has been made by the KwaZulu Natal provincial leader of the ANC. But still, what he suggests is not reconciliation. Instead, he is asking me to lead my entire party into the ANC so that we can be swallowed up by this organisation; an organisation that he admits is divided and struggling with internal disputes.
He told the crowd on Sunday that I should have the opportunity to come back and help sort out the problems in the ANC before it was too late. Too late for what, I wonder. Too late for these problems to be solved?
I wish I could take him seriously. But with the history I just explained, how could I? The ball is not in my court. If the ANC in KwaZulu Natal finally wants to engage in reconciliation, I will welcome discussions. But let’s be honest about what we’re saying. Reconciliation is not the same thing as merging. I cannot help a party that is not honest in its approach, nor one that is divided on the way forward.