AIDE MEMOIRE OF
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
AND TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
Casa Blanca Restaurant, Durban: 15 November 2015
I must thank Mr Thulasizwe Shezi for arranging this meeting to introduce the new Political Minister Counsellor at the US Embassy in Pretoria, Mr Brian Phipps. I welcome you, Mr Phipps, to KwaZulu Natal and to South Africa, knowing that your time here is bound to be an interesting experience. I also welcome Ms Claire Breedlove-Smith, the Political and Economic Chief at the US Consulate here in Durban. Thank you to all of you for agreeing to meet for dinner before the start of a new week.
I have committed some thoughts to paper, for I find that there is always so much to be said in a meeting like this, that it helps to be able to go back on the conversation later to consider it more fully. Though I have no doubt that you are already well versed in South Africa’s political environment, Mr Phipps, let me lay a foundation for our discussion.
I have led the IFP for 40 years, since we established it in 1975 in an effort to reignite political mobilisation towards liberation, and create a cohesive force in the struggle.
For 40 years my Party has variously served in government, in Cabinet, and in opposition. We administered the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, which enabled us to undermine the apartheid system from within, and we secured more than two millions votes in the first democratic election, which placed us not only in the Government of National Unity, but in the Cabinet of President Mandela, where I served as Minister of Home Affairs.
The IFP won KwaZulu Natal in 1994, which we administered for ten years, drawing the ANC into cooperative governance for the sake of reconciliation. Reconciliation has been a central focus of the IFP for decades. I am sure you are aware, Mr Phipps, that in the eighties and early nineties South Africa was engulfed in the flames of a people’s war, waged by the ANC and UDF to secure political hegemony. The IFP became the main target of that violence, because of the widespread support we had, particularly in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.
Some 20 000 black lives were lost in that violence, which was characterised by attacks, counter attacks, revenge and pre-emptive strikes. It was a time of intense suffering. Years later, in April 2002, former President Mandela finally admitted in a recorded interview to the ANC’s strategy to annihilate Inkatha. Speaking about me, he said, “We have used every ammunition to destroy him. But we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor whom we cannot ignore.”
The ideological differences that opened a chasm between the IFP and ANC centered around two issues. Firstly, the use of violence and an armed struggle, and secondly, the call for international sanctions against South Africa and large scale disinvestment. Inkatha could not abandon the founding principles of our liberation struggle set in place by people like my own uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the original South African National Native Congress. The IFP believed, and we still believe, in non-violence and negotiations.
At the time, which was the seventies and eighties, I travelled extensively to discuss with world leaders the situation in South Africa and how they might support our liberation from apartheid. I found immediate friendship from the United States. The diplomatic representatives of America serving in South Africa were warm and receptive towards me, understanding the role I played as Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government, as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, and as a freedom fighter who worked closely with the leaders of the ANC-in-exile.
Whenever we were in Durban, my wife and I were invited to stay at the residence of the Consul General, for at that time blacks were not allowed to stay in hotels. I shall never forget the hospitality I received when I visited the United States. I was invited first by President Jimmy Carter to meet with him in the Oval Office at the White House, in 1979, and then by his successors, President Ronald Reagan and President George Herbert Bush. The First Lady, Mrs Barbara Bush, was kind enough to host a lunch in my honour at the White House.
In all these meetings, I sought to persuade America against sanctions and disinvestment, and I found support for what I was saying. President Carter had just come up with the Sullivan Principles, and we discussed these in depth.
To me, it made no sense to weaken the economy we would inherit, and I understood that disinvestment would create unemployment and further impoverishment of those who were already oppressed. The decision by American companies to remain in South Africa was a victory for the poorest of our people. I remain grateful that leaders like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Den Uyl in the Netherlands shared these views. And others such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Germany. And in Africa such Heads of State as President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and General Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State in Nigeria in the 70’s.
Nevertheless, South Africa’s economy was weakened by sanctions and disinvestment. Monopolies and cartels sprang up that we have struggled to break. Now, in the global economic downturn, South Africa has been deeply affected. Unemployment was already high, but it has now escalated to more than a quarter of our working age population. We face a severe economic crisis. We can thus ill afford to be excluded from the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I sincerely hope that our Government will see the sense in meeting President Obama’s ultimatum and fulfiling its commitment to open our markets to US poultry, beef and pork imports.
As the Chinese curse goes, we live in interesting times. The threat of an Arab Spring is evident in South Africa and there is no denying that change is on its way. The question is simply whether we will move in the right direction, or down a path of self-destruction. I am concerned by firebrand leaders who are preaching revolution to our people, preying on their frustration, anxieties and discontent. Divisions are opening in our society, and a tinderbox of social upheaval is being primed.
In the midst of this, the IFP stands in our national Parliament, in our provincial Legislatures and our municipalities, and calls for calm. For 40 years we have been the voice of reason. We will continue to rise on behalf of the right path, calling on South Africa to be circumspect, to act with integrity, and to do what is in the best interests of the long-term future of unity in our nation.
That is the role of the IFP. And with that, Mr Phipps, Mr Shezi, Ms Breedlove-Smith, I open our discussion. Thank you for your patience.