Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Whether you are a player or a spectator, a cricket fan or not, it is easy to feel empathy for South African wicket keeper Mark Boucher following his freak eye injury in Somerset on Monday. His sudden exit from the game is more poignant because it leaves him one dismissal short of one thousand.
Of course, life seldom plays out the way we expect, despite our plans and preparations. Boucher has given his all to the game. He is known internationally as a committed player and has won acclaim for the South African team. He has a strong personal record and had plans to retire. Despite all this, he has been removed from his position in the team prematurely.
I feel particular empathy because there are some similarities here to what happened in Zululand on Tuesday, where premature traditional leadership elections saw me lose my position in the team just short of a personal goal. The difference is, I saw it coming. My exit as Chairperson of the Zululand District House of Traditional Leaders was predictable.
For those who are unfamiliar with the institution of traditional leadership, let me explain how this changes the playing field.
I remain Inkosi or Head of the Buthelezi Clan, a hereditary position that I have held since 1953 when I gave up doing my legal articles under Mr Rowley Arenstein, a Durban lawyer often used by the African National Congress. A few years later, my installation was fully recognised by the Government, which had been hesitant to recognise my leadership because of my political activism.
I also remain the traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch, King Zwelithini, and of the Zulu Nation, a position held by my father Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi under King Solomon, and by my great-grandfather Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi under King Cetshwayo. I was appointed to this position by King Cyprian first, and then King Zwelithini.
I was born into the Zulu Royal House and born into traditional leadership. I was raised on the history and culture of the Zulu nation, knowing that I would become a custodian of this rich heritage.
For six decades I have championed the struggle of the Zulu nation for recognition and identity. This struggle began long before I was born, and will continue long after I am gone.
The struggle of the Zulu nation for liberation from colonial oppression became the roots of South Africa’s liberation struggle. The liberation struggle was in fact born out of the Zulu Royal household.
My mother’s sister, Princess Phikisile, King Dinuzulu’s first born, married Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme. In 1912, Dr Seme founded the South African National Native Congress, which became the ANC.
In the 1920s, my uncle, King Solomon kaDinuzulu, established Inkatha ka Zulu, a national movement to restore national consciousness and pride. He was joined in this initiative by Dr Seme and Dr John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of the ANC.
When I was in matric in 1947, I lived with Dr Seme and my aunt at their homestead at Ekuqhamkeni in Mahashini. Dr Seme had undergone an eye operation and dictated his letters to me. I developed an understanding of politics at a young age.
My decision to return to Mahlabathini to take up my position as Inkosi was not taken lightly. I was in Durban, having completed my studies at the University of Natal, and was active in the ANC. I attended meetings at Nichols Square, together with men like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. We were passionate about changing South Africa.
Thus when my mother, Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu, asked me to return to Mahlabathini to become a traditional leader, I sought advice from my mentor, Inkosi Albert Luthuli. Inkosi Luthuli had given up a lucrative teaching position when the community at Groutville Mission Reserve elected him in 1936. He was a highly educated man who did not consider traditional leadership an inferior calling. He had already given the example of how a traditional leader can uplift a community both spiritually and materially.
When I was installed as a traditional leader, Inkosi Luthuli sent me a long letter enjoining me to serve my people with selfless dedication and the wholehearted assurance that this was my calling. Leaders of the ANC, including AWG Champion and Masabalala Yengwa, attended my installation ceremony to show their support.
There was no great financial reward for traditional leaders. It was not a matter of money or status. I took on these responsibilities in the service of my nation, to protect and promote a traditional heritage that united people and offered a social compact based on responsibility, respect and human dignity.
On the day of my installation, I suggested that we build a court house for the clan so that, when we tried both civil and criminal cases, we could do so under shelter. There was not a single building for this purpose in any clan across the Zulu nation. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Bantu Affairs suddenly built a court house for the King, who had accepted the Bantu Authorities Act. After that, traditional leaders and clans who accepted the Act found themselves with a court house.
I never accepted the Bantu Authorities Act that was foisted on us. I remain proud that my clan built our own court house and offices without a single cent from the Government.
Over the years, I found myself at the forefront of every cause of traditional leadership. I carried the traditional leadership mandate into South Africa’s democratic negotiations at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park. I was willing to sacrifice my own political future for the sake of the recognition of the monarch and a constitution for KwaZulu Natal.
Throughout the first eighteen years of democracy I spoke often and loudly about the increasingly evident plan of the ANC led Government to sideline traditional leadership in favour of total power and dominance vesting in the ANC.
Through my initiative and efforts, traditional leaders secured a commitment, that chapters 7 and 12 of South Africa’s Constitution would be amended if the powers and functions of traditional leadership were eroded by the implementation of wall to wall municipalities for local governance. Former President Mbeki had tasked the then Deputy President Zuma, to chair the committee which addressed the issue.
Indeed, these powers and functions were eroded, and they continued to be eroded by subsequent legislation that sought to regulate traditional leadership without delineating the role or authority of traditional leaders within the local governance structure. Yet the Constitution was never amended and Government’s commitment was never fulfilled.
Legislation tried to prescribe who could and could not serve on the King’s Council, how long they could serve and how many people the King could choose to have around him. It tried to prescribe who amakhosi could elect as chairperson, who could and could not become a member of the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, and when and even where Houses could meet.
But legislation never provided for a budget for the National House of Traditional Leaders, nor for the Provincial Houses nor the Houses at local level. While traditional leaders are subject to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, they have no autonomy or budget to perform their functions.
Likewise legislation never made provision for a traditional Prime Minister, and it regulated traditional leadership uniformly across the country instead of dealing with it through provincial legislation as the Constitution intended.
For all of Government’s posturing that traditional leaders are partners in local governance, the division of responsibilities and powers between councillors and amakhosi has never been defined, which hinders a good working relationship. As it stands, traditional leaders may participate in municipal council meetings, but cannot vote and cannot expect their participation to have any binding influence.
Moreover, the MEC may determine what their actual role is and what form their participation will take. That is hardly a partnership.
In May 2009, when President Zuma changed the name of the Department of Provincial and Local Government to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, some felt that greater emphasis would finally be placed on creating this partnership. But Traditional Affairs enjoys less than 0.2% of the budget of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. As the saying goes, put your money where your mouth is.
The ANC has been irked by my constant warnings that their Government seeks to reduce traditional leaders to purely ceremonial figures. They have done everything in their power to separate me from traditional leaders and move me out of elected positions in the KwaZulu Natal Provincial House of Traditional Leaders and the Zululand District House.
Yesterday I released a statement to the media detailing some of the legislation they have tried to push through to remove me. I also released a statement about the ANC’s explicit abandonment of reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP, as evidenced again in President’s Zuma’s Mandela Lecture.
The ANC’s Provincial Secretary, Sihle Zikalala, responded by saying, "We regard (Buthelezi) as a senior statesman and we remain committed to the process of reconciliation with the IFP." But, in the same statement, he says, "(Buthelezi) has become irrelevant" and the IFP must "just shut up". He calls my warnings of corruption "laughable".
But the most telling line in the ANC’s statement is this: "We believe that the era of the existence of the IFP is fast coming to an end."
This echoes Nelson Mandela’s admission in 2002 that the ANC has used every ammunition to destroy me. "We cannot ignore him," Mandela warned.
In February last year I spoke in the National Assembly during the State of the Nation Debate and read what were purportedly minutes of an ANC meeting, which spelled out the ANC’s support for Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi. In part, I read, "Members of the ANC throughout the province need to be alert and aware that our rivals Inkatha Freedom Party has a history of defeating the odds and win back their ravaged areas. Therefore, the ANC President is calling on all comrades to be cautious not to take their road mobilization and recruitment lightly especially within Inkatha strong holds. Because Inkatha has strong strategic values."
When the President responded in the National Assembly, he never denied or contradicted what was before us. The fact remains that the ANC is intent on destroying the IFP by removing me, and destroying me by removing my authority with amakhosi. They forget though that someone else will always rise to take up a righteous cause.
I have not yet fulfilled my personal goal of seeing amakhosi united. I will no longer pursue this as the Chairperson of the Zululand District House of Traditional Leaders. But I will forever pursue it as an inkosi, as a patriot and as a servant of my people.
The game of cricket did not end on Monday with Mark Boucher’s unexpected exit. Neither will the cause of traditional leadership end with my predictable exit as chairperson of a local House.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.