Message Of Condolences By
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Mp
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
God’s Family Life Centre, Pietermaritzburg: 11 July 2015
Tributes and memories of Mr Norman Stewart Middleton filled the Gleemore Congregational Church this past Tuesday. One by one, family, friends, community leaders, dignitaries and activists spoke of a beloved father, a tenacious struggle hero, a war veteran, sports administrator, trade unionist, straight-talker and faithful friend. How good it is to know that Mr Middleton’s life was properly celebrated.
Yet no matter how much was said, there is still more. A life of 94 years, lived with passion, self-sacrifice and conviction, will leave behind it many memories. In the years to come, we who knew him will keep relating our stories of Norman Middleton. At unexpected moments, we will think of his exceptional taste in clothes, or his love for his wife. We will remember his voice, his convictions, his courage.
That is the lot, and the boon, of friends. Ours is the sorrow of mourning his death, and ours too is the joy of celebrating his life. We will celebrate often in our remembrances of him.
This morning, however, we gather for a more sombre moment, knowing that our friend must finally be laid to rest. I am grateful to be able to attend this service, for although leaders of my Party attended Tuesday’s memorial service in Cape Town, I hoped for an opportunity to pay my own respects, in person, to the Middleton family.
My condolences and those of my wife, Princess Irene, are with your family in this difficult time. I know that Mr Middleton’s four children shared their father with South Africa, for he was a dedicated servant of democracy, equality and workers’ rights. His time was not his own, but was wholly devoted to serving his country. The sacrifices he made were your sacrifices too. I want to thank you for what you enabled him to give to South Africa.
Mr Middleton’s longevity was quite possibly the greatest gift, for it gave him time in his latter years to form close bonds with his children, grandchildren and family. I know that family friends, including Mr Eric and Mrs Daphne Lucas, will attest to the wonderful moments these latter years brought.
I was pleased to see Mr Middleton still sprightly, even well advanced in years. Like me, he became an octogenarian while serving in our national Parliament, and even in 2009, at the age of 88, he happily contributed to Party work as a member of the Western Cape Core Group of the IFP. Mr Middleton was never one to say, “I’m retired”, or “I can’t assist”, or even “It can’t be done”. Indeed, he proved, on many occasions, just what could be done.
Many of this past week’s tributes focussed on Mr Middleton’s contribution to equality in sports in South Africa. It is indeed remarkable that he became the first President of the non-racial South African Council of Sport, in 1973, and also President of the South African Soccer Federation. Like me, he had his passport confiscated by the apartheid regime and was prevented from travelling outside South Africa between 1974 and 1982, because, had they let him travel, he would have lobbied throughout the world against inequality.
Last year, together with other sports heroes, Mr Middleton was honoured by the Ministry of Sports, together with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. I am grateful that his contribution in this regard was recognised in his lifetime.
But little has been said over the past week, or indeed at any time during his lifetime, about his exceptional contribution to politics. As his leader for many years, I consider it a privilege to correct that oversight.
In 1950, having served in World War II, and having made his mark as a trade unionist, Mr Norman Stewart Middleton became a founding member of Reverend Alan Hendrickse’s Labour Party. Mr Middleton believed in political enfranchisement and equal rights, and he understood that if South Africa was to be liberated, people like him had to become activists. He sought to bridge divides between our country’s people.
When the Prohibition of Improper Interference Act forbade people from different races from participating in the same political party, many of us recognised the threat of further forced political division. In order to bring South Africans together, Inkatha, the Labour Party, some parties in the Free State, and Mr Yellan Chinsamy’s Reform Party established the South African Black Alliance, on 11 January 1978. I was asked to chair the Alliance.
Two years after the formation of the Black Alliance, the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly established the Buthelezi Commission. This was the forerunner to the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba, which resulted in a proposal for a non-racial constitutional governmental structure. The Alliance was traveling together in hope; but we came up against a terrible obstacle.
The apartheid regime reacted to our Alliance, bolstering its efforts to separate us by creating the Tricameral system. They established three different legislative chambers for whites, Indians and coloureds: the National Assembly, the House of Delegates and the House of Representatives. White South Africans retained the reins of power through the Presidency and the President’s Council, but each chamber had its own executive with the power to legislate on “own” matters. Effectively, representation was extended to Indians and coloureds, while blacks remained excluded.
Faced with the Tricameral system, the Alliance met in Eshowe to discuss the way forward. Tragically, we broke ranks. The temptation to join the Tricameral Parliament proved too much for the majority of the Indian and coloured members of the Alliance. Yet there were a few who recognised the divisive nature of the Tricameral system and rejected it, choosing instead to remain in the South African Black Alliance. Mr Norman Middleton was among these champions of equality, as was his friend Mr Eric Lucas, as well as Mr Chinsamy and the Apollos family. I will forever be grateful for their discernment and courage.
In 1985, when legislation barring multi-racial parties was finally repealed, Mr Middleton and Mr Lucas joined Inkatha. Our friendship was already entrenched, for we had worked together with a shared vision and passion for several years. But once he was within the Inkatha fold, I got to know Mr Middleton better and began to appreciate him as a friend, as well as a comrade.
Mr Norman Middleton was someone who was proud of his roots. I remember vividly when he and other colleagues visited me and Irene at KwaPhindangene. On that occasion my late mother Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu joined us. Mr Middleton was suddenly quite emotional when he saw my mother. He told us that my mother reminded him of his late mother. I then asked him from which family his mother came from. He told us that she was from the Mnguni family. I then told him that it was therefore more than coincidental that my mother’s features reminded him of his mother, because my mother’s grandmother, King Dinuzulu’s mother – Queen Nomvimbi also came from the Mnguni family. So from that time we referred to each other as cousins.
It may sound less than generous to say that Mr Middleton was hard-headed. But he had that rare quality of being hard-headed at the right moments, for the right reason. He was always direct, and you knew where you stood with him. These qualities made him an asset to the IFP, both during our liberation struggle as well as post-1994 as we built our democracy.
I was pleased when the results of the 1999 elections saw Mr Middleton enter Parliament as an MP for the Inkatha Freedom Party. He served diligently for a full five year term, contributing significantly to our team in the National Assembly.
I pray that in the years to come history will not underestimate the value of Mr Norman Middleton’s contribution to freedom in South Africa. I myself cannot forget the value of his support when I opposed the Tricameral system. The National Party somehow assumed that I would accept the Tricameral system, for I had accepted the Government of KwaZulu, of which I was Chief Minister. But I had become Chief Minister at the behest of Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo, so that we might undermine the system from within.
The Tricameral system saw blacks accommodated in their own ostensibly independent states. Had the grand scheme of apartheid been completed, Pretoria could have legitimately stated that there were no disenfranchised people in South Africa, as everyone had their own government. But, buoyed on the support of people like Mr Norman Middleton, I rejected independence for KwaZulu, thus derailing the grand scheme of apartheid.
Mr Middleton and I shared a vision of South Africans standing together on the moral high ground to force, through passive resistance, the disintegration of apartheid. Just as he saw the end of World War II, having played his part, Mr Middleton saw the end of another battle, the battle for freedom. In that too, he played his part. It was no walk-on piece; but a significant and noteworthy contribution to the history of South Africa.
Now, may his life be remembered and celebrated, not only by us his friends, but by all those who seek to understand the past. On behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party, I extend our deepest condolences to the Middleton family. May our friend and comrade rest in peace.