Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I would like to join the entire country and millions of people across the world to pay tribute to the father of our nation, Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, on the occasion of his eighty-ninth birthday.
We will all be celebrating Madiba’s birthday in our own way. I will be travelling to Cape Town to watch the Mandela football match, Africa XI v Rest of the World XI, at Newlands. This week’s celebration will also coincide with a meeting of some of the world’s elder statesmen in Johannesburg to consider how Madiba’s message of reconciliation and nation building can be applied in the world’s trouble hotspots.
Amidst the celebrations and tributes, let us never forget that Madiba paid the ultimate sacrifice. He spent 27 years in prison in defiance of apartheid. Just as no one can give all those seemingly lost years back to him, no one can ignore or forget the inherent significance of such a sacrifice. It was the proverbial last straw that broke the back of the National Party’s hegemony. We and the world knew that here was a lion of a leader.
My friendship with Madiba has always been characterised by warmth, affection and mutual respect. We often differed on the route, but never once on the destination for our country. As men we wanted to work together. But history had cast us in different roles.
When we agreed to meet in February 1990 after Madiba was released, we were stopped from doing so by ANC leaders. Madiba told amaKhosi in the Transkei, who had enquired why we had not met as we were friends, that the ANC leaders had almost throttled him when he had suggested it. We only met a year after he was released on January 29th in Durban. At that meeting we agreed to hold joint ANC/IFP rallies to stop the violence. They never happened. The ANC provincial leader, Mr Harry Gwala led a busload of ANC leaders to the ANC’s Shell House Headquarters to persuade Madiba not to participate in a rally with me at Taylor’s Halt.
I was dismayed that a promise of international mediation to address outstanding constitutional issues, which we signed with Mr FW de Klerk, was never honoured. It was also difficult to hear President Mandela admit in Parliament that he had ordered the shooting of Zulus who were demonstrating on behalf of the institution of the monarchy at Shell House in 1993. It is true that our relationship has survived enormous obstacles which would have fractured less well-founded friendships.
Indeed, our friendship is based on our acceptance of the important roles we have had to play. I have no doubt that Madiba was the right man to lead a stricken country. His words and actions transformed the consciousness of a nation. Recalling the lyrical heights of Roosevelt’s famous cry, he taught us that "The only thing we need fear is fear itself".
He captured the imagination of the Western media establishment and beyond. The worldwide appreciation for Madiba’s sacrifice earned him iconic status which he has, in turn, used to further the liberation claims of his people. This work is still not complete. As Madiba said in 2004, "poverty, unemployment, preventable disease and ill-health, and other forms of social deprivation continue to blot our landscape as we strive to give content to the democratic commitment of a better life for all".
Mandela will be forever remembered for the way he has given expression to the Hegelian notion of reconciliation. He oversaw the formation of South Africa’s multiracial democracy as a synthesis of the thesis of apartheid and the antithesis of the anti-apartheid struggle. This Mandela best articulated via Hegel’s philosophical vision of reconciliation between the master and his slave. They both find liberation through respect for each other. In his memoir, The Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela concluded that ultimate liberation can only be accomplished by liberating the oppressed as well as the oppressor.
Does this not hold true for every fractured society trying to overcome sectarian divisions? Madiba’s ‘mediation kit’, if you will, is relevant to the communities of Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, Kashmir, Sudan, Iraq and every place where strife and hatred is manifest.
In South Africa, Mandela has transcended the limitations of race, gender and socio-economic markers. He sees us all as South Africans first. This has been especially true in his fight against HIV/Aids. The best way we can honour Madiba on his birthday is by emulating his example.
Happy birthday Madiba. May you and Mrs Graça Machel enjoy many more happy years together.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP