Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
In my second newsletter, at the end of last year, I penned the following words, which, to me, seem more pertinent now: “It is astonishing that we South Africans of different hues, cultures and languages, who are neighbours, know so little about each other. We tend to think of our neighbours as members of another ethnic group rather than individuals”.
‘Ethnicity’, simply a term denoting allegiance to the same national or cultural background, remains among the most volatile tectonic plates in South Africa’s political geology. The heavily-loaded word conjures up images of regressive tribal conflicts, blood-crusted spears and ancient feuds. I have come to particularly dislike the word because I, alongside my party, have long been stigmatized as the worst offenders of ‘ethnic entrepreneurialism’.
Last week Karima Brown in ‘Business Day’ (20 November 2007) quoted the ANC’s 2005 Discussion Document on the National Question: “The call on the part of the founding fathers of the ANC to bury the demon of tribalism has not lost its validity. Some, like the IFP, engage in the practice brazenly”.
She observes that the “saliency of ethnicity in the ANC and in SA can be expressed in no clearer form than the succession battle in the party”.
Before I turn to the question of how I believe we should manage ethnicity by promoting difference and diversity as its antidote, I would like to reply to the widely held claim that the IFP is a Zulu nationalist party. It is not.
Yet, in all honesty, the perception has been paralysing as we have sought to carve out a national footprint in the democratic era. The ethnic stereotyping can be found in the party’s origins.
An intriguing chapter ‘uGatsha Ngawethu’ Mbeki and Buthelezi’ in Mark Gevisser’s new biography of President Thabo Mbeki freshly tells the story of Inkatha’s foundation at the instance of the ANC “with the express aim of giving [me] a support base while developing a mass anti-apartheid movement within Natal’s Zulu heartland”. The party was founded as a national cultural liberation movement, not an exclusive Zulu club, for the same reason that black political parties were banned. The solution was not perfect, but the circumstances, with the ANC leadership either exiled or in prison, were hardly precipitous.
The original Inkatha ka Zulu founded by my uncle King Solomon kaDinuzulu in 1928 was of course a Zulu organisation pure and simple. But Inkatha Yenkululeko YeSizwe – the National Cultural Liberation Movement, which I founded in 1975, with the approval of Mr Oliver Tambo and other ANC leaders did operate not exclusively as that, in the territory designated by the apartheid regime as ‘KwaZulu’. The description ‘KwaZulu’ described the geographical area of its origins and it was never designated as ‘Zulu’ in the sense of being an exclusive ethnic organisation.
That is why in September 1977, when the organisation was only two years old, I was summoned to Pretoria by the Minister Jimmy Kruger. We already had non-Zulu-speaking members and Kruger summoned me to threaten taking action against me and Inkatha, since I did not confine the membership of Inkatha to only Zulu-speaking Africans. At the time he had already planned a massive countrywide clampdown. I did not know anything about this at the time. Kruger told me that he had invited me to discuss security matters.
I had an aide-memoire for that discussion. It is available as it was published. But Mr Kruger immediately said that he hoped that I did not mind if he used a tape-recorder to record our discussion. I told him that I did not mind, but I immediately sent my secretary to fetch my own tape recorder from the car. At that point he could not object. So I have the transcript of the whole conversation. Present at that meeting was General Gert Prinsloo, the Chief of the Security Police. Both Mr Kruger and General Prinsloo quizzed me about some of the things that were in my memorandum.
Mr Kruger said that he wanted to know where Inkatha and I stood politically. I mentioned that I had met the PAC leader Potlako Leballo in Dar-es-Salaam. He then asked me whether there was a possible link-up between the PAC and Inkatha. I stated that the PAC was already committed to violent charge. Kruger then said that he understood that there was no possibility of Inkatha aligning itself either with the ANC or the PAC. At this point General Gert Prinsloo chipped in and said: “You have just said that they committed themselves to the violent struggle. Now you are furthering those ideals. This is not reconcilable“.
I stated that to me it was reconcilable because I wanted the liberation of Southern Africa where all people shared a common destiny. The ANC and the PAC believed in that as well. At that point Kruger interrupted and said: “When you talk about the liberation of the African people, what do you actually mean by liberation? In what way are your people enslaved, or are not liberated? It means that you are not a free people at all”. I stated that we were not free.
Then Mr Kruger asked: “Well what do you do at Ulundi?” I responded by saying: “The Ulundi thing, as far as I am concerned, is nothing more than the local administration of the Zulu people—and that we are just as much a section of the South African people”. Kruger was visibly peeved when I said this. He argued that the ANC and the PAC were racialist because they lumped together all black people on the basis of colour. He went on to state: “They say that because the various black nations are black, they must polarise against whites and this is entirely a different view from what you are telling me now—-That is racialistic,” he said.
I then argued that the example that he is talking about was set up by whites.
I stated that whites had killed each other in the Anglo-Boer War and then, years afterwards, they formed the Union of South Africa. Kruger argued that black polarisation against white people was physically and spiritually impossible. He said: “I don’t think this can happen because it is against nature”.
I pointed out that there were several ethnic communities in what was called the South African nation, comprised of whites only. I added that it was a terrible admission for Kruger to admit white ethnic groups got together because they wanted to polarise against blacks. Kruger then blamed the British for breaking up the Zulu nation and breaking its country into pieces. He argued that the government was embarked on a rectification of that and he asked that he could not understand why black people did not appreciate it.
Kruger went on to say that the government was trying to uplift the Zulu. I told him that I was not interested in this as Zulus were uplifting themselves.
I further asked about our people in Soweto. Kruger then said: “Well it’s like the Greeks in South Africa, I mean they are here but they are really not, I mean in all fairness to everybody I don’t think anybody here can really say that the Greeks and the Afrikaners are the same. He might be living in the same area, but does so on sufferance. I refer to the Greek that prefers to keep his cultural destiny—“. He had previously argued that whites were one people because they were all of Teutonic origin. I then asked if that included the Jews as well, and Kruger was just stunned and said not a word.
To cut a long story short, I refused to exclude non-Zulu-speaking Africans from being members of Inkatha from the outset, even though it was against government policy. This sabre-rattling by Mr Kruger did not alarm me. Then there was also the survey by the Bergstrasse Institute at Freiburg University in Germany which showed that there was a significant non-Zulu-speaking membership in Inkatha.
In short, I rejected efforts to ethnicise Inkatha as a Zulus only organisation. This was when it was hardly two years in existence. This Inkatha had many Robben Island ex-prisoners such as Joshua Zulu, Daluxolo Luthuli, Stalwart Simelane who told me that when they were released, Mr Nelson Mandela had advised them that when they came out they must join me and Inkatha. Many prominent leaders of the ANC since it was banned joined Inkatha such as Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, who was its chaplain in Durban at one time.
Other prominent leaders, such as Mr H Selby-Msimang, popularly known as “Unkonkana we Fusi”, also joined. He had worked with Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the ANC, in his youth and was the Secretary of the ANC in the Province of Natal. Such prominent leaders of the ANC as Mr Allison Wessels, George Champion (UMahlathamnyama), who had been the President of the ANC in the Province of Natal until he was ousted by Inkosi Luthuli in 1951.
They were all members of our Central Committee. Mrs Nokukhanya Luthuli, the widow of Inkosi Albert Luthuli was a prominent member of Inkatha.
Why must the ANC show such moral bankruptcy that they resort to blatant lies like this to denigrate the IFP? Can they say all these people were in Inkatha because they believed in the glorifying ethnicity? These stalwarts of the ANC could not be accused of having abandoned the ideals of the ANC and joined an ethnicity-promoting organisation. What of prominent members of the ANC such as Mr Joe Matthews? He was a treason-trialist, a member of MK and his father Professor Z K Matthews drafted the Freedom Charter.
As we were confined to operate freely by the apartheid laws in KwaZulu, it was inevitable that there would be more members who were of Zulu extraction in Inkatha. I am surprised to see that President Mbeki is quoted as saying that it was their idea to found Inkatha, according to his biographer Mark Gevisser.
I can only say that I am amazed, to say the least. In fact, some of the strongest branches of the IFP are found amongst Sotho-speaking Africans in places such as the Molife clan in Nqutu. We have always translated my addresses into SeSotho and IsiZulu.
I am also a hereditary leader by birth. It is one of the duties of any traditional leader to uphold the customs and traditions of his people. I did found the Bureau for Zulu Language and Culture in the Zulu administration.
This had nothing to do with Inkatha and was not against any other ethnic groups. In this capacity, I had to serve as the King’s traditional Prime Minister and the Zulu nation when it came to ceremonial occasions within our territory. It is therefore scraping the bottom of the vilification pot of the ANC’s anti-Buthelezi and anti-Inkatha propaganda to say that we have ever engaged in deliberate efforts to mobilise on any ethnic basis. These accusations of ethnicity went into crescendo after the 1979 ANC/IFP meeting between delegations led by the President of the ANC Mr Oliver Tambo and myself to intensify the demonisation of myself and Inkatha.
It is critical today as ever to grasp that Inkatha never has, and never will, equate to the politicization of Zulu ethnicity. This would imply, as our political opponents skilfully propagated, that we perceive non-Zulus as being ‘others’ or the “enemy” (this sly trick, you will note, is being used again by some supporters of the two ANC leadership candidates).
I also point out that candidates seeking their party’s nomination for the US presidential election tailor their message to the nation’s ethnic groups such as the Hispanic community. President George Bush had to learn Spanish quickly when he was Governor of Texas. It is becoming a necessity for aspiring Californian politicians, too. Across the border, in Canada, Bloc Qubois continues to call for a sovereign Quebec. None of this, to the best of my knowledge, is stigmatized as ethnic entrepreneurialism. Even when I was told that the government was thinking of giving us the whole Province of KwaZulu Natal, I still rejected ‘independence’ on the basis of grandiose Apartheid.
Federalism, for me and the IFP, will always be the right answer on how to contain ethnicity and promote difference and diversity in South Africa’s heterogeneous society. As I write, the ethnic label is being overwhelmingly rejected by the Belgian public, most of whom are opposed to the efforts of a handful of ethnic separatist politicians, both Flemish and Valonian, to steer away from the unitary course of their country whose model federalism has, to a large extent, inspired the project of post-war European integration.
Federalism, I still maintain, is the best way to manage ethnicity and promote difference and diversity.
And this brings me to the most important point. The million or so people who voted for the country’s largest predominantly black opposition party at the last election were concentrated largely in KwaZulu Natal by dint of history.
The overwhelming majority are Zulus due to the province’s demographic profile. Yet the primary needs of my constituency are, as far as a modern political party’s mandate is concerned, no different from any of South Africa’s peoples. Hunger is hunger in KwaZulu or Limpopo. The HIV/AIDS epidemic destroys families in KwaZulu and Eastern Cape. Poor service delivery holds communities back in KwaZulu Natal and the Free State. And so on.
I simply ask that the IFP be judged on merit – by its performance in Parliament and the country as an opposition party, rather than by glib – and wrong – assertions about its ethnic complexion. Our parliamentary party, incidentally, must be one of the most ethnically diverse with Afrikaners, English, Coloured, Chinese, Shangaan, and Sotho, as well as Zulu, members. We hope, in time, to reach deeper and draw more support from these disparate communities.
Which brings me back to the context of my message provided by Ms Karima Brown’s concern about the ANC’s succession battle unstoppably boiling down to ethnicity. It would be horribly wrong if it did. I, however, trust the delegates to the ANC party conference as I trust the South African people at large, be they Xhosas or Zulus, to ultimately choose the candidate who can best – that is most competently and adequately – address the concerns they see as their bread-and-butter issues.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP