Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute Adriaan Vlok, former apartheid law and order minister, Johann van der Merwe, ex-police chief, and three former high-ranking police officials for attempted murder next month is prompting a wider appraisal on the national process of reconciliation.
I fear that the generosity of spirit and magnanimity which characterised our confident young democracy could be yielding to the bitter fruits of recriminations.
If I was to point to what I believe is the single greatest achievement since the advent of democracy, it would, undoubtedly, be the inculcation of a spirit of reconciliation amongst our communities. If one looks to other countries seeking to heal internecine divisions, be it Chile, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Ireland or elsewhere, it is clear that South Africa emerges as a model, indeed a golden template, of reconciliation. People here took the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to heart.
Although the TRC exercise was imperfect in its political bias towards the ruling party and, too often, eschewed the standard of proof, it did some good. The IFP’s objections to the constitution of the TRC process are well-documented and I will not list them here. Dwarfing the TRC process and the other instruments of peace has been the innate goodness of the South African people and their determination to transcend the divisions of the past.
Reconciliation is too often spoken about in chocolate box language. By the nature of its participants, reconciliation is imperfect, often uneven and a work-in-progress. There is little wonder that the concept if often inspired by theological notions, particularly the Judeo-Christian principle of redemption.
Responding to the NPA’s decision, the South African Human Rights Commission says the question of reconciliation should not be confused with accountability. Reverend Frank Chikane said that forgiveness of apartheid perpetrators and legal action against them are two separate issues. I agree – as long as the rule of consistency is applied without fear or favour.
The Editor of the Sunday Times, Mondli Makhanya penned as undisguised anti-IFP and anti-Buthelezi polemic in his column last week titled, ‘Vlok knows who the killers were and perhaps he will now tell us’. I have been Makhanya’s favourite bete-noire for quite some time now, but I cannot ignore the serious charges he makes.
Mr Makhanya holds me personally responsible for the low intensity civil war which broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in the late 1980s. The TRC did not reveal a shred of evidence to support the contention that I gave instructions to IFP members to engage in acts of "murder and destruction". Like former State President, Mr F W de Klerk, I never applied for amnesty to the TRC for the simple reason that I had nothing to apply for amnesty for.
Even the TRC’s verdict stated that I was mentioned by name as far as accountability for human rights is concerned, only in my representative capacity ex officio as Chief Minister of KwaZulu, as the KwaZulu Minister of Police and as leader of Inkatha. This was on the basis that some people who belonged to these various structures were alleged to have committed human rights violations. It is debatable whether I should have been accused of vicarious responsibility in this context.
I therefore challenge Mondli Makhanya or anyone else to prove that which even the TRC failed to achieve that I ever personally ordered, authorised or approved the death of a single human being during that conflict. It is good that the National Prosecuting Authority has now started the process of prosecuting those who are accused of having committed human rights violations. And who failed to ask for amnesty. I did not ask for amnesty. Mr Mbeki and some ANC leaders did.
Mr Makhanya can carry out a civil prosecution of me if the National Prosecuting Authority fails to do so. And I think that it would only be fair that Mr Makhanya should rather do so instead of abusing his position as editor of the country’s largest Sunday newspaper to carry out this vendetta just to satisfy his paranoiac hatred of me.
I will never apologise for the fact that I urged Inkatha supporters to defend themselves from attack. Mr Makhanya’s hagiography, like so many others, omits to mention that many Inkatha supporters had to resort to arms to defend themselves against naked acts of aggression by the ANC and its UDF associates.
In the 1980s there was a song that was sung in the ANC’s Radio Freedom programmes which mentioned my name and had words to the effect that they(the MK) will soon be coming with their bazookas. The 20 000 people who died in that conflict were members of both organisations. We also lost thousands of our members who were also murdered and 400 of our leaders.
I know all too well that war is a grisly wasteland. People on both sides of this bitter war suffered and inflicted painful suffering. It also later emerged that there was an ANC plot, confirmed by President Thabo Mbeki, to assassinate me. I am sure more information, much more, pertaining to human rights violations committed by all sides could be unearthed if we continue to dig.
If Makhanya were to be consistent, he would also hold the late Mr Oliver Tambo personally responsible for the actions of violence of Umkhonto we Sizwe and, later, Mr Nelson Mandela. He does not mention that President Mandela admitted in Parliament that he ordered the shooting of Zulus who were demonstrating on behalf of the Zulu monarchy at Shell House in 1993.
This would, of course, be politically incorrect and considered bad taste. No one, understandably, would want to sully the record of such giants. I would remind the SAHRC and Reverend Chikane that accountability in law does not allow cherry picking the ‘villain’ from the ‘heroes’.
The other cautionary note I would strike here is that nearly a decade has lapsed since the TRC wound up. The difficult question I pose today is this: Is there a genuine readiness on the part of all parties to ‘let go’ of the anger and bitterness caused by the conflicts of the past? I think we are about to find out.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP