Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
At a site of one of Rwanda’s unspeakable 1994 massacres, a guide was asked why the response from the Western world was so understated at the time of the genocide. He replied that other issues competed in the media as, for instance, Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison and Kurt Cobain had committed suicide.
It is simply the nature of our world that these three events could be seen as equally important on the global stage. But with hindsight comes perspective, and it is apt that former President Bill Clinton later admitted that the failure to react to what was happening in Rwanda was the biggest regret of his presidency.
In the face of war and tragedy, words are often insufficient. But we must never underestimate the power of saying something. I was reminded of this recently by an Afrikaans gentleman, who wrote to thank me for something I said in 1998. I had spoken, at the time, about the death of Piet Retief and I apologized on behalf of the Zulu nation to the Afrikaner people.
Having only recently read about my apology, he responded by apologising for the Afrikaner’s rejection of the Zulu’s offer of assistance against the British, and for what he called Paul Kruger’s "lapse in judgment" which "left an enormous hole in the relations between our peoples".
A few words or a gesture can go a long way toward healing. Former captain of the Cote d’Ivoire soccer team, Cyrille Domoraud, recently spoke about the best memory of his career. He led the team to the 2006 World Cup Finals which took place as his country was in the grip of civil war. Domoraud felt that if the team could qualify, it would be a gift to his nation who had suffered so much.
Of course, the Ivory Coast team is also known as "The Elephants", an association it shares with the IFP. In fact the image of the mighty, large and strong elephant is so evocative of the IFP that the ANC intervened to stop statues of elephants from being displayed in KwaZulu Natal. They felt this would be giving the IFP too much credit – which to their mind is any credit at all – similar to the way they are pressing forward to change Mangosuthu Highway to Griffiths Mxenge.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Take for instance the constant flow of cartoons in a KwaZulu Natal newspaper which are intent on portraying a negative image of me and the IFP. In the public eye, images become fact, which makes journalistic integrity and responsible reporting all the more critical.
One case of an artwork failing dismally to capture the image in the public eye is the statue of King Shaka which was recently erected and more recently removed from King Shaka International Airport in Durban.
There was furious debate over the depiction of King Shaka as a herds-boy when, across the world, his name elicits images of a warrior in full battle regalia.
Some sneered and suggested that he should have been depicted hunting elephants, as he was apparently given to do. That too would have been a loaded image, but one wonders what it would have signified.
Next month, the London Film Museum will host the first exhibition dedicated to the 1964 film, Zulu, which portrayed the Battle of Rourke’s Drift within the Anglo-Zulu War. Having been invited to support the exhibition, I was reminded how, a year after its release, Zulu was given a "D" certificate by censors in South Africa, effectively barring black South Africans from watching the film.
The images of thousands of Zulu warriors – comprised of ordinary Zulu men as extras – would no doubt have stirred national pride and reminded our nation of its strength. That was not a direction the government at the time wished to venture towards, quite unlike our present government which is using every opportunity to inspire patriotism.
Indeed, ahead of Bafana Bafana’s final Group A match against France last Tuesday, the ruling Party issued a statement urging South Africans to view the entire World Cup as a victory for our country, whether our boys won or lost. I – like many South Africans – am extremely proud of our team’s performance.
At the start of the World Cup, I dared to write about the downside to hosting an event of this nature. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I broached the subject, as one could so easily be seen as a wet blanket amidst the soccer fever. But my words seemed to open a stream of concern and suddenly everyone was talking about the cost of the World Cup.
One Gauteng newspaper carried the amusing headline "Voel dit? Dit is duur" ("Feel it? It is expensive"). This headline, and others, concisely captured the pathos of our people at this point in the game.
But today’s headlines congratulate Ghana for winning a victory for Africa. We are powerfully reminded of Ghana’s first victory, for Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African nation to cast off the yoke of colonialism and win independence, heralding the coming of liberation on our continent.
Today, Africa triumphs. One need not say much to express a sentiment, and the power of a few words should not be underestimated.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe
Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi 082 729 2510.