PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INAKTHA FREEDOM PARTY
Rand Club : 12 November 2018
Good evening ladies and gentlemen; I am delighted to share this celebration of Jozi, our City of Gold. There is no more appropriate place to celebrate Johannesburg than the Rand Club, which has witnessed – and made – much of the history of this city. Surrounded as we are by physical reminders of that history, I find my own memories of Johannesburg rise to the surface.
This city gave me the greatest treasure of my life: my beautiful wife. Princess Irene Thandekile Mzila was born and raised in the heart of Johannesburg, amidst the bustle of commerce. Her father, Mr Zachariah Mzila, was working at the Wenela Compound in Eloff Street, which had been established by the gold mines as a recruiting agency for migrant workers.
In the late afternoons, a dapper young man by the name of Nelson Mandela would visit Mr Mzila at the compound, where they would play endless games of draughts. Irene, being a good daughter, would bring them tea. For years afterwards, even into his eighties, Madiba would joke about this with me. He said, “She always held her hand over her mouth and giggled. I must have been very funny!”
In 1949 I had the good fortune to stay at the Eloff Street Compound when I accompanied my uncle, who was then Regent, Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, to the wedding of his son. The Chamber of Mines had set aside rooms at the compound where visiting traditional leaders could stay, as we could not, of course, stay in hotels. Thus I met Mr Zachariah Mzila; and fell hopelessly in love with his daughter.
A few years later, with Irene settled at KwaPhindangene, I returned to Johannesburg now and then with the King, as his traditional Prime Minister. The King and I would visit the Mandela’s house in Vilakazi Street, Orlando. Winnie would cook us a meal and we would talk throughout the night about politics, sports, family and music. In fact the first wife of Madiba, Evelyn Mase also cooked us delicious meals whenever Madiba invited me for dinner.
I was introduced to Mandela here in Johannesburg by Mr Walter Sisulu. These were my political leaders, together with Inkosi Albert Luthuli with whom I had become very close. I always tease the Sisulu children by saying that I knew Mr Sisulu when there was not one grey hair on his head.
I remember visiting two young lawyers in Johannesburg who had one practice; Mandela and Tambo Attorneys. In fact when my father-in-law died, I requested Mr Mandela as a lawyer to wind up his estate. I remember one occasion when there was a Debutante Ball to which I was invited as the Guest of Honour by that wonderful lady Mrs Marina Maponya.
Looking back on those years, a few moments stand out as highlights. I remember the thrill that ran through Johannesburg society in February 1959, as the Wits Great Hall prepared to host South Africa’s first musical with an all-black cast. I sometimes reflect and marvel why we as African people could still laugh and sing and on occasions be a swinging society in the midst of so much oppression.
The musical told the story of the boxer Ezekiel “King Kong” Dhlamini, who had been lured to this city where the streets were paved with gold. The Sophiatown it depicted was recent in our memories, for the forced removals had taken place just four years prior. On one occasion, in 1955, I had had dinner with Dr AB Xuma and his wife in their home in Toby Street, Sophiatown. Watching that musical, I remember our joy as a young Miriam Makeba crooned to the sounds of an equally young Hugh Masekela. For both of them, a great journey still lay ahead. So too did my own journey await.
Two decades later, I would find myself speaking to thousands upon thousands who had gathered at Jabulani Stadium in rallies against oppression. Here, in the heart of Johannesburg, I would quote Mandela and call for his release many times over, knowing that to do so was illegal and courted danger. It was an act of civil disobedience on my part as I was deliberately breaking the law when I read out excerpts from Mandela’s book, ‘NO EASY WALK TO FREEDOM’.
I held a number of rallies at the Jabulani Amphitheatre at which I addressed the issue of my organisation at the time, the African National Congress’s policy of appealing to the international community to impose economic sanctions and disinvestment on South Africa. I disagreed with this policy because I would address it each time at these rallies and people would respond by telling me that they would starve if they lost jobs since our movement was asking multi-national companies to leave South Africa.
It was in fact this issue, and the issue of the armed struggle, which led to the conference between the ANC and Inkatha requested by Mr Tambo in October 1979. It was this issue that led to a campaign of vilification of me and Inkatha throughout the world, and which soured relations between me and my movement, and led to the People’s War which cost us 20,000 lives.
Many of Inkatha’s supporters were living in the hostels of Johannesburg, having come here to work on the mines. For decades the Zulu Kingdom had been bleeding strong young men as they left for Johannesburg. This fact caused me a lot of problems because whenever residents of hostels did something wrong they would be described as Inkatha members. On the 28th of March 1994, some Zulus demonstrating at the Library Gardens on behalf of the King were shot by the ANC’s security, and they were described as Inkatha members.
When I was installed as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, many Zulus travelled back from Johannesburg to be present. They came, they said, because they admired the way I had spoken so frankly in front of Dr HF Verwoerd. That had happened when Verwoerd was Minister of Native Affairs and I was just 27 years old! This was a confrontation between me and the very architect of apartheid.
While the goldfields of Johannesburg fractured many families through migrant labour, they also put food on the tables back home; in Swaziland, Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, and here in South Africa. History is a complex tapestry.
Johannesburg has often been at the centre of South Africa’s history, from the Kliptown Congress and the Freedom Charter, to the Rand Club itself. There are endless stories one could tell of this great city. Indeed, it offers much to celebrate.
When I was appointed by President Mandela as his Minister of Home Affairs, I stayed at the Carlton Hotel until a house was allotted to me in Pretoria. My appointment was in accordance with the Interim Constitution, as any Party that received more than 5% of the vote in 1994 had a place in the Cabinet.
I must say, my friendship with Madiba could not be destroyed even by the People’s War that I mentioned. Even after his retirement as President, Mr Mandela and his wife Graca Machel invited me when her daughter, Jozina, got married in Mozambique. I enjoyed their wonderful hospitality again in their home in Maputo.
All these things and more reminded me of the first visit of President John F. Kennedy to Berlin. He said, “Today the proudest boast is ICH BIN EIN BERLINER!” which thrilled the Germans. Your Worship our Executive Mayor, today I am tempted to boast, “I am a Johannesburger!”
Thanks very much for allowing me to be part of this wonderful evening.