Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Former Chancellor of the University of Zululand (1979 – 2001)
27 April 2023
Mr Khaya Ntshangase, Chairperson of SADESMO;
The leadership and members of SADESMO at the University of Zululand;
The Hon. Mr S Zondo MP, National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade;
His Worship Councillor AT Ntuli, Mayor of the King Cetshwayo District Municipality and Chairperson of the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal;
His Worship Councillor X Ngwezi, Mayor of the City of uMhlathuze and Constituency Chairperson for the IFP in uMhlathuze;
Graduates, alumni and current students;
I greet you in the knowledge that you are the change-makers of our future.
Thank you for inviting me to join you today as the South African Democratic Students Movement at the University of Zululand celebrates Freedom Day 2023. This is a very special day in the history of our country, for it marks the moment that everything changed. For the very first time, every South African, regardless of the colour of our skin or the language of our culture or the orientation of our identity, was able to participate in shaping the future of our country.
Considering how long we fought to achieve this, and how much we sacrificed over many generations, it is understandable that today, almost thirty years after those first democratic elections, we still celebrate Freedom Day. Since 1994, South Africa has held six national and provincial elections, five local government elections, and countless by-elections, all of which were democratic and the majority of which were declared free and fair.
It is understandable then that this generation sometimes asks why we still celebrate something that happened before most of you were born. The answer is simple. We are celebrating an idea, more than an event in history. The idea of freedom has captured the imagination of human beings throughout the world, since the beginning of time. The desire for freedom to make our own choices, whether right or wrong, has defined the human condition from the start.
For us, in South Africa, for more than 300 years, the ideal was freedom from oppression, freedom from injustice, freedom from domination, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. These are ideals worth striving for, regardless of the cost.
When the denial of our freedom became institutionalised through the system of Apartheid, the regime employed a nefarious tactic to ensure that we would never rise about the station to which we had been relegated. The Apartheid Government saw us as what they called “drawers of water and hewers of wood”, capable only of performing manual labour. It was essential to the apartheid structure that the oppressed masses remained uneducated.
So, when they instituted their homelands policy, dividing our country up and forcibly restricting black people to certain pieces of land, the Apartheid Government also instituted what was called “Bantu Education”.
The then Minister of Native Affairs, HF Verwoerd, explained –
“The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in all respects. There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour… It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim absorption in the European community while he cannot and will not be absorbed there. Up till now he has been subjected to a school system which drew him away from his own community and misled him by showing him the green pastures of the European but still did not allow him to graze there. This attitude is not only uneconomic because money is spent on education which has no specific aim, but it is even dishonest to continue with it…. It is abundantly clear that unplanned education creates many problems, disrupts the communal life of the Bantu and endangers the communal life of the European. For that reason it must be replaced by planned Bantu Education.”
I remember speaking at a conference of the Natal African Teachers Union in 1964. I revealed that at that stage the Apartheid Government was spending R144,57 per child on education for whites, and only R12,46 per black child. Even that was threatened to be taken away by the Minister of Bantu Education if blacks didn’t pay their taxes.
I was, at that point, a loyal cadre of the ANC, having joined the ANC Youth League at the University of Fort Hare. The ANC rejected the homelands policy, but we realized that we had no option but to participate in it. So Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo instructed me not to refuse leadership of the KwaZulu Government if the people chose me to lead. They knew – they said – that I would undermine the system from within.
When I became the head of the KwaZulu Government, I was able to begin providing services to millions of oppressed South Africans, although we were constrained by the miniscule budget the National Government allowed us.
It was clear that we would have to prioritise needs, work very carefully with public funds, and find creative ways to do more with so little. I therefore appointed people to my administration on the basis not only of their skills, but their character. They needed to be people of utmost integrity who were there to serve. They needed to work with government money without wasting a single cent.
The priority I chose was education. I was inspired by the words of the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had led his country through both the Great Depression and World War II. With the wisdom of experience he said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
I was also inspired by my mentor and uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, who had founded Africa’s oldest liberation movement in 1912. Dr Seme was a highly educated man, having studied at Columbia University and Oxford, before studying law in the Netherlands. He had gone the United States as a sixteen-year-old boy, and returned as an erudite Attorney of the Supreme Court. It was people like Dr Seme, educated, knowledgeable and well-read, who birthed our shared struggle for freedom as black South Africans.
The question during Apartheid was how we could prioritise education in the midst of so much need, and in the face of a deliberate strategy to keep black South Africans uneducated. Under my leadership, the KwaZulu Government got creative. We instituted a Rand for Rand fundraising system where everything the community raised was matched by my administration. With that money, we built schools and houses and community centres and clinics. All in all, we built some 6000 classrooms, which is a remarkable achievement, even today.
It was during this time that I received advice from the Zambian President, Dr Kenneth Kaunda. I was visiting him to thank him for giving sanctuary to all our political exiles, and he advised me to form a membership-based organization to reignite political mobilization towards liberation. I ran the idea past my leader, Mr Oliver Tambo, and he agreed. Thus I founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe.
Inkatha was just one year old when the 1976 Soweto Uprisings took place, which today are remembered on June 16th. In the aftermath, the ANC’s leadership in exile chose an aggressive strategy against Bantu education. They launched the slogan “Liberation Now, Education Later” and they called on black students to abandon their classrooms and burn down their schools.
That is what happened, across the country. But in KwaZulu, we disagreed. We believed that education was the means to achieve liberation and that a generation that abandoned education would have no tools to administer a new South Africa once liberation was achieved.
Inkatha therefore launched the slogan “Education For Liberation”. Schools across KwaZulu stayed open. Teachers were teaching, learners were learning, and education was still a top priority.
Looking back, I have no regrets. In fact, I am glad that we did what we did, because many of South Africa’s prominent leaders of today were produced in schools across KwaZulu. I remember how Dr Ntatho Motlana, the Chairperson of the Soweto Committee of Ten, and also Mr Percy Qoboza, the Editor of The World newspaper, came to ask me to make arrangements for their children to attend school in KwaZulu, because there was no decent education available anywhere else.
When Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo asked me to accept leadership of KwaZulu, it was really an act of genius, because it gave us the opportunity to undermine Bantu Education. We used English as the medium of instruction in schools across KwaZulu and ensured a high level of excellence. Children, even from the townships, flocked to our schools.
In my own life, I have always believed that my most valuable years were the years that I spent being educated. It is not surprising that the teaching profession contributed to the liberation of our people more than any other profession I know.
When I look back, I remember that in the early years Professor ZK Matthews was the first black Principal of a High School, at Adams College. Later he taught at the University of Fort Hare where I was his student. At the same time he was the Chairperson of the ANC in the Cape Province.
I recall that he and Inkosi Albert Luthuli were colleagues at Adams College where Inkosi Luthuli was a teacher before being called to lead the Amakholwa in Groutville as Inkosi. He was the last President-General of the ANC, who was at the helm at the time of the banning of African political organisations, such as the ANC, PAC, AZAPO and others in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre.
I also think of Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, whom Inkosi Luthuli sent abroad to launch the ANC mission-in-exile. Before qualifying as an Attorney, Mr Tambo was a teacher of Mathematics at St Peter’s College in Rosettenville in Johannesburg. Many well-known figures such as Kgosi Lucas Mangope, Advocate Joe Matthews and many others were his students.
When I cast my eyes further north, and look at Tanzania, Dr Julius Nyerere, the founding President of Tanzania was a teacher. In fact, throughout his life he was referred to as Mwalimu which is Teacher in Swahili. Even the founding President of Zambia, President Kenneth David Kaunda, at one time was a teacher. And looking back to our own country, the founding President of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, Mr Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, was a teacher at Standerton before going on to lecture at Wits University.
I mention these illustrious figures of our African liberation struggle to emphasise that, without education, our people would never have been liberated. We needed education as a tool to leverage our own freedom. And that remains the case today.
Let me speak for a moment about the University of Zululand and its roots in the struggle.
When the Apartheid Government declared that universities would be set up according to ethnicity, we in the liberation movement were urged not to support these so-called “bush colleges”. Again I considered what was best for our youth, and I gave my support to institutions like the University of Zululand, raising funds through my friends in the United States. My cousin, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu, and many of our Amakhosi shared my vision for an educated youth.
When the University of Zululand appointed me as Chancellor, I spoke to every graduate about the need to keep learning, keep growing and keep believing that we can make a difference through our own efforts. For 21 years, I capped graduates, and for 21 years I heard their lament that there were no jobs available. This is not a new cry in South Africa. It has merely become much louder and much worse.
But I listened to what young people were saying, and I went to the head of Anglo American, Mr Harry Oppenheimer, to get funding for a technical university so that young people could be trained in vocational skills. The result of that is the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
I was equally concerned with children who couldn’t attain a tertiary education. Thus I established Emandleni-Matleng, where even those who didn’t make it to matric were armed with skills. Many young people, both boys and girls, went through that institution, and they became artisans, builders and farmers. They were taught self-help and self-reliance, and many went on to become entrepreneurs.
When I look back now, I thank God for instructing me to empower our youth. Under an Apartheid regime, our youth were taught to become the game-changers and future shapers. They were taught to build.
Regardless of what you have studied at this University, be it Engineering, Fine Arts, Accounting or any other profession, you have learned something far more important as well. You have learned how to make your contribution to the society and the country we long to see. And it is only through that contribution, through your contribution, that we will continue to win victories for freedom.
I must congratulate you on your achievements at University, and encourage you to keep education at the centre of your priorities always. When you complete your studies in your chosen field, that should never be the end of learning. Unless we keep learning, we will stop growing. The world is moving forward constantly and we will be left behind if we dare stand still.
So for your own sake, and for the sake of our shared future, become a life-long learner. It is one of the most rewarding paths you can choose. Keep reading. Keep listening. Stay engaged in the debate. Your voice is valuable.
I thank you.