As a matter of style and habit, in the IFP we never comment on what happens within other political parties. However, Dan Roodt’s article “Mazibuko, the new Buthelezi” draws a comparison between the two leaders which require correction.
It is true that Buthelezi was the first catalyst which brought together people across racial divides in South Africa. In 1980 he launched the Buthelezi Commission in total defiance of the laws and mindset of apartheid and to bring together intellectuals and stakeholders of the then divided KwaZulu and Natal across racial divides. This movement led to the 1986 KwaZulu Natal Indaba which brought together Indian, White and African leaders to forge a number of constitutional proposals for the shared governance of KwaZulu and Natal as an alternative to the system apartheid. The recommendations of the KwaZulu Natal Indaba were so compelling that even though the apartheid regime refused to grant the Joint Legislative Authority it demanded, it could nonetheless not resist the demand for a Joint Executive Authority.
The Joint Executive Authority of KwaZulu Natal was the first non-racial government of South Africa which proved that blacks, whites and Indians could work together and in harmony.
It is true that it was Buthelezi who first began promoting this type of all inclusive South Africanism, creating politics which brought people together across party divide. So far did he go that he was summoned by the mighty and ruthless Minister of Police Jimmy Kruger, who intimated him to no longer allow Africans from other ethnic groups to join Inkatha. Buthelezi was quick in telling him where to get off, something that no other Black man could conceivably do at the time. His attitude paved the way to future developments which led to the formation of the UDF and eventually to a mindset which allowed all South Africans to sit together at the World Trade Centre negotiating their shared future for two years.
It is true that Buthelezi moved forward the agenda of freeing politics from racial divide when in 2004 he and Tony Leon forged the Coalition for Change, which was an electoral pact in which the IFP and the DA shared many policies and electoral platforms, with a view to governing together if and where the electoral results warranted it. Tony Leon went as far as to state that the DA would serve under Buthelezi as President of the Republic.
Buthelezi’s track record spans over 30 years, is unambiguous, uncompromising and steadfast. The late Professor Lawrence Schlemmer conducted extensive public opinion research in the White communities, showing that Buthelezi was one of the most admired and respected black leader by Whites. Yet the electoral results constantly indicated that in spite of its fondness for him, the white community never voted for him. The white community has also never supported Inkatha financially, forcing it into a chronic state of dramatic underfunding.
In 2004, the white electorate punished the DA, especially in KwaZulu Natal, for its alliance with Buthelezi, which forced both Buthelezi and Tony Leon to believe that the time for that political agenda had not yet come. However, neither of them moved away from their respective firm belief that the future of South Africa necessitates the cooperation of blacks and whites in a new unified political framework.
Within this history, Dan Roodt’s statement misunderstands Buthelezi’s role and agenda, and seems to reflect an archaic National Party’s perspective on Buthelezi. The National Party, in its obtuse arrogance, never understood Buthelezi’s long-term vision. I witnessed how often its leaders felt that Buthelezi was there to help them out of their self imposed idiotic conundrums, which Buthelezi never did or cared for. They could not understand that Buthelezi’s much nobler aim was that of gaining their constituency to a racially unified South African process. Deep down, they could not bring themselves to recognize greatness in a Black leader and preferred confirming their petty prejudices by ascribing hidden agendas.
It is not for me to say whether the time for Buthelezi’s vision has come to pass and whether Lindiwe Mazibuko can adequately embody it. What I can say is that there is no commonsense alternative to such a vision if South Africa is to succeed.
Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini, MP
Inkatha Freedom Party