Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Much has been made of my call for a meeting between the IFP and the NFP to address the violence that has erupted in our parties. We have lost several members to murder and brutality. While the police are investigating whether these incidents were politically motivated, and are trying to find the culprits, we as leaders must send a clear message that the violence has to stop.
This has been the foundation of my political message for more than 40 years.
I founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe on the principles of non-violence, unity and cooperation; the same principles that underpinned the founding of the African National Congress by my uncle in 1912. While the ANC deviated from this original identity, I did not.
I paid a high price for not falling in line with the ANC’s mission-in-exile when it launched the armed struggle. I rejected the notion that the time had come for a so-called Just War, and I rejected the People’s War that was unleashed by the ANC and UDF. To my mind, bloodshed was not the answer. I maintained my call for negotiations and passive resistance.
KwaZulu Natal bore the brunt of the People’s War, as the ANC sought to secure political hegemony after liberation. Some 20,000 people were killed in the black-on-black violence of the eighties and early nineties. A good friend of mine, Ms Sally Tollin, who today released her new book "Salute to Shenge", admits that her inspiration to write evaporated in 1987 because "South Africa became hell".
This succinct and emotional description of those dark days says it all. As one of the few liberation leaders who was not banned or in exile, I went from place to place pleading for an end to the violence. I maintained a long-standing friendship with Mr Nelson Mandela and we wrote to each other throughout his incarceration. In the last of his letters to me before he was released, he looks forward to our planned meeting to try to stop the violence.
When we met, we signed a joint communiqué that committed us to attending and addressing rallies together, to signal to our supporters that we sought reconciliation. Soon thereafter I received an invitation from the community of Taylor’s Halt to address a meeting, and I invited Mr Mandela to accompany me. Although he said he would, he was later prevented from doing so by provincial leaders of the ANC, whom he said "almost throttled" him for wanting to meet with Buthelezi.
But I never gave up on my call for joint rallies, or my call for an end to the violence. The advent of democracy did not see an end to the bloodshed.
We continued to lose members and leaders to violent attacks. Most of these murders have never been solved. I therefore pressed on in my pursuit of reconciliation with the ANC and our parties established the three-a-side and five-a-side committees to find a way forward.
I regret that reconciliation has never been pursued by the ANC with the same tenacity. Even now, as the ANC prepares to celebrate its centenary, the IFP awaits a response from the ANC’s National Chairperson on how we can use these celebrations to complete the unfinished agenda of reconciliation between our two parties.
With this background, I was surprised by an editorial in The Witness today that heralds my peace initiative with the NFP as "a giant step forward and one that displays a political maturity that was non-existent in the dark days of our past." I thought Mr Yves van der Haeghen would know better. The call for peace and reconciliation has characterized my political career more than anything else that I have done. It did not suddenly start with the NFP.
Long before Mrs KaMagwaza-Msibi was born, I was advocating non-violence. She found a home in the organization I founded because she agreed with the principles I had long espoused. It was my principles that made me the target of vilification and my life was threatened more times than I care to remember. There have been several assassination attempts on my life.
Thus I know the anxiety Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi feels when she says that her life has been threatened. The National Commissioner of Police himself visited me last year to convey intelligence of a planned attack on IFP leaders, and insisted that my security be increased. It is a difficult way to live.
But, as a leader, one cannot be consumed with self-concern. My concern is for our members and supporters. It is distressing that a war of words has erupted over the political affiliation of Mr Titus Mthembu, who was murdered near Vryheid last week. Mr Mthembu, like many NFP supporters, was a member of the IFP. Police have yet to determine whether his murder was politically motivated or not, which makes speculation over which party he belonged to far less relevant than the fact that he is dead.
It is this fact that motivates my call for talks. It is the need for the violence to end that drives me to take what The Witness calls a "giant step forward". Knowing the countless steps I have taken in the direction of reconciliation over my lifetime, this does not seem so significant to me. It will prove to be a giant step forward only when the killing ends.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Liezl van der Merwe
Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
on 082 729 2510.