Response to “Apartheid-Era Defence of Ingonyama;” by Marry De Haas in daily news of Monday

Marry De Haas chose Monday’s Daily News to respond to my article of 29 August in the Daily Maverick. She began by accusing me of “falling into the trap” of using arguments that “differ little” from those of apartheid government in my defence of Ingonyama Trust Land Act. Yet, cunningly, she does not first present my Daily Maverick article for Daily News readers to be able to judge fairly whether, indeed, my arguments are similar to those of the apartheid government.

My Daily Maverick article highlighted the controversy around the Ingonyama Trust Land Act as a microcosm of a broader clash of cultures between forces still bent on glorifying and projecting foreign, western forms of governance as well as ways of thought and behavior as holier than and superior to those of indigenous origin. I cited Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s address to United World College of Southern Africa in 2007 where he articulated our belief that our liberation would: “Develop a process which (would) move the African experience towards the centre-stage of our society, after it was marginalised for so long by the pre-eminence acquired by Western cultures and traditions…”
(Buthelezi, M. (1997). Tradition and the Modern State; p.13. The African Renaissance.
Occasional Papers, May 1998; Konrad Adenauer Stiftung)

I cited, as further evidence, the current tug-of-war regarding the constitutionalization of the roles and functions of the indigenous structures of governance in the democratic South Africa, which is yet to be resolved.

For the record, apartheid never rejected colonialism and its balkanisation of our land as well as the sufferings they inflicted upon the indigenous populations. Apartheid never advocated for the restoration of African forms of governance, thought and behaviour. Apartheid never recognised and restored the indigenous leadership to their pre-colonial state; nor did it “develop a process which (would) move the African experience towards the centre-stage of our society, after it was marginalised for so long by the pre-eminence acquired by Western cultures and traditions…,” as the Prince argued.

To the contrary, apartheid took over from where colonialism had left off and trampled underfoot, trivialised and misused things African and indigenous. They looked down upon indigenous structures of governance; hence, Amakhosi were disparagingly referred to as Chiefs – just as De Haas still does – and our King became Paramount Chief. Contrary to restoring our essence as Africans, apartheid’s objective was the denationalisation of the indigenous from South Africa and abandonment of them as jetsam in barren pieces of land. My article never advocated these apartheid positions.

All I argued for was the restoration our essence as African indigenous people and the rejection of the notion that western forms of governance, thought and behaviour are superior to those indigenous. Of course, I do not expect De Haas, as a non-African, to appreciate this perspective and this phase of the struggle that we are pursuing. I only appeal to her to, at least, give us our space as the indigenous to continue with our struggle until we achieve the complete liberation of South Africa.

De Haas also accused me of “conveniently side stepping the gross infringements of the land rights of rural residents by the trust, and by some traditional leaders.” Yet my article stated:
For the record, I must state (that) I am not at all defending short comings on the part of the Ingonyama Trust Board, if any. What worries me is the demonstration of disingenuity by the anti-Ingonyama Trust Land voices.

It is a fact that almost daily South Africans face untold problems caused by fraud, corruption, unfulfilled promises, maladministration and other vices attributed to national, provincial and local governments. The State Capture Commission, the PIC Commission, other investigating organs as well as daily protests by frustrated communities, all stand as evidence of the sufferings meted out to citizens under the western forms of government. Yet no one has called for doing away with government structures. Rather we all argue for devising means to rescue government from the clutches of evil.

Why not adopt the same approach to the Ingonyama Trust Land Act? Why not talk about devising means to ensure fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of the institution so that it achieves its objectives? Why, only in the case of Ingonyama Trust Land, do they seek to throw out the baby with the bath water?”

Truth-be-told, the “gross-infringements of land rights of rural residents by the Trust, and by some traditional leaders” are allegations, serious though they are, as long as they have not been proved as facts. What muddies the waters with regards to dealing justly with these serious allegations are counter-allegations that both Panels on Land did not approach our King and Traditional Leaders as well as the Board to hear their versions. How do we then sentence Ingonyama Board before they have been afforded the opportunity? In fact, I challenge De Haas to officially approach bodies that are authorised to deal legally with these allegations, instead of writing about them.

De Hass argues that some of the land currently under the Ingonyama Trust Board was not part of the Zulu Kingdom. She further alleges that the southern and far northern area of KwaZulu-Natal were not part of the kingdom. She however does not tell us whose lands they were. Did they belong to the Queen or apartheid government? I will leave this to Amakhosi in these areas to tell the truth about these allegations. Save to say that, if she is interested, De Haas must revisit the praises (izibongo) of King Shaka to see if she will not find clues that his kingdom spread as far as Umzimvubu. She must also ask the indigenous who are knowledgeable in Zulu history how we came to have areas known as Khangela and Amanzintoti in Durban.

To De Haas’s foreign mind, the fact that different “chiefdoms” continued to exist and supplied King Shaka with cattle means that the King had not succeeded to “incorporate these areas into his kingdom.” Africans will tell her what significance lies behind “supplying cattle” to another king. We, who are part of that history, know that the reason why the clans continued to exist during King Shaka’s reign was that the King’s approach was not to conquer with the objective to subjugate and annihilate. Hence, there is a school of thought, which I agree with, which argues that King Shaka’s approach was federal in nature.

To an outsider like De Haas, King Shaka deployed his warriors just for cattle, and, those who “bowed to force…became client chiefdoms supplying Shaka with cattle, and guarding his far-flung cattle outposts.” In addition, King Shaka “did not have the political or military capacity to incorporate these areas into the kingdom.” Even worse, to her, King Dingane “was unable to retain the military control Shaka had over his subjects and client chiefdoms…”

These are arrogant utterances of a foreign, anti-African mind, which cannot fathom indigenous Zulu kings having abilities to extend their kingdoms and govern over stable kingdoms. All they knew were cattle. Hence, because those governed were unwilling subjects, they “fled the kingdom,” obviously to seek shelter in civilised white governments. I do not want to get into the history of the amaHlubi here; save to say that De Haas herself indirectly admits that this ubukhosi did pay homage to the King.

In the same context, to De Haas, it is impossible that a “backward king” could govern such a vast kingdom without using force. Hence, “it is unlikely that the majority of traditional leaders in what is now KZN are descendants of the clan-based groupings of the Zulu kingdom…” I challenge De Haas to name those traditional leaders so that they will have an opportunity to corroborate her argument.

De Haas goes on to characterise the trusteeship of the King as “privatisation of state land.” Her foreign mind cannot understand that indigenous leadership can and did act as custodians on behalf of the people. To her, the only form of land tenure is privatisation. Moreover, she dismisses African forms of ownership as “ideas prevailing in the past…” She further accuses the democratic government of dealing “rural folk a further blow” by passing the legislation which gives more powers to indigenous forms of governance.

De Haas’s utterances provide yet more evidence of the tug of war I was dealing with in my article. To those, like De Haas, who are still daydreaming about the colonial period, any effort to restore indigenous forms of governance must be demonised to the extent of referring to them as “Bantustan bills.”

Her statements and attitudes demonstrate to all mentally decolonised Africans that the struggle against forces bent on perpetuating our colonisation through the hegemony of western forms of governance and behaviour is long and must be waged with the tenacity of the limpet. De Haas and her cronies must rest assured that we will fight until this part of Africa is totally free!

Lastly, it is my prayer that His Majesty, in his busy schedule, could find time to invite this self-anointed expert in Zulu history, to address His Majesty, Amakhosi and all indigenous structures of leadership on these matters.


Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko
MPL: KZN Provincial Legislature
[email protected]


“Written in individual capacity”