Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I have been called many things in my life, some positive and some insulting. By now I know not to take it to heart. Character is not what other people believe you are, but what you are regardless of who is watching.
After three decades of delicate reconciliation efforts, the ANC has again turned up the volume on its anti-Buthelezi rhetoric. Among the latest barrage of jabs and insults is an article published in Isolezwe on 2 February penned by Dr Makhosi Khoza, Chief Whip of the ANC in the KwaZulu Natal Legislature.
Dr Khoza sets herself the goal of "researching" my ties to the ANC's beginnings. But because she starts with the wrong questions, and from a foundation rooted in propaganda, her conclusions are deeply flawed. She asks "Where did he go wrong, that he turned against the struggle" and is he "ashamed about what he was supposed to do and did not do?"
This is not an honest academic enquiry, and it doesn't take long for Dr Khoza to abandon that pretext and label me "a sell-out".
By her own admission, Dr Khoza was a child in the seventies when I founded Inkatha, and later when the ideological rift opened between Inkatha and the ANC. Thus she has no direct memory of our liberation history before the ANC's People's War and her understanding of my legacy was formed at the height of the ANC's vilification campaign against me.
As a man who lived our liberation history, who knew and worked with the founding fathers and pioneering leaders of our struggle, I feel a responsibility to educate Dr Khoza. She is one of a generation of South Africans who knows only what the ANC chooses to tell her. That is a tragedy indeed.
The ANC's centennial celebration has focused on the Presidents of the Party, starting from its founding President, Dr John Langalibalele Dube. Accolades are heaped on the ANC's leaders as though each was a paragon of moral excellence devoted entirely to South Africa's liberation.
Dr Khoza would be surprised to hear that Dr Dube was also labelled "a sell-out".
On 16 December 1930, the Communist Party organized a massive pass burning just outside Durban. It ended in four deaths and widespread harassment by the Police. It also led to one activist, Eddie Roux, accusing Dr Dube of being "a sell-out". That was seven years after Dr Dube had been accused, during an annual conference, of "doing nothing about the worsening native situation".
In September 1935, General Hertzog's Bill on the Representation of Natives was before Parliament. It provided for four white senators to represent all African interests. Government convened regional conferences to discuss this legislation. My father, Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, attended the Natal conference, as did Dr Dube, Professor ZK Mathews, Selby Ngcobo and Albert Luthuli.
Luthuli, Ngcobo and Mathews were part of a younger generation of leaders in the South African National Native Congress, and they were alarmed by Dr Dube's approach, which they considered too soft. They sought to meet with him to express their concerns, but Dr Dube, who was already old and becoming unwell, proved disinclined to entertain the views of these young men.
I mention these two moments in our history to show that we who engaged the liberation struggle were flesh and blood. We were subject to opposition and misinterpretation, both from our enemies and our comrades. Politics was always a factor. There were always those who sought to make a name for themselves. And the younger generation always questioned whether the older generation was as passionate as they were.
The ANC's airbrushed version of our past impoverishes our understanding of ourselves and drives a wedge between us made of nothing more than smoke and mirrors. It is easy to criticize leaders. Dr Khoza will recall the criticism levelled against her from within her own Party in June last year, when the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu Natal called her "an individual desperate to hog headlines and to position herself as a paragon of moral excellence better than all, the messiah within the ANC".
That is called an ad hominem argument, Dr Khoza, when one attacks the person rather than debating the issue. Such as when you write that I sold out my nation by corruption, for personal gain, and I now want history to pardon me. You are pulling this out of thin air. The record of history doesn't support your attack.
Neither does President Zuma's speech to which you refer in Isolezwe.
President Zuma never mentioned me in Mangaung on January 8th. I was present, at the ANC's invitation, based on the historical ties between our parties, and I never once heard him utter my name.
The statement referred to in Dr Khoza's Isolezwe article is the full statement of the ANC's NEC on the occasion of the centenary celebration. It is a substantial document, which was given to the media. But when the President delivered his speech from this document he left out the part where the ANC accused me of having failed the mandate they had given me to keep our people focused on the liberation struggle.
It would have been difficult for President Zuma to say this in my presence, because he knows it to be a lie. I did precisely what Inkosi Luthuli and Oliver Tambo asked me to do when they urged me to accept leadership of KwaZulu. We hoped to undermine Apartheid from within. My position as Chief Minister gave me the authority to reject nominal independence for KwaZulu, which rendered the grand scheme of Apartheid untenable. I thus achieved exactly what I had been tasked with achieving.
In a show of bad faith, Dr Khoza omits one line from her quote of the ANC's statement. In that line, they admit that the above is true.
History has not judged me harshly, Dr Khoza, nor has it punished me. My vilification has come at the hands of the ANC. In fact, history may very well remember me like this -
"- while allied to the Zulu royal house, campaigning for recognition of the king and working to save folklore, poetry and customs from extinction, (he) also continued to look forward to a day when all South Africans would have representation in a common parliament. He never treated these as mutually exclusive, nor did he promote any other than peaceful, constitutional means for their realization."
You may be surprised again, Dr Khoza, to learn that that is how history remembers Dr Dube, on page 261 of the book titled "The First President: A Life of John L. Dube, Founding President of the ANC".
History looks through the eyes of many observers, and takes the facts into account. History is not constructed by the ANC. It is merely distorted.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP