PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
AND FOUNDER OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
When I was a young lad, my mother would tell me stories about my ancestors. They were the kind of tales that captured a boy’s imagination, full of war, bloodshed, kings and warriors. Like most boys, I would put myself in the story.
I would be standing, battle weary and wounded on the slope of Isandlwana, raising a cry of “Usuthu!” with the bravest of the King’s warriors. I felt the cold flagstones beneath my feet as the Red Coats led a stoic King Cetshwayo into the Castle of Good Hope. I imagined myself in the Royal Court of King Senzangakhona, being tutored alongside the boy who would become King Shaka.
As a child, it was easy for me to embark on these flights of imagination, because my mother was an exceptional storyteller. Her vivid accounts were made richer by the songs she sang; songs of tragedy, of hope, of loss and victory.
But there was another reason why these stories were so real to me. The very blood that flowed through the veins of those kings and warriors, flows through my own veins. My paternal grandfather fought at the Battle of Isandlwana, while his father commanded all of the King’s regiments. King Dinuzulu was my maternal grandfather. And my great great grandfather, Nqengelele Buthelezi, was the tutor in the Royal Court of King Shaka’s father.
I have always felt a mystical union with these figures of the past. My own story contains their stories. It is the same for many Zulus, for our culture has a strong emphasis on lineage and heritage. Our nation’s past informs our identity as individuals. We belong to a well-defined social structure, and with it comes the inheritance of an unconquerable spirit.
I am delighted to have been asked by my friend, Mrs Strilli Oppenheimer, to speak in this Talk Series on social histories. Moreover, it is satisfying to know that the wonderful work of Little Eden benefits from this evening’s gathering. Thank you for your kind generosity in supporting this worthy cause.
Where does one begin in telling a story that spans more than 200 years? I think anyone would begin with King Shaka.
The Zulu nation traces its roots to 1816 when King Shaka ka Senzangakhona ascended to the throne. Over the next twelve years, that astute military strategist conquered and incorporated endless fragmented groups into one unified nation. Today, King Shaka is a symbol of unstoppable strength. Because of him, the Zulu warrior, in full battle regalia, is instantly recognised throughout the world.
We were indeed fragmented Nguni clans, each one autonomous, before we became Zulus. For example, the Zulu clan from which I get my maternal line lived almost side by side with the Buthelezi clan from which I get my paternal line. The two clans were separated by a valley, which was called Udonga Lwamankankane. This is now the Babanango area under the Ulundi Municipality area and the Zululand District area.
Before the two clans used to have their skirmishes with long spears which were often flung at each other like javelins. At the time the Zulu clan was repeatedly defeated by the Buthelezi clan. In fact, the Head of the Zulu clan was often taken as a prisoner of these skirmishes, and would be returned to his people after the Zulu clan had paid a certain number of cattle to the Buthelezi clan. When the great warrior King Shaka ka Senzangakhona emerged all this ended, as he conquered every clan, and welded them into one Nation, which he named the Zulu Nation, after his own name.
But King Shaka was more than a warrior. He was a remarkable social engineer, using marriage, ritual, negotiation, language, propaganda and patronage just as effectively as military attack. By the time of his death only twelve years later some historians estimate that King Shaka ruled over 250,000 people, who were now identified as members of one Zulu Nation. I am always cautious though about some of the estimates that are made by historians, because there is not a shred of evidence that there was any census taken from time to time as happens in our modern world.
Under King Shaka’s reign our nation developed a complex, and very effective, social framework which attributed to everyone – man, woman and child – a role, a stake and a responsibility in the good of the whole. Every member of our nation understood where they fit into the system of society, and each individual was valued.
The society that King Shaka constructed was built to last, because it was predicated on the ideals of unity, discipline and shared responsibility. It is these ideals that still give strength to our nation. The principle of ubuntu/botho was built into our very foundations. We are, therefore, a people with deep respect for unity, social wellbeing and personal contribution.
That is why many efforts that have been made to divide the Zulu people have not quite succeeded, even in spite of a number of civil wars that have taken place over centuries. For example after the conquest of the Zulu Nation in Ulundi on the 4 th of July 1879, my maternal great grandfather, King Cetshwayo was imprisoned. After he requested to go to London to plead his case before Queen Victoria, he was allowed to return to his KwaZulu Kingdom under the most unacceptable terms. His Kingdom was divided into 14 mini-kingdoms under 13 so-called Kinglets. These traitors were encouraged by the British not to owe any allegiance to King Cetshwayo. That resulted in very bloody civil wars amongst the Zulus. The most serious of these were between the loyal followers of the King, called Usuthu, and followers of one of the King’s nobles, a relative by the name of Zibhebhu, who were known as the Mandlakazi section.
A hundred and eighty-seven years ago, Henry Francis Fynn penned the first written account of King Shaka. His colleague, Nathaniel Isaacs, advised Fynn (and I quote) “Make them out to be as bloodthirsty as you can and endeavour to give an estimation of the number of people they have murdered… this will swell up the work and make it interesting… (making) a fortune for you as well as myself”.
Now, I will not paint a pastoral picture, but nor will I “swell up the work” to make it interesting. King Shaka was undoubtedly single-minded to the point of cruelty, and wholly intolerant of weakness. Yet his was somehow the very leadership needed at that point in our history.
It may surprise you to hear that he received whites quite warmly. The English trader, Henry Francis Fynn, in fact befriended King Shaka and received a tract of land,becoming the first white settler in Natal. Fynn adopted Zulu culture, even becoming a polygamist. Of course he was denigrated by his own people, who sneered that Fynn had “gone native”. It was not going to be the last time a white settler had “gone native” as the expression put it, as you will learn later.
The reign of King Shaka ka Senzangakhona was brought to an end on 24 September 1828, when he was assassinated by two of his half-brothers, Prince Dingane and Prince Mhlangane. Shortly thereafter, Prince Mhlangane was similarly dispatched, and King Dingane ascended to the throne.
Fearing King Shaka’s malevolent spirit, King Dingane moved the capital of the Zulu Kingdom to Umgungundlovu. King Shaka had appointed his confidant, Nqengelele kaMvulana, as Inkosi of the Buthelezi people. King Dingane now appointed Inkosi Nqengelele’s son, Mnyamana Buthelezi, as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Nation. He was my paternal great grandfather.
Thus began the long lineage of which I am part, for I serve even now as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, under my nephew King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. I was actually appointed not by him, but by his late father who was my first cousin, King Cyprian Nyangayezizwe Bhekuzulu ka Solomon.
King Dingane sought to live in peace with the white traders. He allowed his regiments to finally marry and have farms, enjoying the spoils of King Shaka’s wars. He allowed the Reverend Francis Owen to establish a mission next to his Umgungundlovu Royal Residence. There is an interesting anecdote that Bishop Alphaeus Hamilton Zulu was fond of telling. Bishop Zulu was the first black Bishop appointed in the Anglican Church of Southern African. He related that the Reverend Francis Owen, in his discussions with King Dingane, used to talk about the great God of Heaven. Meaning the Almighty God. King Dingane would respond to Reverend Owen by saying; “Why do you look so far for the King of Heaven? I am that King and this is the Kingdom of the people of Heaven.” (The word “Zulu” means “the heavens”!)
Unfortunately, the continued encroachment of white settlers into the lands that belonged to the Zulu people would inevitably lead to armed resistance. In 1838 the Voortrekkers proclaimed their Republiek Natalia and King Dingane’s warriors faced the fire power of the Voortrekkers at eNcome River.
Tragically, King Dingane will always be remembered for the brutal murder of Piet Retief and his men. I have publicly apologised to the Afrikaner nation for what my ancestor did. Ultimately, blood ran in rivers because of distrust and the fear of ulterior motives.
The Zulu were defeated at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, but we were not annihilated.
Now King Shaka had reigned for 12 years, and King Dingane reigned for 12 years too, for in 1840 his brother Prince Mpande kaSenzangakhona sought assistance from the Afrikaners to fight the King. A plot was hatched to kill King Dingane, and when this was accomplished King Mpande ascended to the throne. The Afrikaners had fought King Dingane’s Regiments at the battle of Maqongqo, on the side of Prince Mpande kaSenzangakhona.
It is through King Mpande that we have the present royal line. His two half-brothers King Shaka and King Dingane were celibate. They never married. King Mpande was married to a number of wives. He is the great great great paternal grandfather of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. King Mpande is my maternal great great grandfather.
King Mpande had 29 wives who provided him with 29 sons and 23 daughters. The King’s many children were placed under the tutelage of my paternal great grandfather, Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi, by King Mpande. Mnyamana was later to be appointed by King Cetshwayo kaMpande as his Prime Minister and Commander of all his Regiments.
The story goes that often the King’s children could be heard crying at Nondwengu Residence near Ulundi, because Mnyamana had given them a hiding. Some people resented the King’s children being disciplined by this man. But, in response, King Mpande told them, “He is the father of these children.” That is the status Mnyamana had in the King’s household.
Indeed, King Mpande later offered Mnyamana his daughter’s hand in marriage. But Mnyamana averred that he could not marry Princess Mthabayi, nor any of the King’s daughters, since the King himself had said he was their father.
I am grateful of course that years later Mnyamana’s grandson, Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi did not refuse King Solomon ka Dinuzulu’s offer and married the King’s full-sister, Princess Constance Magogo Ngangezinye Thombisile ka Dinuzulu. I am the product of that wise decision of my maternal uncle.
King Mpande reigned for 32 years. Through negotiation he defused confrontation with the British and the Boers, securing relative peace. He was the first of the Zulu kings to die a natural death.
As I have already indicated, during his reign, one of his sons, Prince Cetshwayo, became powerful and influential. Before Prince Cetshwayo ascended the throne there was another tragic civil war in the Kingdom of the Zulus; the civil war of Ndondakusuka, between the supporters of Prince Cetshwayo and supporters of Prince Mbuyazi kaMpande. Prince Cetshwayo was victorious. But Prince Mbuyazi and a number of his brothers, as well as the King’s favourite wife Queen Nomantshali died during that war.
Prince Cetshwayo was close to Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi and they were often together. Thus, when Cetshwayo was crowned King in 1872, he appointed Mnyamana to the position of Prime Minister, making him Commander-in-Chief over all the King’s Regiments.
This brings us to what is likely the most significant period in the history of the Zulu Nation. Driven by King Shaka’s original inspiration, King Cetshwayo sought harmonious relations with increasing numbers of European settlers and missionaries. A white settler by the name of John Dunn, for instance, was befriended by King Cetshwayo.
He gave him a tract of land at Mthunzini. John received cattle and women from the King. He was described, like Fynn, as having “gone native.”
King Cetshwayo extended his friendship to the colonial authorities which came into our region, just as his uncle King Shaka had done. However, the agenda of colonialism was substantially different from that of settlers and missionaries, and again conflict was inevitable.
King Cetshwayo had been on the throne for just five years when the British invaded Zululand. Now to the British, the invasion of Zululand was just another skirmish in
Africa, and back home in Britain interest in its progress was lukewarm. Her Britannic Majesty’s regiments knew that they were better armed, and experience of skirmishes throughout the British Empire led them to believe that the battle here would be short- lived and thoroughly successful.
But what happened at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 changed everything. Isandlwana became a singular moment in history, with far-reaching consequences. It earned for our nation unprecedented veneration and rattled the confidence of the greatest colonial power. It foreshadowed the employment of the full might of the British army against the Zulu, a greater force than was used to conquer the whole of India. It etched in our psyche the strength of our nation, and it sealed the fate of the Zulu kingdom.
On that day, the sun went dark. King Cetshwayo’s warriors emerged, regiment upon regiment, washing over the British Redcoats in a wave of stabbing iklwa, cowhide shields and raw ferocity. In the words of one of the few British survivors, Lieutenant- Colonel Crealock, “…hardly a man could have escaped…with such an enemy”.
When the dust settled on Isandlwana, the soil ran red with blood. Thousands of men lay dead and dying: warriors alongside soldiers. But the victory was undeniably ours. My great grandfather, the Commander-in-Chief of the King’s regiments, mourned one of his sons, Mtumengana, while my grandfather, Mkhandumba, survived his wounds of the Isandlwana battle.
Our entire nation celebrated, for we had achieved an overwhelming victory.
It was three weeks before the news of Isandlwana reached London. But the British soldiers in Zululand were so shaken that Lord Chelmsford instituted a Court of Enquiry just days after the battle, in an attempt to determine what had gone wrong. He knew that he would need to account to the Secretary of State for War, and more so to the British public, who would be stunned.
Indeed, a few months later, with the Anglo-Zulu War still raging, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli received news that the Prince Imperial of France had been killed on the battlefield in Zululand. The Prime Minister famously lamented, “A remarkable people, the Zulu. They defeat our generals, they convert our bishops and they put an end to a mighty European dynasty.”
Stunned by their defeat, the British Empire sent a flood of reinforcements to bolster their attack on our Kingdom. The Anglo-Zulu War raged for another 6 months, until that terrible final battle of Ulundi.
On the morning of Friday the 4 th of July 1879, 20 000 Zulu warriors moved across the Mahlabathini Plain just outside Ulundi. They were moving towards a formation of British soldiers under the command of Lord Frederick Chelmsford. British cavalry, infantry and gunners had formed an impenetrable square, ensuring that King Cetshwayo’s amaButho could get no closer than 9 meters. Thus the legendary skill in close combat of King Cetshwayo’s regiments, which had won the Battle of Isandlwana, was wholly precluded.
Under fire of Gatling guns and powerful artillery, hundreds upon hundreds of warriors fell. The battle was brief, no more than 30 minutes. But it was a decisive blow. This was, by all accounts, Lord Chelmsford’s revenge for the British defeat at Isandlwana, which had seen him relieved of his command.
As the battle of Ulundi ended, Lord Chelmsford gave permission for a race to Ondini.
Captain William Beresford was the first British soldier to enter the royal palace. King Cetshwayo and the royal family had already left. Nevertheless, after looting the complex of shields and artefacts, the British set fire to Ondini. Lord Chelmsford dispatched cavalrymen to burn the amaKhanda, and soon the isigodlo was engulfed in flame.
The historian, Ian Knight, puts it as follows – “Over the next few days, as they retreated to the Mthonjaneni heights, the British could see Ondini burning in the distance, a great circle of flame, until a pall of ashes and smoke settled over what had once been the heart of the Zulu kingdom.”
When I speak about this moment in the history of the Zulu nation, I often say that Ondini burned for days, so that all that was left were ashes, and the unconquerable spirit of a conquered nation.
One hundred and forty years since the destruction of Ondini, on the 4 th of July 2019, the Zulu nation gathered in Ulundi. We stood in the place where the ashes had settled, and in the place where our kingdom rose again from those very ashes. We gathered as a nation united, with a king on the throne, in a time of peace. We have truly come a long way from 1879.
We have endured more than a century of struggle to reunify the Zulu nation and to see our kingdom and our monarch restored to full recognition. We suffered the
imprisonment and exile of our kings. We suffered colonialism and apartheid. We suffered the refusal to allow His Majesty our King to participate in democratic negotiations. But despite all of this, the Zulu nation remains. We were defeated at the Battle of Ulundi, and we were subjugated. But we were never destroyed.
I must mention here that, several years ago, I had the privilege of taking the salute from the Royal Welsh Regiment during the St David’s Day Parade. The previous year, that honour had been given to none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the descendant of Queen Victoria, whose troops fought on our battlefields. As the descendant of King Cetshwayo, whose warriors met them here, I was deeply honoured.
I felt the same sense of healing and reconciliation that I have felt time and again in my interactions with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. When His Majesty our King received His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, in Ulundi, in November 2011, we lamented the fact that the Prince and I have yet to lay wreaths side by side at Isandlwana.
Years ago, during his first visit to South Africa, preparations were made for that to be done. But unfortunately, the plan was torpedoed. I know how much it means to His Royal Highness that we preserve the graves of those who fought at Isandlwana. He wrote to me about this some time ago. To me, this expresses the strong bonds between us, forged by history as well as friendship.
When King Cetshwayo received news of his army’s defeat, he sent his young son and heir, Prince Dinuzulu, to safety, and he himself went to stay with Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi at ekuShumayeleni, before fleeing to Ngome Forest. It was there that the British finally found him, as Shodo Mbuyisa led the British soldiers to his kraal where the King was hiding. The King was then made to surrender.
King Cetshwayo was taken to kwaZondela at Ondini, where he was deposed. He was then transported to Port Durnford, where he boarded a transport ship to Cape Town, to be imprisoned in the Castle of Good Hope together with the wives who accompanied him.
On September 11 th 1879, The Cape Argus reported his ship’s arrival. The report read as follows –
“Those who have desired to see the captive (Cetywayo) out of mere idle curiosity might be somewhat surprised to find the savage king possessed of a natural gentility and dignity of demeanour… Instead of a monster who could be looked upon as the sightseer would look at a caged lion, they would find a chief, having some of the real dignity of a king… While on board the steamer on his way down he was asked why he did not appear so cheerful as usual, and did not smile. ‘Smile!’ asked the king. ‘Did you ever see a dead man smile? I am dead when my country is taken away.’”
Many accounts of King Cetshwayo speak of his dignity and enduring hope, even in the face of defeat. One such account was written by Lady Florence Dixie, who came to South Arica as a special correspondent for The Daily News. Upon meeting the exiled King, she wrote –
“…Cetshwayo, who has been represented as a cruel bloodthirsty despot and tyrant, possesses that which many white men, with civilisation and education around them, entirely lack, and which they may well envy i.e. a nobility of soul, dignity, and courage in misfortune, which makes him in all he says, every inch a king.”
This dignity and courage that was so evident in King Cetshwayo has its roots in Isandlwana. It is part of the unconquerable spirit that was born that day, as our warriors cried “Usuthu!”
As I have often said, our victory at the Battle of Isandlwana was not erased by the defeat at Ulundi. It was not diminished by the subsequent years of subjugation and artificial splits. The victory at Isandlwana lives on in our collective consciousness because it was a physical manifestation of the spirit of our nation.
The imprisoned King Cetshwayo was later transferred to Oude Moulen farm in the Cape, where his visitors included British royalty. In July 1882, he travelled to London to plead our nation’s case before Queen Victoria. She received him with great dignity and he held discussions with Her Majesty’s Secretary for Colonies, Lord Kimberley. Yet he returned without success. It was a most unsatisfactory settlement.
The King’s power had been broken and he had no influence over what remained of his kingdom. It was dismembered by British colonialists who artificially created 13 kinglets, installing new kings. Naturally, war ensued among the Zulu, between King Cetshwayo’s uSuthu and the Mandlakazi.
As I have already indicated earlier, when King Cetshwayo returned in 1883, the Mandlakazi section of the Zulu nation attacked the temporary structures in Ulundi, and one of them stabbed the King in the thigh. A number of Amakhosi who had come to greet the King were all killed by the Mandlakazi.
Eventually, King Cetshwayo was relocated to Eshowe, where he died on 8 February 1884. Those close to him were convinced that he had been poisoned. His remains were taken to the edge of the Nkandla forest, where he was finally laid to rest.
The head of the Mandlakazi, Zibhebhu, was intent on usurping the throne. Zibhebhu had been anointed by Sir Garnet Wolsey as one of the so-called "13 Kinglets" who were to be independent of the King and who would no longer swear allegiance to the King but only to Queen Victoria.
When the imperial authorities suggested that Zibhebhu should be allowed to return to Nongoma, the idea was vehemently opposed by King Cetshwayo’s heir, King Dinuzulu.
King Dinuzulu welcomed the assistance of the Boer mercenaries. He regarded Afrikaners as friends of his grandfather, King Mpande, for they had helped him in the battle against King Dingane. Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi, who continued as the King’s Prime Minister, warned that the Boers would want land in return for supporting King Dinuzulu’s Usuthu faction. But the King was assured by Prince Ndabuko and Prince Shingana that they would be satisfied with cattle.
Thus 60 Afrikaners assisted King Dinuzulu’s faction at the Battle of Msebe and the Battle of Tshaneni, where – led by General Louis Botha – Dinuzulu’s volunteers defeated Zibhebhu on the 5 th of June 1884. As my great grandfather had warned, the Boers took land as a reward.
Inkosi Mnyamana had warned King Dinuzulu against attacking Zibhebhu, saying, “My son, if you hit a little dog who is being led about by its owner on a piece of string, how can you hope to escape the wrath of the owner? Zibhebhu is the imperial Government’s little dog that they are leading about with a piece of string.”
Again, Inkosi Mnyamana was correct. My maternal grandfather, King Dinuzulu did not escape the wrath of the little dog’s owner. He was imprisoned and exiled to the Island of St Helena.
Tragically, when the King returned, he was implicated in the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906 and was arrested again. What actually happened was that Inkosi Bambatha Zondi began attacking white settlements in resistance against the payment of poll tax. When he was sought by the colonial police, he tried to protect his wife Siyekiwe and daughter Kholekile by taking them to Usuthu, the residence of my grandfather, King Dinuzulu, which was regarded as a sanctuary. Unfortunately, Inkosi Bambatha’s wife went to the magistrate at Mahlabathini to report that she was staying at the palace, thus implicating the King in harbouring rebels.
My mother often told me about the day, when she was just six years old, that the soldiers arrived at uSuthu Royal Residence to arrest her father. She told us how the soldiers gave them biscuits. It must have been a terrible shock to her when her father, King Dinuzulu, was charged with high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Fortunately, four years later, in 1910, General Louis Botha became the first elected Prime Minister of South Africa. General Botha, you will recall, was the Boer leader who had assisted King Dinuzulu in his civil war. The King and the Prime Minister were friends. Thus the Prime Minister ordered the King’s release from Newcastle Prison. But the King was not allowed to return. He was exiled to Middelburg in the then Transvaal, where he died in October 1913, at Uitkyk Farm.
Thus my mother’s brother, King Solomon kaDinuzulu, ascended to the throne. Of course, the government didn’t recognise him as King of the Zulu nation. They called him Chief of Usuthu area. But the Zulus recognised the royal family.
King Solomon had been born during his father’s exile on the Island of St Helena, as was his younger brother Prince Arthur Edward Mshiyeni kaDinuzulu. My mother Princess Magogo was born after King Dinuzulu’s returned to Osuthu Royal Residence at the turn of the century.
King Solomon became the Zulu nation’s first Westernised king. As a boy he had left the Island of St Helena as an Anglican, for St Helena happens to be one of the Dioceses of the Anglican Church; the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.
Nevertheless, he longed to resurrect and strengthen the Zulu Royal Household and promote Zulu unity.
To achieve this unity, he gave his sister, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, in marriage to his Prime Minister, Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi. Thus my parents were married.
When King Solomon died on the 4 th of March 1933, at the young age of 40 years, his younger brother, Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, became Regent during the interregnum. Prince Mshiyeni took over the great responsibility of looking after the Zulu Nation from 1933 to about 1947. He had to look after the family of his brother King Solomon, which was quite big, living in different Royal Residences.
King Solomon had been married to 40 wives and had a number of children. Since I had been brought to King Solomon’s Royal Residence of KwaDlamahlahla since birth, he also brought me up and my two sisters. He erected a school which was named Usuthu School for the Royal children and the children of the community. Later with the assistance of the government, he erected a huge primary school which he then named Mpumalanga School.
Many Zulu gatherings called izimbizo were held at the Regent’s residence at KwaSokesimbone. Important men attended these imbizos, among whom were my
uncle Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the ANC, the Reverend Dr Langalibalele Dube, who was the first President of the ANC, and Dr Edgar Brookes, the Senator who represented the Zulu Nation in the South African Senate and the Principal of Adams College.
The Rev. Dube and Dr Brookes were often in the company of the Inkosi of Abasemakholweni in Groutville, Inkosi Albert Mvumbi Luthuli. I was impressed by the status of the Regent’s many visitors, but I was awestruck by Inkosi Luthuli. To me he stood out as a well-spoken, widely read man of great intellect. We Zulus often refer to such a man as a man who has “a shadow”, unesithunzi. I admired Inkosi Luthuli from the moment I set eyes on him.
At the time, the majority of Amakhosi were not educated. Even my own father was illiterate. But I will never forget what Inkosi Luthuli told me about my father. During our many long conversations, he spoke with great emotion about my father’s understanding of democracy.
Apart from being Prime Minister, my father, Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, was Prince Mshiyeni’s brother-in-law. Amakhosi would therefore consult him before conferences, asking, “What does the Regent think of this or of that?” My father answered them that what matters is not what the Regent thinks, but what the people think. Inkosi Luthuli repeatedly stated to me his admiration of this understanding of democracy from an illiterate colleague, my father, Mathole Buthelezi
During the interregnum, in 1939, when Prince Mshiyeni was in charge of the Zulu Nation, the Second World War broke out. Now during the First World War, King Solomon had been King of the Zulu Nation, and the government had asked him to encourage the Zulu men to join the Native corps as ‘soldiers’. My mother used to tell me that the King assembled a meeting of the Zulus where he appealed to them to join the war. A lot of cattle were slaughtered to provide food for the assembled members of the Zulu Nation. But after the King had told them about the purpose of the meeting, they all got up and chanted “USUTHU” – and left all the meat of so many cattle.
During this first War, my father – I am told – encouraged members of the Buthelezi Clan not to accept going into the South African army to go to war. This was before he was installed as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan. As a result, the Magistrate ordered him to be a postman who walked every day from Mahlabathini to Nongoma and back.
When the Second World War broke out, again the government approached Prince Mshiyeni as Regent to encourage Zulu men to join the war effort of the South African Army. At an Imbizo convened by Prince Mshiyeni to encourage Zulu men to join the war effort, my father, Mathole Buthelezi, again expressed the view that Zulu men could not join the war when they had no citizenship rights in the country. My father had been appointed by King Solomon as the Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation.
However my uncle Prince Mshiyeni decided to camp at Eshowe to encourage the Zulu men to join. They were housed in tents. When the Regent decided to camp at Eshowe and was joined by some Zulus, my father as the Prime Minister of the King and Zulu Nation had no option but to join his brother-in-law Prince Mshiyeni. A special officer’s uniform was tailored for them. My father had not changed his views against joining the war effort, but joined the Regent as his then Prime Minister.
The insulting thing is that those who joined the war effort were given spears instead of firearms. They were not even integrated into the South African army with whites. Instead certain platoons of the Zulu men were separate and were named “The Native Military Corps”.
In the mid-forties there was a great dispute as to which one of King Solomon’s sons should succeed him on the throne. At first his eldest son, Prince Victor Gqumu, was
identified by his uncle Prince Mshiyeni as the heir to the throne. However later a big Imbizo of the Royal Family and Zulu Nation was convened. It then emerged that Prince Mnyayiza, the son of Prince Ndabuko, King Cetshwayo’s brother, claimed that one day he and Prince Mgixo kaZiwedu (one of King Mpande’s son) were at King
Solomon’s Palace. They both said that on that occasion King Solomon’s children were around, and that King Solomon had pointed at one of his sons, Prince Thandayiphi kaSolomon, as the future “bull” at the kraal. Meaning that he was his heir.
A Commission of Enquiry was then held for months on end in Nongoma to determine who the heir of King Solomon was. The first Queen, Christine (OkaMathathela Sibiya), produced a document which she stated had been signed by King Solomon before he died. In this document the King had apparently stated that his son by his first wife, Prince Cyprian Nyangayezizwe Bhekuzulu, was his heir.
So, in 1948, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe kaSolomon ascended to the throne. Like his father, he was first installed as “the Chief of Usuthu”. Government later decided to give him the title “Paramount Chief of the Zulus”, a title which had no legal implications.
King Cyprian followed in the long-established tradition and appointed me as his Prime Minister. This was a time when black protest was rising against South Africa’s apartheid laws, and I accompanied the King (who was my cousin) on several trips to Pretoria to meet with government leaders.
Sadly, King Cyprian was sickly. In fact, at one time he and I stayed in the Rand where specialists in Johannesburg were treating him. He was a diabetic. He was treated in Johannesburg by Professor Theron of Wits University who was supposed to be one of the world authorities on Cirrhosis of the liver. After our long stay the King recovered well enough for us to return to KwaZulu.
We always felt sorry for King Cyprian for he was always under pressure from officials of the government, especially magistrates who doubled-up as Native Commissioners.
I remember how much pressure was put on King Cyprian when the Department of Native Affairs introduced what was called the Betterment Scheme. Things became so bad when the King agreed that the Betterment Scheme be introduced in his Osuthu Area. There was violence at a place called Thokazi, where some people were actually killed. So, often when he knew that some of those officials were going to visit him, he would ask me to arrive quite early so that he should not be alone when they arrive. I would be with him.
I was with him in 1955 when the very architect of apartheid Dr Hendrick Verwoerd, who was then Minister of Native Affairs, met with King Cyprian and Amakhosi at a great Imbizo held at the Mona Salesyards, where cattle auctions used to be held. On that occasion as we were waiting with the King and Amakhosi, a message came that Dr Verwoerd and senior officials wanted the King to come to where they were before the meeting. I got up and said that it was not our custom for the King to go to a meeting like that alone.
Later the meeting elected spokesmen that were to address the Minister of Native Affairs. The people that were elected were Prince Phika, who was the son of Prince Sitheku (one of King Mpande’s children), and a veteran politician by the name of Allison Wessels Champion. He had started the very first trade union, the Industrial Commercial Workers Union (the ICU) with a man from what was then Nyasaland by the name of Clement Kadalie. That was of course more than two decades before. Another person that was elected was Inkosi Charles Boy Hlengwa.
And I was the youngest of these elected men. I think I do not really need to say more about that meeting, except to say it was historic for me to speak directly to the very architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrick Verwoerd.
I was 40 years old when King Cyprian passed away at the age of 48, and it was devastating. His brother Prince Mcwayizeni Israel ka Solomon was installed as Regent, since our present King was still under-age.
King Cyprian’s son, Prince Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, ascended to the throne in December 1971, just a little over a year after the inauguration of the Zulu Territorial Authority of which I was elected as Head in June 1970. He is the son of King Cyprian’s second wife, Queen Thomozile Jezengani, a daughter of a prominent member of the famous Ndwandwe family by the name of Thayiza. Her mother was Mcebile. She was the daughter of Ndulungo Buthelezi, one of Mnyamana Buthelezi’s sons. So the King, like me, is descended from Mnyamana. Mnyamana is his mother’s great grandfather and therefore King Goodwill Zwelithini’s maternal great great grandfather.
We have worked together for more than 40 years. We have had a good relationship but not without its ups and downs as can be expected. Our interrelations as King and Prime Minister and as uncle and nephew would take a lecture of its own.
When he began his reign, I was just being launched into leadership of the KwaZulu Government, at the request of Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo. Soon thereafter I would found Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe. I would campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. I would derail the grand scheme of apartheid by rejecting independence for KwaZulu. Eventually, I would enter democratic negotiations.
But throughout it all I remained first and foremost a son of the Zulu nation. I wanted to see our kingdom recognised and our monarch respected, so many years after our nation’s defeat.
In 1980 I set up a Commission under the Chairmanship of Professor Denys Schreiner of the University of Natal. They decided to name it the Buthelezi Commission. Six years later I organised the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba. I brought people of all races together, to look for a possible way forward. This exercise resulted in the setting up of the KwaZulu Natal Joint Executive Authority.
Members of my KwaZulu Government Cabinet together with the Provincial Government (which governed whites, Indians and Coloureds in the Province) were officially combined to govern the whole Province of KwaZulu, and what was called Natal. It was the first non-racial, non-discriminatory government in South Africa.
In this way I had managed the mission I was given by Inkosi Albert Luthuli, then my leader of the ANC, and Mr Oliver Tambo, to torpedo the idea of any part of our Province becoming a Bantustan. This Province was one entity in 1970 when I was elected the first Head of the KwaZulu Territorial Authority. It never became a Bantustan like those territories which had accepted independence a’la Pretoria; the TBVC countries: Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.
In this way I protected not only the Zulu people from becoming foreigners in our own country, but I protected the citizenship of all Black South Africans. Indeed, during that time, many Africans from other so-called independent states would come to me, to give them what we deliberately called citizenship certificates of KwaZulu. In this way we could get them passports, since their passports were not internationally recognised.
When the Government in Pretoria suggested that they would give us Eshowe as the capital of KwaZulu, I said no. I believed that we needed to start from scratch. We needed to rebuild Ulundi, so that the Zulu Kingdom could rise from the ashes of 1879.
KwaZulu was of course part of the homelands system. It consisted of a jigsaw puzzle of non-contiguous pieces of land, to which the Zulu people had been relegated. We were living, tightly squeezed, in poverty and deprivation; little more than a pool of labour for white South Africa to draw on. Under the apartheid system, we were subjected to discrimination, oppression and indignities of every kind.
It is difficult to marry the image of King Cetshwayo’s warriors, with the image of dishwashers and janitors waiting in the echoing concourse of a railway station while policemen check their reference books for permission to enter Durban. It was a painful time. This is what would have happened had we accepted “Bantustan status” like the TBVC countries who had accepted bogus independence.
As Chief Minister of KwaZulu I found myself carrying the responsibility for millions of struggling people. There was an ocean of need, and a tiny lifeboat of resources. In fact, on a per capita basis, KwaZulu received less than all other homelands. This was a punitive action by the apartheid regime, because they knew that I was opposed to the balkanisation of the country into these bogus so-called independent states. In retribution, the National Party Government allocated a shoestring budget to KwaZulu.
My administration was forced to choose between competing priorities, while finding creative solutions and keeping a very tight rein on finances. We managed, through diligent and careful administration, to build houses and clinics and community centres. We started cooperatives and assisted small businesses. We attracted investment and increased food security. But above all we chose to prioritise education.
I had been close to my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the South African National Native Congress. In my matric year I spent many hours with Dr Seme, and I vividly remember hearing for the first time from Dr Seme the truth that “knowledge is power”. By the time I was serving as Chief Minister of KwaZulu I had a firm grasp on the belief that education could provide the lever with which to liberate a nation.
Tragically, after the Soweto uprising in 1976, the ANC’s mission-in-exile under Mr Oliver Tambo came out with the slogan: “LIBERATION NOW EDUCATION LATER”. Young people were enraged at having been shot at. Some had been killed by the Police with live ammunition. The ANC’s mission-in-exile encouraged the youth to abandon their education and burn down their schools.
Although I was also a supporter of the ANC, I and Inkatha opposed the mayhem that our leaders abroad were advocating. We in Inkatha responded with the slogan: “EDUCATION FOR LIBERATION.” We encouraged children not to abandon their education. We built schools. I suggested to Amakhosi – that is, Traditional Leaders – in KwaZulu – to encourage our poor people to pay a Rand each. We then combined that Rand with the pittance that we received from the budget that Pretoria gave KwaZulu.
Through this Rand for Rand initiative, and with the assistance of the Divine Life Society, the Lockhat Brothers Trust and several other philanthropists, we built more than 6 000 classrooms. My administration was able to block Bantu Education in the schools of KwaZulu. We made English the medium of teaching and ensured a high standard of excellence.
We wanted to equip a generation of youth to become the leaders and administrators in a liberated South Africa. We believed that liberation would come, and we wanted to be ready.
There was no education going on in Soweto and other urban areas. But in KwaZulu, our schools continued to operate normally. Indeed, Dr Ntato Motlana of the Soweto Committee of Ten, and Dr Percy Qoboza whose newspaper ‘The World’ had been closed down by the apartheid regime, approached me to request me to arrange for their children to continue their education in KwaZulu’s schools. Their children came down and were educated at Dlangezwa High School near the University of Zululand.
The apartheid regime also created ethnic universities for African ethnic groups. For us they created the University of Zululand. My son, Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, wanted to study at my alma mater, the University of Fort Hare. He was told that he had to study at the University of Zululand.
At that time, our movement, the African National Congress, had – like the rest of us condemned the creation of these ethnic universities and described them as “bush
colleges”. My late cousin King Cyprian Nyangayezizwe Bhekuzulu ka Solomon and Iencouraged our Amakhosi and people to support the University of Zululand. I was thrice elected Chancellor of the University of Zululand, so I was Chancellor for 21 years.
Irene, my wife, and I were often invited by Mr Harry Oppenheimer, “HFO”, and his beautiful wife Bridget to Brenthurst for dinner. After dinner we as men would converge to the other end of the lounge and talk politics. We would often, after long discussions, end up with Mr Oppenheimer asking me, “What can we as businessmen do to help?” One evening when he asked me this question, I told him that I was quite distressed when I cap young graduates at the University of Zululand because, when I congratulate them, they ask, “What is the use, since we cannot get jobs?”
I then suggested to Mr Oppenheimer that I needed funding in order to erect a technicon for my people. Mr Oppenheimer responded immediately with funding for me to erect the technicon. Others joined him. That Technicon is now the Mangosuthu University of Technology. I was there just a few weeks ago, and I was told that graduates from this institution easily get jobs with the skills that they acquire there.
I will forever be grateful to my friend Mr Harry Oppenheimer. He produced a legacy of patriotism and philanthropy, a legacy that the Oppenheimer family has continued, to the enormous benefit of our country. I am proud to call myself a friend of this family.
Throughout our liberation struggle, as I worked to alleviate the most immediate suffering, the question that reminded in my mind was how we could restore the dignity and heritage of the Zulu nation. Our people were undoubtedly conquered; many times over. But that unconquerable spirit remained. It could not be extinguished.
The moment the KwaZulu Government was given some autonomy to legislate, we officially recognised the monarchy. As Chief Minister of KwaZulu I arranged a budget for the King, who was by then my nephew King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. We helped the King to build some of his palaces, allocated protectors and provided static security.
In preparing stipends I said that the King’s salary should be 5% more than mine as Head of the KwaZulu Government, in recognition of his status. Our King had been head of government before our defeat. I was trying to refurbish the institution of the monarchy.
Among the black monarchies, there is none stronger than the Zulu, even now. Other monarchs in South Africa complain that my nephew has a big budget compared to theirs. But this is a consequence of history. It is a consequence of how hard we fought to regain the recognition of the Zulu Kingdom and the place of the Zulu King.
I have kept working to preserve and restore the heritage of our nation. One of the longest battles I have waged is for the recognition of the role, powers and functions of the institution of traditional leadership within a democratic system.
Traditional leadership is recognised by our Constitution, but 25 years into democracy there is still no single piece of legislation that defines the roles, powers and functions of traditional leaders. Accordingly, in the system of local government, traditional leaders have become ceremonial figures, separated from the resources and authority to secure good governance, as they are mandated to do by our history and social structure.
When it came to the recognition of our King, I was prepared to walk a path into political oblivion. With the 1994 elections looming, the King had not been recognised in our democratic compact, despite my endless petitioning at the negotiating table. I could not be a part of something which excluded my King, and I therefore withdrew the IFP from participation in the elections.
This has been endlessly misunderstood. It was not a power play, but an act of conscience. When Mr Nelson Mandela, President FW de Klerk and I signed the Memorandum of Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace, on the 19 th of April 1994, the IFP re-entered the elections. In that Agreement, the Zulu Monarch was finally recognised.
Another decision that has been misconstrued, often deliberately, is the decision I took just before the 1994 elections to place the land of KwaZulu into a trust, to remain as communal land, administered under indigenous and customary law.
On the 24 th of April 1994, when the KwaZulu Government was folding up like all other homeland governments, and the Bantustan governments, I piloted the last piece of legislation in the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly. All the uncontiguous bits and pieces of land that had comprised KwaZulu was, through this legislation, put into a trust called the Ingonyama Trust.
The legal advice I had received from Professor Willem Olivier and my Advisor Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini was that this land on which our people were perched would automatically become state land under the new democratic dispensation. Because the Constitution recognised the institution of Traditional Leadership, I decided to put this land under the Trust with the King as the sole trustee, so that the land should continue to be administered through indigenous and customary law.
After we passed this law, all sorts of speculations were made that it was part of a secret deal I had with President de Klerk. This is an absolute lie, as Mr de Klerk recently attested in a public statement.
The surprising thing in all this is that the Ingonyama Trust Act was taken to the democratic Parliament and amended by Parliament. The amendment created a Board to assist the King, the sole Trustee. It is chaired by a Judge of the High Court, Mr Justice Jerome Ngwenya.
Just because other ethnic groups in South Africa did not bother to create something similar, there is now a big hullabaloo as if it was a favour to us by the National Party government. It is nothing of the sort. The KwaZulu Legislative Assembly had a right to pass the law. And the President of the Republic, Mr FW de Klerk, had to sign that legislation since KwaZulu rejected Bantustan status. We were part of South Africa right through my administration of the KwaZulu Government, whereas others chose Bantustan status which made them foreigners in South Africa. King Goodwill Zwelithini has tried to lead by example. From early in his reign he championed education, seeking donations for many schools in Nongoma. He cultivates land as a farmer, to show our people the way to food security. We are both distressed that since 1994, in all rural areas, our people have stopped tilling the land and producing food for themselves and their families. We both believe that our people have come to expect everything from government. It is a deep concern for the future.
Since the founding of the Zulu nation, our Kings have each left a unique legacy.
King Shaka united fragmented clans to create a great empire, designing a social structure built to last.
King Dingane kaSenzangakhona safeguarded the assets of our nation against invaders.
King Mpande kaSenzangakhona defused confrontation with the British and the Boers through negotiation, securing relative peace.
King Cetshwayo kaMpande defeated the British at Isandlwana and fought to preserve the culture and sovereignty of the Zulu nation.
King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo resisted attempts by the British to conquer the spirit of our nation.
King Solomon Nkayishana Maphumzana kaDinuzulu sought to resurrect and strengthen our unity.
King Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe kaSolomon opposed the apartheid regime and preserved the traditions of our people.
And now his son, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, is creating his own legacy.
I am part of this story and I am proud to retell it. When I speak about our history, I still hear my mother’s voice. Her songs echo in my heart. I hear her speak about conquered nation, and in my chest I feel the beat of an unconquerable spirit.
I thank you.