The Sunday Times
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This embodies a rejoinder I sent to the Sunday Times to correct serious distortions of history penned by its Mondli Makhanya. In spite of the Sunday Times having agreed to a rejoinder, my letter was not published. The IFP has borne the cost of this advertisement to correct lies not only in its own interest, but in the public interest.
In June, Makhanya wrote an article titled “Let us make this World Cup a tribute to the wisdom of Madiba” in which he recalled the first rally held by Mr Mandela in Durban. From there he launched an absurd attack on Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Inkatha.
I came to South Africa in 1991 after the release of Mr Mandela. Since June 1992 I have been very close to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. As his Cabinet Advisor for 10 years, I was intimately involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process which we challenged as it was totally hopeless in understanding and reconciling the dynamics of the black-on-black conflicts which claimed the lives of about 20’000 people. I had to study most of the relevant evidence and documentation.
From this background, I just cannot fathom Makhanya’s immense distortion of the conflict between Inkatha and the ANC. I appreciate that both the world and South Africa need reassuring heroes and myths and that Nelson Mr Mandela has lent himself to such purpose beautifully. But Makhanya’s extreme and preposterous demonization of Buthelezi and Inkatha to sanctify Mr Mr Mandela as the pacifier is too farfetched even for the anti-Buthelezi vitriolic and now fully discredited propaganda of 25 years ago, which Mr Mandela was the first to repudiate as untrue when on innumerable occasions he recognized and praised Buthelezi’s life-long role.
Prof. Anthea Jeffrey has written the definitive academic account of the ANC-Inkatha conflict in her seminal tome “People’s War”, which describes how the ANC’s “armed struggle” fuelled with Soviet weapons and foreign money was mainly waged not against the white apartheid regime but rather against all the other components of the liberation movement, including AZAPO, the PAC and Inkatha.
A Soviet-influenced ANC elite in comfortable foreign exile and an uninformed group of prisoners presided over massive and ferocious violence aimed at subjugating black communities into allegiance, not as much to fight apartheid, but rather to acquire political hegemony during the struggle and after liberation, in spite of the ANC having no significant own political structures on the ground. The horrifying internationally broadcast images of “necklaced” people with burning tires wired through their ribcage had nothing to do with apartheid, but was the ANC’s way to intimidate communities into joining its “armed struggle” mainly against black communities and only incidentally against the white regime; which worked well across the country, but not in KwaZulu.
In KwaZulu, Buthelezi chose to have nothing to do with this Soviet-backed insurrectional armed struggle, and pursued a steadfast strategy of nonviolent resistance to apartheid advocating the very method of peaceful negotiations which eventually delivered liberation, and which the ANC had to accept once its Soviet sponsor collapsed. Buthelezi was the credible counterpart for the dialogue with the Western governments of Ronald Reagan, Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, Giscard d'Estaing and Giulio Andreotti, aimed at a non-Soviet-backed liberation of South Africa.
Buthelezi crashed the grand scheme of apartheid by keeping the largest nation out of it, and making it unworkable, as President FW de Klerk recognized when he announced the dismantling of apartheid. Buthelezi held more rallies in South Africa than anyone to free Nelson Mandela and refused apartheid’s offers to negotiate bilaterally a democratic constitution in terms of which the ANC would be unbanned and democratic elections held, which would have made Buthelezi the liberator rather than Mr Mandela. This has been amply recognized by President Zuma and Deputy President Motlanthe and is on record in Parliament.
These are the simple facts of history. Where does Makhanya’s aberration come from? Is he merely obtuse? Again Professor Jeffrey’s research reveals the answer. On page xxxvii, she writes:
“One black journalist, Mondli Makhanya ... actively participated in a key aspect of the people's war. Makhanya came from KwaMashu and supported the ANC's internal ally, the United Democratic Front, in the conflict with Inkatha. Writing in 1991 under a pseudonym, Makhanya described his own participation in an incident on the 11th of February 1990 (the day Mr Mandela was released from prison) in which an approaching Inkatha 'impi' was repulsed and the IFP was then routed from a nearby shack settlement.
According to Makhanya, “the young [ANC] lions then helped themselves to radios and other valuables left behind”, before setting [IFP] shacks ablaze. Makhanya himself concentrated on “burning shacks” while other youths “finished off wounded Inkatha warriors”, one of whom had his eyes gouged out and his genitals cut off while Makhanya looked on. One injured Inkatha man was dragged down to the township and set alight, and then had rubble piled on him to prevent his escape.
Wrote Makhanya: “to me he was not a human being – he was an enemy who deserved what he got.” Looking back on his experience “as a warrior” in Natal, Makhanya added: “Nauseating as it all was, I was proud to be a part of it… I must also admit that I enjoyed the excitement of battle: the sight of a sea of burning shacks and desperate men running for dear life.” Makhanya’s account suggests that his capacity for objective assessment and reporting might have been eroded via his involvement in the fighting.”
Mr Mandela, like any other man of conscience, would be horrified.
A search of media archives shows how Makhanya has written an avalanche of preposterous attacks on Buthelezi, and since receiving my unpublished rejoinder, he called Buthelezi a cantankerous leader. Hogarth’s style in insulting Buthelezi referring to him as “NotGatsha” and “Thesaurus Rex”, is objectionable but not unexpected of a satirist. But Makhanya’s vitriol is something different. To preserve its own credibility, our largest Sunday paper should bar Makhanya from writing about the life of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini, MP