Visit to Inkamana High School


Vryheid: 19 October 2018


Good morning; I feel privileged this morning to speak to matric students, knowing that you are soon to embark on your own journeys into the world.

I have been asked to speak to you about the IFP’s legacy in our struggle for political liberation, for I understand that this was the subject of your history assignment for 2018.

Later this morning, I will speak to all your fellow students at Inkamana High School about our responsibility as citizens to build South Africa. But for now I would like to focus on the IFP’s legacy in our struggle for political liberation, for I understand that this was the subject of your history assignment for 2018.

What a wonderful topic to study, because it is not a straightforward narrative. It demands critical thinking and an awareness of the use of propaganda: what we now call fake news. It demands that you, as researchers, ask questions, and dig much deeper.

I am sure that in the course of your assignment you were confronted with discrepancies that didn’t make sense. Why, for instance, did President Nelson Mandela appoint me as Minister of Home Affairs and make me Acting President of the Republic, if I was an apartheid stooge and a sell-out? Why did Mandela admit in 2002 that the ANC had used every ammunition to destroy me, yet at his first mass rally in 1991 he publically thanked me for all I had done to secure his release?

This chapter of our country’s history is mired in propaganda, making it difficult to know what is fact and what is fiction. Tragically, some of the fiction has been printed even in matric history textbooks. I know this because the IFP has engaged senior legal counsel to go through every history book used at school level to identify lies and propaganda. It’s a mammoth task, that will take a long time to complete, but I believe it is absolutely necessary.

You deserve to know the truth and to be taught the truth. I’m so pleased therefore to have this chance to speak to you, and to answer your questions. Let me lay a brief foundation.

I founded Inkatha keNkululeko yeSizwe in March 1975. The ANC – which had been founded by my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme – was banned, and its leaders were imprisoned or living in exile. Mass mobilisation towards political liberation had gone silent on our own soil.

Although I had grown up in the ANC Youth League and was working closely with our struggle leaders, like Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo, I was playing a different role.

The apartheid regime had imposed the homelands system on South Africa, in a grand scheme to portion off sections of the country as independent states; no longer part of South Africa. These were the portions to which black South Africans had been relegated. Ultimately the apartheid regime wanted to be able to tell the international world, “Look, we are not oppressing anybody. These blacks are not part of South Africa.”

When the homeland of KwaZulu was foisted on us, Inkosi Luthuli and Mr Tambo sent a message to me through my sister, asking that I not refuse if the people chose me to lead KwaZulu. They realised that while we opposed the homelands system, we couldn’t deny its existence. The best option would be to undermine it from within, and that is what they asked me to do.

So I had taken up the leadership of KwaZulu and was serving as Chief Minister, waging a dual battle for political liberation and social justice. Unlike many of our leaders who were living outside the country, I lived and worked and struggled alongside ordinary South Africans, witnessing the hardships of everyday life. I knew that political liberation was necessary. But I also knew that we couldn’t ignore the immediate needs; needs like education, food security, poverty alleviation and development.

Our people needed the vote, yes. But they couldn’t simply wait for jobs, food, houses and access to seed capital.

So while I held more rallies under the banner “Free Mandela” than anyone else in South Africa, and while I constantly pointed out the ethical bankruptcy of apartheid, I was also working tirelessly to increase education, build houses, start community gardens and train women towards self-help and self-reliance. I stayed in contact with our liberation leaders in exile and spoke to them about these daily needs.

I also travelled to meet African Heads of State to thank them for giving sanctuary to all our exiles. It was on one of these visits, to Zambia, that President Kenneth Kaunda spoke to me about forming a membership based organisation, to fill the political gap in our country and reignite mobilisation towards liberation. When I returned to South Africa, I immediately sought the advice of Bishop Alphaeus Zulu and Mr Oliver Tambo. Both agreed that this was the right way forward.

So I founded Inkatha, on the very principles of the 1912 ANC. We adopted the ANC’s colours and the ANC’s slogans, because Inkatha was little more than a front for the liberation movement. Through Inkatha, we were able to mobilise far more effectively in the pursuit of development and social justice. Through Inkatha, the Government of KwaZulu raised funds hand in hand with the people to build thousands of classrooms, houses, clinics and community centres. We were able to spread the message of self-help and self-reliance, effectively empowering families to put food on the table and live in dignity, despite the political climate.

Of course, Inkatha never stopped working for political liberation. But we wanted to secure a good inheritance for the next generation. We wanted to ensure that the country we inherited would be economically strong so that it could meet the vast needs of all South Africans. We also wanted to equip young people to become the administrators, leaders and professionals of a democratic South Africa.

So when the ANC’s mission-in-exile began calling on students to abandon their classrooms and burn down their schools, with the slogan, “Liberation Now, Education Later”, Inkatha disagreed. We juxtaposed this with the slogan, “Education For Liberation” and called on the youth to learn, learn and learn; because nothing could better equip them for our future democracy.

Inkatha itself was a democratic organisation. From its inception we committed to take everything to the people, to test every policy and every strategy against the will of the people. Increasingly we discovered that the will of the people within South Africa was at odds with the strategy of the ANC from outside South Africa.

For instance, when the ANC launched its call for international disinvestment and economic sanctions against South Africa, not a single voice was heard from within our communities supporting this idea. As international companies closed shop and left South Africa, it was black South Africans who lost their jobs. I called mass rallies throughout our country asking whether Inkatha should support sanctions, and our people said “NO”.

Sanctions hurt the poorest the most. This is something that today even the ANC understands. A few years ago, the ANC refused to support economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. I made a point of asking the then President Zuma about this, and he explained to me in detail how sanctions hurt the poorest, weakening the economic bases on which social justice can be built. “That’s amazing, Mr President,” I told him. “I said the very same thing in the seventies and eighties, and the ANC lambasted me!”

When our people rejected the call for sanctions, Inkatha expressed their voice. I travelled throughout the world to speak to Heads of State like President Reagan, Prime Minister Thatcher and Prime Minister Den Uyl, convincing them not to support sanctions. It was painful going against my leaders in the ANC, but I had to do what my people and my conscience told me was right.

Again, when the ANC’s mission-in-exile began escalating violence and an armed struggle, I asked black South Africans what we should do. Again and again I heard pleas against violence. Our people were enduring enough. To add bloodshed, fear and chaos was a step too far. Our liberation struggle had been born on the principle of non-violence. I could not abandon that principle, knowing what it would do to South Africa.

I still believed in negotiations, negotiations, negotiations. And in the end, that is how democracy was won. But Inkatha’s opposition to sanctions and to an armed struggle put us at loggerheads with the ANC’s mission-in-exile. An ideological chasm had opened between us.

Mr Tambo thus called me to London in October 1979 to discuss these differences. Over two and a half days, our delegations talked, but we could not find agreement. Eventually we committed to meet again.

But that meeting never took place, because shortly after we arrived home the ANC’s mission-in-exile released a statement denying that we had met. And a few months later, speaking at the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, the ANC’s Secretary-General Mr Alfred Nzo, ripped into my integrity, saying I would be swept away onto the rubbish heap of history.

The opening salvo had been fired. What followed was a decades’ long campaign of propaganda and vilification against Buthelezi and Inkatha.

It was difficult to bear. I knew that I had done exactly what my leaders asked me to do. I had taken up leadership of KwaZulu. I had rejected nominal independence, derailing the grand scheme of apartheid and protecting the citizenship of millions of black South Africans. I had followed my conscience and done what was right. I had served the will of our people.

But day after day I had to watch my wife and children suffer the arrows fired against me. The ANC recognized that Inkatha had formidable support. Within months of its establishment, Inkatha had boasted a million card-carrying members. So we were, in the eyes of the ANC, the biggest threat to their political power if we could not be made to do exactly as we were told.

Out of a war of words, lies and false accusations, terrible animosity grew. Attempts were made on my life, and leaders of Inkatha began to be picked off in a systematic plan of assassination. The ANC had brought a people’s war to our soil; the kind of war that is fought within communities to ensure utter chaos, ungovernability and fear. That people’s war was turned against Inkatha. In the end, black-on-black violence claimed some 20 000 lives.

It was in this cauldron that the lies were brewed that still haunt South Africa. I was labelled a sell-out and a puppet of the apartheid regime, despite all I had done to oppose and undermine apartheid. Inkatha was branded as bloodthirsty, despite the fact that we never had an armed wing, unlike the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe. It was claimed that the apartheid regime was paying me to kill ANC members, despite the fact that years of intensive investigations and criminal court cases could find not a shred of evidence to support this lie.

The problem is that a lie told often enough begins to sound like the truth. There are some senior journalists and editors in our country today who still believe the propaganda of the past, and they repeat it as often as they can. There are people in positions of influence who bear the psychological scars of our country’s violent past. They cannot be made to see the truth. It is just too hard for them to accept that the hatred they have nourished for all these years was founded on a lie.

The only hope of the truth prevailing is in the hands of the next generation of thought leaders, opinion makers and social influencers. It is up to young people like you to question what you read and what you hear, and to search out the truth. I say this not just for the sake of Inkatha’s legacy, although it is a legacy worth valuing. I say it because our country deserves to know the truth about the past. Our Lord Himself Jesus Christ said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

You, the generation of today, deserve the facts. So I am here to answer your questions. Thank you for inviting me.