Phambili Ntuthuko Community Development Cooperative
"Uniting People Through Arts And Culture"
Address By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Inkosi Of The Buthelezi Clan
Chairperson: Zululand District House Of Traditional Leaders Traditional Prime Minister Of The Zulu Nation

 

Eshowe: 1 October 2011

 

I thank the Phambili Ntuthuko Community Development Cooperative for inviting me to speak to you today, and I thank the local community for welcoming me here as warmly as you always do.

 

I must first congratulate the people of this community for having this Phambili Ntuthuko Community Development Cooperative.  Cooperatives are the first step towards real development. That is why when I was Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government I decided to send some of our then young people to the Coady Institute at St Xavier University in Canada. 

 

They went to study cooperatives and to learn about mobilisation of savings. Some of these people became prominent leaders in our country. 

 

One that all of you will remember was Ms Eileen Nokukhanya KaNkosi-Shandu. As you know she not only became a Deputy Minister under the National Government, but she was a leader of the IFP's Women's Brigade and I appointed her as the first female Minister of Education in KwaZulu Natal. I want to encourage members of this cooperative because while you must expect government to help you with taxpayers' money that both the provincial government and national government control, you expect no more than government to help you to help yourselves. Most people in this region know that I have always believed in self-help and self-reliance as pillars of our philosophy in guiding us as to what to do. My congratulations.

 

This area is a historic one because not so far from here is the grave of the Queen Mother and mother of our founding King, Queen Nandi, King Shaka's mother. We are also not far from the site of the KwaBulawayo Royal Residence of King Shaka. This area is one of the mainsprings of our culture.

 

This area under one of King Mpande's descendants has always been very close to my heart. When I was a young leader in the 50's my late uncle, the Prince of eHabeni, Prince Bhekeshowe was in charge of this area. He was very fond of me and whenever we had conferences of Amakhosi at Vuma Farm here in Eshowe, we were also closely together.  The Prince was Inkosi of this area and the Prince spoiled me as his nephew. He did not care that I was an Inkosi too but to him I was just the son of his sister Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu.

 

So it is very special for me to be here today. And it is inevitable that I should remember the Prince when I am here as your guest in his area which the Prince, my cousin, is now in charge of.

 

As you know, I have been Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan for more than half a century. In that time, I have seen South Africa move through many seasons of turmoil and change. I have seen families and communities forced apart by political and economic realities, and I have seen people drawn together by the shared vision of political and economic freedom. I have seen causes, like nature conservation, move from the periphery of public debate to the centre stage. I have seen hardship and poverty, as well as development and upliftment. I have seen too many funerals, and the birth of a new dispensation.

 

In all of this, I have not been a mere spectator. I have borne the responsibility of being a leader in my nation; being a Minister in the national Cabinet for ten years and being appointed Acting President of South Africa 22 times. I have never had the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and passing comment on what should have been done for our country. I have been in the midst of the decision-making; often as the sole voice of reason, speaking truth to power. It has not been an easy role.

 

But I have done it for the love of my country. I am a patriot at heart and measure all I do against the yardstick of how much it will benefit South Africa. I have put my desires and ambitions after the needs and dreams of my country, for while my contribution can only be made in a lifetime, the significance of what I do will last for generations to come. I think this way not because I am possessed of any superior abilities or calling, but because I am a South African who loves South Africa.

 

I feel that anyone who loves their country should accept their own role in making it better, safer, stronger, richer and more peaceful.  We are not merely citizens of this land, but custodians. The duty of protecting and promoting our national heritage rests on us all. It is not the job of Government alone, nor the preserve of leaders. Every one of us is called to use our unique and God-given talents to continually improve the future.

 

I do that through my capacity to mobilize people, my uncompromising commitment to the truth, my experience in politics and my integrity. 

 

Others do it through their service to humanity, as nurses, social workers and caregivers. It can be done through supporting charitable organizations, creating successful businesses, starting community projects, empowering youth, working the land or building houses. There are many ways we contribute to securing the future of our country. One of the most important - and often overlooked - is through promoting arts and culture.

 

I wish to thank the Phambili Ntuthuko Community Development Cooperative for gathering us in this venue to speak about arts and culture, and the power they have to unite us. I know that, through the Cooperative, this community has hosted speakers on all manner of topics, including education and employment. The issue of arts and culture is no less important, even though we tend to relegate it to an inferior status when faced with the immediate problems of how to address poverty, ignorance, disease and criminality.

 

There are many serious challenges facing our country, and many of them divide us. The high incidence of crime divides us by stirring fear and suspicion. An embattled education system causes social division.

 

Racial tensions, pervasive corruption, unemployment, lack of opportunity; all these bring divisions into our society. But none more so than politics and ideological differences.

 

We all have our own ideas on how to solve the myriad problems facing South Africa. The ANC Youth League and COSATU believe that we need to nationalize our mines, for the sake of making a major break from the way our economy has been run for decades. The IFP, on the other hand, believes we need to grow our industrial bases, promote agriculture and possibly even reform our monetary system to prevent South Africa from becoming a welfare state. The IFP doesn't just want something different. It wants something better.  And we know that this will not just rain on us from above, but we will have to do these things for ourselves.  Thus the importance of non-governmental organizations such as Phambili Ntuthuko Development Cooperative.

 

But ideologies clash and politics brings division. The role of the arts, I believe, is to engage people in thinking about issues, rather than blindly following the dogma of leaders. South Africa is a nation of artists. We have incredibly talented singers, musicians, dancers, actors, poets and painters. Our range is also diverse, for we use satire and cartoons as well as traditional story-telling and beadwork to express our passion.

 

In so doing, we reach across the boundaries of race, language, religion and background, to a shared pool of values, emotions and dreams. Through art, people who are very different can begin to understand one another. Through art, we can find commonality. This is the power of art to unite. I encourage the community of Eshowe to embrace art as a valuable means of expression. It can express patriotism, discontent, hope and anger. It can also express identity.

 

This is perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of art; that it is always located within a cultural context. When anthropologists try to understand the essence of a people, they consider their art. Classical music, for instance, expresses an ordered and rigidly structured society; while jazz and rock speak of a society that is challenging the boundaries of conformity. In the South African context, our art often expresses our cultural identity and our heritage. It is a way we express who we are, where we come from and where we belong.

 

As a traditional leader and the Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation, protecting our cultural heritage has always been of the utmost importance to me. I understand that culture is a powerful unifying factor among people. People from the same culture tend to have an innate understanding of each other, for they share a common foundation of knowledge, beliefs and values. Even if people leave their own cultural setting and immerse themselves in a different one - as sometimes happens when people leave rural areas to live in cities - your cultural framework stays intact and acts as a filter for your experiences.

 

People often ask me if I feel torn between my different roles and responsibilities. They see me in a business suit standing in the national House of Parliament, but also in traditional dress at cultural functions where I present His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation. I do not feel I can only be one or the other. I never cast off my heritage to take up my responsibilities in Parliament or anywhere else. When I have visited international dignitaries and Heads of State, I have done so as a South African of Zulu extraction, as a traditional leader, as a man steeped in the history, traditions and values of my culture.

 

Some of you may know that I enjoyed a long friendship with Inkosi Albert Luthuli, whom I consider one of my most significant mentors.

 

When my mother, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, asked me to return to Mahlabathini in the fifties to take up my hereditary position as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, I was unsure what to do, for I had intended to complete my legal articles. I was also politically active and knew that the Government of the day would look upon me with suspicion if I took a leadership position; which in fact they did, refusing to fully recognize me as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan for the first five years.

 

However, when I sought the advice of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, whom I often turned to for guidance, he advised me to return to Mahlabathini. He himself had given up a lucrative teaching position when the community at Groutville Mission Reserve elected him as Inkosi of Abasemakholweni in 1936. He understood the value of our heritage and gave us the example of how a traditional leader can uplift a community both spiritually and materially.

 

When Inkosi Luthuli became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1960, we discussed the value of his wearing traditional dress when he accepted the Prize in Norway. I arranged for him to be clad in the regalia of a Zulu warrior. In this way, Inkosi Luthuli expressed the pride of Africa before the world, and struck a blow to the Nationalist Party which sought to portray Africans as savage and uneducated.

 

It was a small triumph for our nation, particularly after the insults that were hurled at me a few years before when I announced to the Zulu Nation that we were all to be clad in our indigenous attire during the unveiling of the King Shaka statue in KwaDukuza by King Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe ka Solomon. Unfortunately, many missionaries who brought us the gospel discouraged African proselytes from using their indigenous attire or their African names, once they accepted Christ. It was unashamed westernization of Africa's indigenes. Everything African was "heathenish".

 

Today we have a better understanding across cultures, but there are still issues of contention when it comes to cultural practices. I think of the slaughter of the bull during the First Fruits ceremony and how this caused an uproar amongst animal activists. And it still surprises me when people misunderstand the significance and meaning behind the Reed Dance festival, which celebrates the purity of our young maidens. Some very ignorant comments have been made about our cultural practices.

 

During last weekend's commemoration of King Shaka ka Senzangakhona, I made the public statement that our nation's heritage contains powerful tools and weapons for building South Africa and protecting its assets. I believe His Majesty our King has made a remarkable contribution towards re-instilling a sense of pride within our nation. We should never be shy of our heritage or the traditional values of our culture. They give us our identity.

 

I have often said that South Africa's diversity is its strength. For this reason, I have never subscribed to the ruling Party's notion that nation building demands the creation of a homogenized society. If we were all the same, thought the same and acted the same, something very valuable would be lost. The different people groups of South Africa bring something different to the table, and through interaction that respects and embraces our differences, we can strengthen our combined contribution to South Africa's success.

 

The resilience and conservative values that often characterize Afrikaners is needed in the new South Africa. The work ethic of the Jewish community is valuable. The business acumen of the Indian community can teach us a lot. I do not want to generalize or over-simplify what each of us contributes to South Africa, or even what makes us unique. But I think this illustrates how our strengths can be harmonised and our weaknesses supplemented when we allow diversity to flourish.

 

Diversity does not preclude unity. But I believe we must be aware of the inherent potential for division that our diversity brings, and constantly strive for reconciliation and unity. I am worried about the degree to which our society remains fractured, even seventeen years after democracy. While we have employed so much effort and time into nation building, divisions are now being opened between South Africans through the irresponsible comments and reckless behaviour of some of our leaders.

 

The Equality Court, for instance, has ruled that the singing of Dubul' iBhunu constitutes hate speech, but the ANC has rejected the ruling. Since then, COSATU's President has led hundreds of shop stewards in singing the song, in flagrant disregard of the Court's judgment. The ANC Youth League is appealing the ruling, and Mr Julius Malema has said that the Judge was letting Apartheid in "through the back door".

 

I disagree. In a democracy, no one should be singing about how they want to kill their fellow citizens. This serves only to alienate a portion of our population and drive a wedge between us. I believe we must be careful at this juncture to create a heritage that will unite the next generation. That can only be done by celebrating our cultures in a way that promotes mutual respect, greater peace, reconciliation and harmony.

 

I am pleased that the Phambili Ntuthuko Community Development Cooperative has chosen to stimulate debate on the issue of arts and culture as a unifying force. As a Zulu, I am proud of my culture. But my heritage as a South African encompasses more than my ethnicity. I have served the Zulu nation for many years, but I will serve South Africa for my lifetime.

 

I thank you.