MEETING OF AMAKHOSI

REMARKS BY MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP

CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS (KWAZULU NATAL)

INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN AND UNDUNANKULU KAZULU

EMANDLENI-MATLENG : MAY 5, 2000

I have come to this meeting of amaKhosi with a heavy heart but a clear conscience. My heart is heavy because today we can see how some of the worst fears we have nourished for many years have unfortunately come to pass. What we feared could happen is about to happen, in spite of our having received innumerable assurances that it would not happen. We were told over and again that the process of transformation which followed from the liberation of South Africa would not deprive amaKhosi of their traditional role, powers and functions. We were regaled with the image of an African renaissance which suggested that the growth and development to which our country has finally committed itself, would be driven in accordance with the features, customs and traditions of our African culture. Against this background, traditional leaders enthusiastically embraced the process of transformation, accepting themselves as becoming an engine of renewal and change in the name of progress.

We committed ourselves to creating the impetus necessary to ensure that the institution of traditional leadership could only evolve alongside the transformation of society, but that it would indeed move faster ahead, leading the way towards the transformation, empowerment and development of our traditional communities. We became very active in the new structures of government and I think that as never before, traditional leaders have travelled across the length and breadth of the country to attend meetings and participate in policy discussions on the crucial issues of governance and development at local level in rural areas. However, it now appears that in spite of our efforts, the conclusion shall stand that we are just not required in the making of a new South Africa and our destiny lies in our moving further to the sidelines, witnessing a process in which we do not only not lead, but in which we do not even participate.

All this is indeed profoundly sad. It is sad not only because of what it intends to do towards amaKhosi, but also because it spells out the very demise of those good intentions of development, prosperity and upliftment in rural areas in the name of which such ill-conceived policy has been pursued. We are saddened because we know that by sidelining amaKhosi, local governments and development will in all likelihood not succeed. We are sad because we know that without our contribution as amaKhosi, our people will not receive the guidance and support they require to move further ahead on the path of their individual and collective emancipation from the yoke of ignorance, superstition, poverty and under-development. It is with this heavy sadness in my heart that I come to this meeting at which we must make momentous decisions.

However, my conscience is clear and I do believe that equally clear is the conscience of all amaKhosi throughout the country. We have left no stone unturned, spared no effort, withheld no warnings. We have made our position clear. We expressed concerns, we received reassurances and we expressed new concerns. We pleaded, we threatened, we argued, we objected, having the humility of doing so in all the venues and forums in which our cause could be advanced. We met with President Mandela. We left documentation with him when we could not meet with him. We met with President Mbeki. We submitted inputs with the various Ministers in charge of local government, and participated extensively in the working of the Constitutional Assembly. We challenged the constitutional text before the Constitutional Court. We objected to the national legislation and offered alternative formulations. We objected to the work of the Demarcation Board and made suggestions which could have ameliorated its final findings. All this was done in earnest, but to no avail.

We are now faced with an imminent catastrophe. When we announced that the present legislation could only lead to an insurmountable and unsolvable conflict between traditional leadership and elected municipalities, our warnings were not taken seriously. Traditional leadership has been looked upon as a dog which barks but cannot bite. The truth of the matter is that we, the backbone of the Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal; we, the depository of an ancient tradition which carries the sacred responsibility that our forefathers entrusted upon us to lead and attend to the welfare of our nation; we, those entrusted by God with the destinies of this nation; we are not dogs and neither are we in the business of barking nor biting. There is no bark to traditional leadership, or bite. Our only concern is the welfare and growth of our nation whose destinies we embody. We have now to stand by with dignity and decorum, looking at the tragedy which is to unfold and which we so desperately tried to avert.

Until the last moment, we hoped that the President could intervene to redress that which neither the former Minister of Constitutional Development, Mr Valli Moosa, nor the Chairman of the Demarcation Board had wished to set right. However it is now evident that the last moment is rapidly approaching, if it has indeed not already tragically passed. There might be no time to bring about the profound rethinking of local government structures and related boundary lines which are necessary to accommodate a role for traditional leadership which preserves their powers and functions, while directing them towards the cause of development. All indications are that it is indeed too late to do it, even if one wanted to. This might be a moot issue, for there are even less indications of any political will or serious intention to even embark upon such a complex exercise. It seems that no effort has been set in place to move beyond words of reassurance and expressions of comfort for traditional leadership.

We are the heirs of a glorious, noble and sacred bloodline, the continuance of which we must ensure for the sake of posterity to come and for the future of our nation. If our role fails, our national identity fails, especially at the crucial juncture when our Kingdom has not yet been formally recognised within the broader unity of South Africa, and the status of our Monarchy remains uncertain. We are like a river, the mouth of which goes far back in the mists of time, and we carry with us the destinies of our people under the seal of our duty and heavy responsibility of leadership. It might be the case that contingent events of history may force this river to no longer be visibly performing its function. However, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to lead the nation, preserve its identity and remain the backbone of our Kingdom. It may be the case that this river might need to go underground, as at times rivers do when they disappear in the bowels of mother earth to reappear more powerful than ever at a much further point down the stream of history.

It is essential however that at this juncture we make a statement which remains firm in history to mark this time and to mark this moment in the eternal flow of human events to which our nation has been witness. On this day, amaKhosi of the Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal, for themselves and on behalf of their Kingdom, must rise to the responsibility of taking a profound and visible stand which signifies our disapproval of the present course of events which have developed. We must decide how such a stand can be taken with the dignity and decorum which must always characterise the institution of traditional leadership. Our paramount concern must remain that no conflicts or tensions are engendered which may cause the loss of human lives, or set the country back in the arduous process of reconciliation which we have pursued in the past six years. We must walk a tightrope between taking a stand, the memory of which will last throughout the ages, and avoiding such a stand becoming in any way disruptive of any process which may lead to the betterment of conditions of life for our subjects, or may cause violence.

No gratuitous violence shall ever be attached to the name and reputation of amaKhosi. We are the heirs of a tradition of warriors presiding over a nation which throughout history has distinguished itself for its courage and valour in war. We know that the call of war flows in our ancestral blood and we fear no conflict or confrontation. We fear no war or enemy. However, any war that we have engaged in has been conducted for the growth of our nation. We have always fought wars, for we knew that we could conquer and benefit from their spoils. We fought in the past to make our nation grow and for its everlasting welfare.

In this situation, it is beyond doubt that the sidelining of amaKhosi and the deprivation of their role, powers and functions in respect of local governance is not in the interests of our nation or our people. It is beyond doubt that our people will suffer because of what the central government intends to do with amaKhosi. However, any alternative which we may pursue through conflicts and tensions can only cause greater suffering. There would be no spoils to be gained from such an engagement at this time. The time will come when an engagement on issues of this nature may be more conducive to a victory, both for us as well as for our people, and for the whole country. At this crucial juncture of its history, South Africa cannot afford to be torn apart by such a conflict.

Today, we must take a stand which sets the premises for an underground river to flow towards the creation of a better governance for the whole country. We need to create national support for a new way of governing South Africa which is both modern and African. We need to ensure that from this moment forth, all amaKhosi work together without rest or peace to bring about a silent revolution which can refound South Africa as a truly modern and yet truly African state, which may rely heavily on the important contribution which amaKhosi may and must make towards its growth and development, not only in KwaZulu Natal, but throughout the country.

We must take heed of the lesson which by now we should have learned. What has happened is the result of bad decisions taken by amaKhosi in other provinces. For years I have called for unity of action and intent of all amaKhosi. I have impressed upon them that time was running out and they could not just stand back waiting for the development of events. AmaKhosi in other provinces had to become pro-active, join forces and mobilise their subjects to create an alternative of hope which could direct the governance of South Africa towards a better and different direction. I remained alone in carrying and advocating the cause of all amaKhosi across the country. AmaKhosi from other provinces even voted in favour of the very legislation and the very constitution which now sinks them into the deep and murky waters of oblivion. I and my colleagues from KwaZulu Natal were alone in Parliament in trying to stop what was done to amaKhosi anywhere throughout the country. I was alone in Cabinet when I objected to the White Paper on Local Government and its implementing legislation.

If the problem can now not be fixed, amaKhosi from other provinces may have no one but themselves to blame. If the problem now cannot be fixed, we must have the hope that we can still mobilise, if necessary as an underground flow of activities and connections, so that in the future we can express a different leadership for the country. The struggle doesn't stop here but goes on. However, there must be clarity on what the objectives of the struggle are. We cannot be unclear, indecisive and vague on what we are all about. Most of all, we cannot be inactive. In the months and years to come, amaKhosi will need to work hard to bring about a radical change in the country which can restore their position in a new system of governance which capitalises on their contributions and recognises them as true engines of development and progress. We must work hard towards that result, forcing amaKhosi from other provinces to finally set aside petty differences and forge a unity of interest and purpose which works as such at all times and in all respects, and not only when it is convenient.

For this reason, the stand we must take today must send a clear message to all amaKhosi throughout the country that we are the only leadership which has been consistent in standing for the rights and the dignity of traditional leadership. We must lead by example and show that we mean business and that we are able to take stands which the rest can follow and identify with.

It might be necessary for amaKhosi to consider whether they wish to have anything whatsoever to do with the local government elections. We considered this matter five years ago and we threatened that we would not participate in the local government elections held then. However, when the compromised solution of remaining areas was forged, we participated in that process. What is at stake now has much broader historical implications and far-reaching consequences. The stand we must take now is not merely leverage to secure a short-lived compromise. It is a stand that we must take for the record of history to ensure the continuation of our struggle, and to make us the catalyst of a union of interests of all those who will finally realise that they have been betrayed by the empty promises and reassurances that they received.

Today must be a day to be remembered. Today must be a day in which the echoes of our decision resound across the land. Today is a day in which we must be animated by the same courage which held the arm of our forefathers in the past, in which the glory of our nation was once formed. Today, the nobility of amaKhosi must be shown, and shine for history to remember and for the whole of South Africa to gaze at in awe.

I have nothing but these words of despair. We found it necessary to meet here today because it is quite clear that we may well be on a wild goose chase. We realise that the demands on the President's time are enormous. We know that it is not deliberate that he has not come back to our King, and to us, after we made representations about the placing of our traditional areas under Municipalities. What has alarmed us is the fact that the Demarcation Board's process is now about to be completed. We place ourselves in the position of the President. It is clear to us that once this whole process of demarcation is completed, as we have heard from the Honourable Minister of Local Government, Inkosi NJ Ngubane, and from the Chairman of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Mzimela, even the President as the Head of State can only state that since the process is now completed, there is nothing he can do at this stage to reverse it.

What is more significance in making this conclusion is that the leadership of the ANC in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal is in favour of this demarcation. For many, many years the leaders of the ANC here in KwaZulu Natal have been talking of what they call "a wall to wall democracy." What has happened and what Dr Sutcliffe has done has not happened by accident, but by plan. You have all heard the views supporting that what the Demarcation Board has done is in order, which the KwaZulu Natal Minister of Health, Dr Mkhize, has expressed openly and repeatedly in the media. Let us not fool ourselves, or allow ourselves to be fooled for everything that has happened up to this stage has happened in broad daylight.

If in fact, as we assume, there is nothing that the President can do to unscramble the demarcation egg, what should our attitude be towards the forthcoming elections? This is a very difficult question. In 1994 when international mediation on the position of the Monarchy and other outstanding matters was sabotaged by Mr Cyril Ramaphosa and Mr Roelf Meyer, Inkatha as well as us as traditional leaders, decided that we were going to boycott the general election of 1994. However, God in His mercy sent Professor Washington Okumu of Kenya to intervene. As a result of his intervention, Mr Nelson Mandela, the then President de Klerk and I, decided to sign an Agreement that international mediation on the position of the Monarchy and other outstanding matters would take place as soon as possible after the April 1994 elections. It was this Agreement which made us decide to participate in the elections. To me this was an act of God because our country would have sunk into an abyss if we were not saved from this by that Agreement.

We then participated in the 1994 elections and we won in KwaZulu Natal. Had we not participated in the elections in 1994, the parties that would have taken part in the elections without us, would have been elected as the governing party, instead of the IFP. Our participation saved us from what would have sunk us all into oblivion. So in trying to look at this issue of whether we will be taking part in the forthcoming local government elections or not, let us think very deeply of our participation in the 1994 election which saved us from being sunk forever.

We have heard that even the electoral plan is such that it is deliberately loaded against us and our people in rural areas. The aim of doing this is quite obvious. In spite of these machinations which are so obvious, will we be advancing our cause if we do not participate in the elections? This is the question I am putting to amaKhosi. My view is that those who want us to disappear from the scene can only gain by our non-participation. I realise that even if we do participate things have been so organised as we have heard, that we will still be on our way to oblivion, but will not really disappear if our people did still participate in elections in spite of all these difficulties. However, there will still be a problem if we participate but do so half-heartedly, and do not go flat out to ensure that we are able to ensure that each and every member of our various communities votes. So it is either that we participate wholeheartedly in the elections, or not at all.

We have heard that there are parts of the country where some traditional leaders have already stated that they will not participate in the elections. I know that your hearts are as heavy as mine is, and that it will be difficult for you to understand what I am saying to you now. But all of you who have known me all these years know that at our meetings I never, ever do not share with you in all honesty how I see things. I am doing just that right now, not more and not less. I think that we need to put on our thinking caps, for this is a matter which will decide not just our future, but that of our children and our children's children. We should appeal to the Almighty God to guide us when we make up our minds about this very sensitive matter. I hope that the spirit of all our ancestors and those of all our forebears will be with us as we cross this Rubicon.

 

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