UNVEILING OF THE MEMORIAL OF
EMAHLAYIZENI, NKANDLA, SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 2000
Masters of Ceremonies, Mr B.V. Mthethwa and Mr Z.O. Zulu; the Reverend Canon Mbatha; Inkosi of the Emahlayizeni branch of the Biyela Clan, Inkosi Bhekizwe Biyela; Inkosi of Obuka section of the Biyela and Head of the Biyela Clan; Inkosi V. Biyela; the Honourable the Prince of KwaZiphethe, Prince G.L. Zulu, the KwaZulu Natal Minister of Welfare and Population Development and other members of the Royal House present; Amakhosi of this District and other amaKhosi from other districts; Indunas, Councillors and members of the Biyela Clan and all members of the Zulu Nation present here today.
I feel very honoured to be here at Emahlayizeni once again for the purpose of unveiling the tombstone of another of the amaKhosi of this section of the Biyela Clan. I thank His Royal Highness, the Prince of KwaZiphethe who has just presented me to you all. I know that the Prince presents me to you not just as his nephew and in my various capacities, but it is appropriate that it should be he who introduces me to you for he partly belongs to the Biyela family himself. The mother of Prince Mnyayiza was a daughter of Mfingwana of the Biyela Clan. So he performs here not only as a senior member of our Royal House and Minister, but also a member himself of the Biyela family as the Biyela blood flows in his veins.
Today we are gathered here to honour one of the heroes of our nation, Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa ka Didi whose tombstone we are assembled here to unveil. I wish to congratulate Inkosi of Emahlayizeni, Inkosi Bhekizwe Biyela, for the initiative that he and his people have taken to ensure that an appropriate memorial is erected to mark the grave in which rests the mortal remains of this hero.
Just a few weeks ago, I was in the Greytown District to unveil the tombstone of Inkosi Bhambatha ka Mancinza. It is my fortune that only after a fortnight after that, I am called upon to unveil the tombstone of another hero of our Nation, Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa of the Biyela Clan.
It is a wonderful coincidence that we are honouring these amaKhosi of the Zulu Nation when all sorts of question marks are being put on the institution of Ubukhosi by the powers-that-be. There is a new song that certain politicians are singing to the effect that amaKhosi played a dubious role during the colonial period and during the apartheid era.
The resistance to colonial rule in Southern Africa reached a climax when the British colonial powers deployed a force larger than the force that they used to conquer the continent of India in order to destroy the Zulu Kingdom. A full scale war took place in order to destroy the old Zulu order and to subjugate the Zulu Nation. It was our ancestor King Cetshwayo ka Mpande whose regiments took on the British forces. The British at that time had the mightiest army in the world. King Cetshwayo's regiments were only armed with their spears and their shields.
It was this very month of January, on the 22nd of January 1879, that Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa distinguished himself with others. My grandfather, Mkhandumba ka Mnyamana, was also present at Isandlwana, as was his brother, Mntumengana ka Mnyamana. Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa's brother who participated in the battle of Isandlwana was Mkhosana who was in charge of uKhandampemvu Regiment. He was the father of Inkosi Dumezweni, the father of Prince Mkhombisi, the father of Prince Nkanyiso, the father of the present General Heir of all the Biyela Clans who has participated in today's function when he received us as guests of Inkosi of Emahlayizeni in his capacity as the General Heir of the Great House of all the Biyela Clans. Mntumengana ka Mnyamana Buthelezi, just like Mkhosana ka Mvundlana ka Menziwa ka Xhoko, also died at Isandlwana and was buried by his brother there Mkhandumba, my father's father, Mathole. And yet question marks are put on the role of our amaKhosi during the colonial era and the apartheid era. There will always be black sheep in any society who play treacherous roles in any Nation. All amakhosi should not be tarred with the same brush as the majority of amakhosi did not commit treacherous actions during the colonial era.
There are many versions of the accounts of the battle of Isandlwana in which Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa participated on the 22nd of January 1879. Let us however look at the version of the events of that day as recorded by C.T. Binns in his biography of King Cetshwayo entitled 'The Last Zulu King - the life and death of Cetshwayo' pp. 126 to 131. It reads:
I have taken the risk of being so detailed in quoting an account of what happened on the 22nd of January 1879, so that we can see the importance of today's ceremony in its correct perspective.
It is in this context that we can appreciate that the tombstones and monuments to the great men and women of the past are more than ornaments of the landscape. They are indeed like a door which enables us to walk into the past and reach out for our ancestors. They enable our souls to connect with the souls of those who are no longer with us, but who have yet a great role to play in our lives through their example and the memory of their deeds. Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela lived at a crucial time in the history of our Kingdom. He was one of the leaders who covered himself with world-wide glory during the Battle of Isandlwana in which the British troops were defeated. The memory of that day will live eternally in the collective consciousness of our nation. As we have just heard, the Battle of Isandlwana is itself a monument to the greatness of a nation which would not give up its freedom, independence, liberty and sovereignty without defending it to the last man.
The memory of Inkosi Biyela also brings us back to a time when traditional leaders were enabled to serve an important function within the growth, development and administration of our communities. Throughout our history our amaKhosi have led our people and been an instrument through which our people have expressed their collective needs, wants and aspirations. Memories of the past are always of great importance in assessing the challenges of the present and mapping the future path ahead. Today, traditional leadership is faced with unprecedented challenges. The legislation adopted by the national government has effectively prevented our amaKhosi from leading our people and from being the instruments through which our people can express and concretise their aspirations.
Traditional leaders have been replaced by municipalities as the primary local government of our people. Municipalities will have the responsibility, the burden and the privilege to plan and implement the development of our rural communities and they will be the sole institutions which, according to present legislation, will be receiving the administrative resources and financial capacity necessary to promote development. This leaves traditional leaders out of the equation of development and without a leading role in the governance of our people at the primary level of government. This is a very dangerous and unsatisfactory situation for our people and our communities.
However, when we stand before the tombstone of a man as great as Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela, we are reassured that the role of traditional leadership is forever. Traditional leaders will continue to lead our people because this responsibility has been bestowed upon them by history and they are carrying it out under the auspices of our ancestors and for the benefit of our posterity. No legislation can ever break this mystical chain of duties and responsibilities which bind together traditional leaders and their communities. The present legislation is an ill-advised solution to the dilemma of rural development and is the result of erroneous policies which will not withstand the test of time.
As we stand before this tombstone, celebrating the memory of a great leader who left his mortal responsibility more than one hundred years ago, we are deeply aware of the importance of the test of time. His memory has passed the test of time. Traditional leadership has passed the test of time, because, since time immemorial, it has served the needs and aspiration of our people. The present, ill-conceived and erroneous policies of government will not pass the test of time and are bound to fail because they do not have the interests of the people at heart. They are the product of ideological imperatives which certain people wish to apply to the real needs and aspirations of our communities. They do not care about what our people need and they are obsessed with imposing an ideological framework which should formulate new needs and aspirations for our people. This type of social engineering has failed wherever tried throughout the world, often producing untold miseries.
The risk exists that also in our context, the establishment of municipalities may create conflicts which may produce human misery and suffering. We must keep the interests of our people in mind as our first and foremost concern. In the next few months, we must ensure that all of us remain equally committed to avoiding the escalation of conflicts between traditional authorities and municipalities. We must ensure that all of us remain equally available to mediate and solve whatever conflicts may arise within an amicable spirit of goodwill.
We must realise that there may be different tiers of government and different institutions ruling over or providing for our people, including municipalities, but in the end there is only one layer of people. There might be different governments, but only one set of needs and aspirations which our people hold and which must be served. Therefore, we must be available to work towards the resolution of conflicts that the present ill-conceived policies of traditional leadership have created by placing the interests of our people above any other consideration.
We know that traditional leaders have served the cause of development of our people since time immemorial and that without their participation in local government, our people will not be uplifted nor will they prosper. For this reason, on an occasion such as this, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of traditional leadership. The struggle which began at the time of Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela still continues. He fought for the freedom and liberty of our people. Today we are still fighting for the freedom and liberty of our people, but this time it is not from the yoke of colonialism but from the pressure of abject social and economic conditions, unemployment, lack of essential services, malnutrition, and ignorance for lack of exposure and education.
Today’s struggle is as important and as difficult as that which confronted Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela in his day. We must ensure that traditional leaders remain the frontrunners of this struggle. As we recommit ourselves to protect the institution of traditional leadership, we express the certainty that perhaps in one hundred and fifty years our future generations will meet on a similar occasion to unveil a similar tombstone in celebration of the achievement of an outstanding traditional leader in the struggle for development, development and development.
There are many other heroes and heroines who will need to be celebrated in the future for their achievements in the present stage of our continued struggle for liberation. Traditional leaders will undoubtedly be amongst them in spite of the many attempts made by the national government to marginalise and emasculate them by depriving them of any of their powers and functions in local government. Traditional leadership has faced many challenges in the past. It is now facing a challenge which perhaps has no equal in our history. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that if we continue to struggle to defend the values which the tombstone of Inkosi Biyela stands for, the struggle for the empowerment of traditional leadership in the new South Africa will eventually be won. This victory will signify the victory of our people over social and economic oppression.
Throughout the history of our Kingdom amaKhosi have been the backbone of our nation. They have led our people in battles and in social development, such as farming activities. They have led our people when confronted by enemies as well as when confronted with opportunities. Traditional leaders will continue to remain the backbone of our Kingdom in spite of whatever may be provided by any law adopted in a distant and far removed legislative venue placed in Cape Town. We cannot allow that our nation be dictated to by the designs of people who are not part of our Kingdom. Our Kingdom will continue to rely on our amaKhosi to lead our people and to bring forward our struggle for liberation.
Even when thinking of the apartheid era we as traditional leaders of this Kingdom do not need to bow our heads in shame. It was the stand which I took with amaKhosi of this Kingdom which saved South Africa from being fragmented into apartheid mini-states. We saved the integrity of the South African territory and the citizenship of every black South African. Because some have been poisoned with the propaganda and vilification to which I have been subjected for decades from the ANC and the UDF and their allies in the media, I wish to quote from a book by Mary Benson who previously wrote the book on the history of the ANC and on President Mandela. In her book entitled "The struggle for a birthright" (Penguin African Library published in 1966) she states on pages 284 to 285:
People like Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela did not live in vain. The memory of their existence commits us to move forwards rather than backwards. They fought to protect our Kingdom from colonial oppression. Throughout our history, our amaKhosi fought to protect the integrity and liberty of our Kingdom. This struggle is far from being completed and we shall not abandon the constant pursuit of the freedom and liberty of our Kingdom within a unified South Africa. The freedom of our Kingdom consists in determining how we best serve the needs and aspirations of our people and empower them to bring forward our struggle for liberation.
Today, traditional leadership stands for the most important values of integrity and honour in our country. In the past seven years many promises have been made to traditional leadership which were then breached and dishonoured. No one has ever explicitly said that traditional leaders would be deprived of their powers, and yet this goal has been pursued consistently and constantly since the beginning of negotiations in 1991. Also during the armed struggle many activists sought to turn our struggle for liberation into a struggle against amaKhosi, but never openly said that that was their objective. AmaKhosi have been dragged into extensive negotiations and embroiled in false promises and trickery of all types. However, amaKhosi have stood firm, honourably and dignified in their position and their demeanour.
Today, our amaKhosi remain one of the most honourable and noble parts of our South African society which, unfortunately, has been discredited by people who understand the art of politics as a game of deception and false promises. South Africa will need amaKhosi to re-establish a Republic based on honour and integrity. AmaKhosi are the repository of the type of values and governance which South Africa needs to overcome its present crisis. Without integrity and without values, our country is doomed and the interests of our people will not be served while only a few privileged or corrupted ones benefit.
We need to remember the lessons of the past to create a new leadership which can re-establish credibility, honour and respectability within governance. Traditional leaders have a lot to teach those who have made politics a career rather than a mission of service and dedication. Traditional leaders remain the moral backbone of South Africa. In unveiling this tombstone, we are also establishing a monument which spells out the course of our future commitments. AmaKhosi will not stand by if the country is misgoverned, but will play the role which is bestowed upon them by the traditions we have inherited from our ancestors. We are men of destiny.
I can assure Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela that amaKhosi will live up to the legacy of the memory bestowed upon us by the great heros of the Battle of Isandlwana. We thank Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela and all those who gave their lives for King and country in 1879, for an exceptional life and we remain committed to ensuring that his memory will live on forever.
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