Lecture at the Ethnological Museum of Hamburg
“Forging National Unity – South Africa’s Unfinished Struggle”
By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
in the Republic of South Africa and
Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nationbr>


Hamburg: 10 November 2011 


I am delighted to join you this evening at the Ethnological Museum of Hamburg to discuss my country, South Africa, and its unfinished struggle to forge national unity. I must thank my dear friend Ms Phillippa Cribb-Gumede for arranging this meeting. Her interest in my life’s work has been inspiring and her interest in South Africa has opened the door for our meeting. I also thank our host, Professor Wulf Köpke, for the warm welcome, as well as Ms Jutta Hoflich, the Organiser of the Friends of the Museum who so gladly extended an invitation to me when she heard I was coming to Hamburg.

There are, of course, many others in this room who deserve mention for their enthusiastic support of South Africa, not least Dr Jens-Peter Breitengross, Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and President of the Africa Club in Hamburg, and Mrs Ruth Bässler of the Culture Department of Hamburg Senate. But to all of you who came out tonight, I say thank you, for I know that the friendship between South Africa and Germany can only be enriched by a deeper understanding of our past, our present and the future we dream of achieving.

For South Africa, that future is one of national unity. When we achieved political liberation in April 1994, the world hailed it as “the South African miracle”. Our people had spent centuries divided, first by colonialism and then by political oppression, racial segregation and the grand scheme of Apartheid. When we crossed the threshold of democracy, foremost in everyone’s mind was how we would bring together into one nation a diverse people with such a painful history of separation.

Former President Nelson Mandela was chosen by destiny and history to lead South Africa in those first years of liberation euphoria. I know that internationally many people believed that I would become the first black President of South Africa. Indeed, the international media spoke of me as such. It is not something I asked for or sought. But while the ANC and other political organizations were banned and in exile, I led Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe, the National Cultural Liberation Movement, within South Africa.

In the early seventies, I visited Zambia to thank His Excellency President Kenneth Kaunda for giving sanctuary to South Africa’s exiles. He gave me good advice on how we could operate as “a cohesive force”, to use his words. He recommended that I launch a membership based organisation. On my return to South Africa I consulted one of my mentors, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, about launching Inkatha. I then consulted Mr Oliver Tambo, the leader of the ANC’s mission-in-exile, and he supported my decision. With their support and encouragement, on the 21st of March 1975, I founded Inkatha.

Inkatha became home to the disenfranchised majority in our country and its membership grew rapidly. Indeed, we grew so quickly and so big, that Inkatha became a concern to the Apartheid Government. In September 1977, I was summoned to Pretoria by the then Minister of Justice, Police and Prisons, Mr Jimmy Kruger. Minister Kruger tried to intimidate me into accepting only Zulu-speaking people into Inkatha. I replied that if the National Party did not confine itself to Afrikaners, I had the same right to recruit Africans of all ethnic groups into Inkatha.

Inkatha continued to grow in strength and numbers. When, years later, the Nationalist Government finally accepted that Apartheid would have to give way to democracy, President FW de Klerk approached me as the representative of the disenfranchised majority to engage in bilateral negotiations on a democratic dispensation. I refused and insisted that negotiations should include those who were jailed such as Mr Nelson Mandela and others in exile.

I knew that democracy could not be built without the input of every South African. I therefore refused to enter negotiations until all parties could come to the negotiating table. I set down the prerequisite that political parties like the ANC and other banned organizations be unbanned, and that political prisoners, including Mr Nelson Mandela, be released. On the 2nd of February 1990, President FW de Klerk announced his intention to release Mandela, and he acknowledged that it was I who had helped him reach this decision.

I recount these facts to emphasize that my vision for South Africa has nothing to do with my own ambition. I love my country dearly. All I have done, I have done for the benefit of South Africa. Yet my efforts have not always been understood, nor welcomed. In large part, that is because of the years of vilification that distorted my motives and role in our liberation struggle. The Apartheid Government was a master of propaganda. But the worst attacks on me and Inkatha came from within the liberation movement, from the ANC itself.

When the ANC and other political organizations were banned in 1960, I worked closely with Mr Oliver Tambo, who was in exile. Mr Tambo and I met in London, Nairobi, Mangoche in Malawi, Lagos and Stockholm, even though doing so endangered my life in South Africa. When I returned from a trip to Toronto in Canada in 1963, where I attended the Anglican Congress, my passport was confiscated by the Government for nine years. This was because, when I was in London en-route to Toronto, Mrs Adelaide Tambo ‘phoned her husband in Lusaka and he flew to London especially to meet with me.

Then, in 1970, the Nationalist Government passed the Homelands Act which saw the formation of nine self-governing territories. This laid the foundation of the grand scheme of Apartheid to declare black territories independent, thereby depriving millions of black people of their South African citizenship.

Mr Oliver Tambo and Inkosi Albert Luthuli sent a message to me prior to that through my sister, Princess Morgina Dotwana. They urged me not to refuse the leadership of KwaZulu if the people asked me to lead, for in this way we could undermine the system from within. The homelands system was imposed upon us by law; the option of accepting or rejecting it did not exist. For a few years, the Government had pretended that the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 was merely permissive and that this meant the implementation of this law was optional. But later they shed all those pretensions and told us bluntly that we had to comply with the law.

By taking up my position as the head of the Zulu Territorial Authority, and later as the Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I was able to block Pretoria’s plan to balkanize South Africa by refusing to accept so-called nominal independence for KwaZulu. In doing this, I secured citizenship not only for South Africa’s largest black grouping, but for all black South Africans. But more than that, I rendered the grand scheme of Apartheid unworkable. When he appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, former President FW de Klerk admitted that my refusal to accept independence was the anvil upon which Apartheid was finally crushed; it forced their decision to abandon the grandiose scheme of Apartheid.

Thus I had done what Inkosi Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo asked me to do. I had successfully undermined the system from within. Yet Inkatha fell from grace with the ANC-in-exile in October 1979, and a rift opened between the ANC and the IFP that has still not been fully breached.

The ideological divide came when Inkatha refused to support the armed struggle and the international call for sanctions against South Africa and disinvestment. Mr Tambo invited me and a delegation of Inkatha to London in 1979, where we met with an ANC delegation for two and half days, without reaching agreement. We therefore agreed to meet again to iron out the multi-strategy approach which Inkatha advocated. But that meeting was not to happen.

Just days later, Mr Tambo released a press statement denying that the London meeting had taken place. Then, in June 1980, speaking at the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, Mr Alfred Nzo, the ANC’s General Secretary, fired the opening salvo in what would become a decades’ long campaign of vilification against me. He labelled those who worked within the Bantustan system as he called it, “politically bankrupt careerists and renegades” who had “betrayed the… sacred interests of… the people”. They would, said Nzo, be “swept away onto the rubbish heap of history”. I was shocked when Mr Tambo did not contradict him.

Instead, Mr Tambo addressed a press conference the following month in Lusaka, ostensibly to deny reports that the ANC-in-exile sought to have me assassinated. During that conference, one journalist suggested that my role as Chief Minister of KwaZulu was divisive and asked Mr Tambo how he would justify my actions. Tambo replied, “I have no way of justifying his actions at all… there is no basis for it. He emerges quite clearly as a spokesman for the regime.”

So the truth about my role in the liberation struggle became buried under years of propaganda. It was only in 1998, at the unveiling of Mr Oliver Tambo’s tombstone, that the ANC leader Mr Cleopas Nsibande publically acknowledged that he was present when Mr Tambo and Inkosi Luthuli sent their message that I should lead KwaZulu. Later, at Mr Nsibande’s funeral, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe committed himself and President Jacob Zuma to broaching the long outstanding issue of reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC which the decades of propaganda had necessitated. But I regret that, under the present leadership of the ANC, any efforts to achieve reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP have been abandoned.

Despite the vilification campaign, Inkatha refused to abandon the principle of non-violence upon which the ANC and our entire liberation movement had been founded in 1912. We could not support the armed struggle. I also recognized that sanctions would harm the poorest of the poor more than the enfranchised minority and I vociferously opposed the call for sanctions and disinvestment. I visited Heads of State in Europe and the United States to plead against sanctions. In response, Mr Tambo called my argument “specious”. At a conference in Paris in May 1981, he claimed, “no sacrifice is too great, no price is too high”. I could not agree.

I travelled throughout the world, urging the international community against sanctions. I was welcomed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush and Ronald Reagan, who sought to ensure not only the liberation of South Africa, but also a non-communist outcome to our liberation struggle. As a guest of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, I visited West Germany in March of 1982 and met with Chancellor Kohl and his then Foreign Minister, Mr Hans-Dietrich Genscher. I was received by the Chancellor more than once.

Looking back on the liberation struggle, I did all I could to secure peaceful, all-inclusive negotiations. I fulfilled the mandate to block Apartheid’s balkanization plan. I united the black majority in the cause of liberation following the political lull of the sixties. I founded Inkatha on the basis of the original ANC principles of unity, cooperation and non-violence. And I remained faithful to these founding principles more than anyone. Nevertheless, the ideological divide that emerged when the ANC-in-exile began to depart from these principles escalated into a low intensity internecine civil war, which cost South Africa 20 000 black lives.

Throughout the eighties and early nineties, there were violent clashes between the UDF and ANC, on the one hand, and the IFP, on the other. Even as we began to engage negotiations, the black-on-black violence continued. This painful period of our history has been comprehensively documented. Not by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which by the nature of its amnesty incentive and the absence of adversarial cross-examination prompted stylized personal accounts; but by the rigorous investigation of Dr Anthea Jeffrey in her seminal work, “People’s War”. I encourage you to read this book, which properly explains the death of some 20 000 black South Africans through black-on-black violence.

The ANC’s People’s War was waged to secure political hegemony after liberation. It was a war of propaganda and violence that declared me and Inkatha Apartheid collaborators. The campaign of vilification was supported by the media and even church leaders, who sought to portray Inkatha as the perpetrators, rather than the victims, of the People’s War. Luminaries from the church would attend one funeral after the next. But the victims from Inkatha were buried without their condolences or presence.

Although the ghosts of the past have been laid to rest, the division between the ANC and the IFP continues to haunt South Africa. I have made many efforts to broach reconciliation, but the promises and commitments made by the ANC have not yet been honoured. On many occasions, all the Presidents of the ANC both publically and privately have undertaken to rectify the record of history and heal the rift. But somehow, reconciliation has been muscled off the ANC’s agenda.

Reconciliation was an issue that preoccupied former President Nelson Mandela. We wrote to each other often throughout his incarceration. Some of our letters from that time have now been published. Mrs Winnie Madikizela Mandela used to convey her husband’s messages to me after visiting him on Robben Island. After the falling out between our organizations, Mr Mandela urged me to go to Lusaka to see Mr Oliver Tambo. Yet to do so would have placed me in grave danger. Even Radio Freedom was playing songs at that time saying that the ANC was “coming with bazookas” to deal with me.

Just before his release, Mr Mandela wrote to me expressing his shame and deep concern over the violence that had engulfed our people. He wanted us to meet immediately upon his release. Yet that never happened. Later some traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape asked Mr Mandela why we had not met, for they knew that we were friends. He admitted that leaders in the ANC had demanded that under no conditions should he meet with Buthelezi. In his own words, they “almost throttled” him. This was despite the fact that I had campaigned for Mr Mandela’s release more vigorously than anyone else in South Africa.

When Mr Mandela and I eventually met on 29 January 1991, we adopted a Joint Communiqué that committed us to attending and addressing rallies together. Our aim was to foster reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP. Shortly thereafter I received an invitation to address a rally in Taylor’s Halt, in Pietermaritzburg, and I contacted Mr Mandela to join me. He agreed with alacrity.

Before the rally, however, I heard rumours that he was no longer going to attend. I called him to determine if this was true, and he admitted to me that the provincial leader of the ANC, Mr Harry Gwala, had brought a busload of ANC leaders to Shell House, as Luthuli House – the ANC’s Headquarters – was then known, to persuade him not to attend rallies with me or share a podium. Thus our joint rallies never took place and reconciliation remained an unfinished agenda.

The focus on reconciliation has been replaced by the ANC’s determination to implement its National Democratic Revolution; the ANC Youth League’s call for the nationalization of our mines and land expropriation without compensation; the ANC’s deafening silence on corruption when senior figures are exposed; and the ANC’s equally deafening silence on Zimbabwe. But perhaps the most worrying of all is the ANC’s ambivalence over our economic policy.

When President Thabo Mbeki announced the policy of GEAR, an acronym for Growth, Employment and Redistribution, I was still in Cabinet. I remember describing this in Parliament as a Damascene experience on the part of the ruling Party. But there were immediate objections from the tripartite partners of the ANC; the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, and the South African Communist Party. COSATU and the SACP rejected GEAR.

We saw them on national television jumping up and down, shouting, “We do not want GEAR! We do not want GEAR! Asifuni GEAR!” So GEAR gave way to ASGISA, the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative. But COSATU then developed its own economic policy, as did the ANC Youth League, so that today we have a Tower of Babel situation on a matter of critical importance.

Today we do not know where the country is going as far as economic policy is concerned. The policy of nationalization of mines has been endorsed by both the ANC Youth League and COSATU. When I was growing up as a young man in the ANC, nationalization of industries was a popular policy. I remember the days when I, myself, was amongst those who admired President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and his African version of socialism which was called “Ujamaa”. I went up to see President Nyerere twice in the seventies.

The first time I went to thank him for giving sanctuary to our political exiles. On the second occasion, I wanted to learn more about Ujamaa. I discovered that, by then, President Nyerere had second thoughts about Ujamaa. He gave me his book, “Ten Years After Arusha”.

After the inauguration of President Mandela, President Nyerere paid a state visit to South Africa and asked his hosts to allow him to visit me in my office in Cape Town. At that time, I was South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs. On that occasion, President Nyerere told me that he was present in Harare during the inauguration of Mr Robert Mugabe as the Prime Minister of a free Zimbabwe. President Nyerere told me that he had an appointment with Mr Mugabe, during which he warned Mr Mugabe, vis-à-vis the economy of Zimbabwe, “You have inherited a jewel. Don’t do what I did in Tanzania; don’t destroy it.”

It surprises me that although President Zuma states that nationalization is not government policy, he then goes on to say that there is space for debating nationalization. It is true that even Mr Nelson Mandela still believed in nationalization up to 1994. But he later abandoned it and embraced the free enterprise system. It boggles my mind that we still have space to debate socialism, which destroyed Russia and all the Eastern block countries and also Eastern Germany. Just a few months ago President Zuma wrote off more than R1 billion that Cuba owes South Africa. The mere statement that there is space for debating nationalization is damaging to any prospects of foreign investment in our country.

And the importance of foreign investment cannot be overstated. South Africa has an unemployment rate of around 40%. Of course, it is difficult to benchmark the exact figure, for we are only able to measure those who have been employed and are now unemployed. The number of those who have given up looking for work or who do not wish to work cannot be measured. We do know that 13 million South Africans live below the international poverty breadline, and that some 13 million of our citizens rely on social assistance. The taxes of about 5 million South Africa support the rest of the population.

We are a welfare state, rather than the developmental state the Government would have us be. This is an untenable situation, as every welfare state eventually collapses under the economic burden. Employment generation is critical, yet our Government seems unwilling to accept the tough measures that must be taken to create a climate in which increased employment levels are possible.

Last year our President committed to creating half a million new jobs. Instead, our economy shed more than a million jobs. Unemployment amongst the youth in our country stands at 51% and the National Treasury predicts that by next year 16 million people will be receiving social grants. The prospect of things improving in the near future is therefore not good. A looming second global recession could prove disastrous for South Africa.

All this creates an obstacle to our continued efforts to forge national unity. Many of our people live in terrible conditions and are beginning to despair for the future. More and more we are seeing social protests over poor service delivery, and these protests often turn violent. The ANC Youth League has proven to be an exacerbating factor in the social dissatisfaction that is brewing. Last month, the Youth League organized a march on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Union Buildings, which is the seat of the Executive. They were demanding economic liberation in their lifetime; which is a euphemism for their call for the nationalisation of mines and land expropriation without compensation.

That march sent a very negative message throughout the world, for it originated from within the ruling Party. If social unrest, dissatisfaction and political upheaval are being stirred from within the ruling Party, then surely South Africa is sitting on a powder keg. I fear that is true. Deep divisions are being exposed within the ANC and its alliance partners. There is corruption at the highest levels, power plays and tender fraud. And all this comes as the ANC prepares to celebrate its centennial.

The Apartheid Government projected the image of a black-on-white conflict, trying to convince the international arena that our struggle was waged on only one level. The truth is that our liberation struggle claimed some 400 lives among the white community, while more than 20 000 blacks died at the hands of their black compatriots. Historically, the biggest challenge to national unity was not the division between whites and blacks, but between the different components of the liberation struggle.

Today, the biggest obstacle to national unity is the growing division between the haves and the have-nots; between those who have become rich from lucrative political associations, tender fraud and corruption, and those who still struggle to survive even seventeen years into democracy.

This is not to say that racial divisions do not haunt us. I still see the division between races when I attend our national events. National celebrations are attended by blacks, but there are always few whites in attendance. Indeed, the 24th of September, which we celebrate as our national Heritage Day, has been dubbed “National Braai Day”; a day to stay at home and enjoy a barbeque, rather than a day to gather and celebrate our shared heritage and our cultural diversity.

We have made enormous strides towards racial reconciliation, but racism is not vanquished in South Africa. One of the hindrances along the way is the irresponsible statements of leaders like Mr Julius Malema, the President of the ANC Youth League, who has publically used the derogatory racial epithet “Coolies” to describe the Indian community, and has labelled all white South Africans as “thieves”. This has opened divisions within our society that we worked long and hard to close.

I chose the theme for this evening’s lecture quite deliberately. The phrase “forging national unity” is a play on words, because, in the last seventeen years of democracy, there has been an attempt to force the creation of “a rainbow nation”. The “rainbow nation” ideal demands hegemony, which is neither feasible nor desirable. We cannot force unity. What we would get is a forgery; not real unity, but a kind of window dressing that will collapse under the least provocation.

Whenever I travel internationally, I find people who believe that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the catalyst for national unity in South Africa, enabling us to come together and acknowledge that both the perpetrators and their targets were victims of an unjust system. The TRC process was valuable. But it was not capable of telling the whole story, and it failed to expose the unadulterated truth. The TRC Report confirmed that I never once committed, ordered or condoned any human rights’ violation. But even the TRC Report could not fully erase the years of propaganda.

In the end, reconciliation and the forging of national unity depends on political will. Have perceptions really changed among our leaders? Is this generation of leaders far enough removed in their perspective from the racial and political divisions of the past? Or do some of our leaders still have an axe to grind? There is no time left for racism within this generation. The mistakes we make now will sully the next generation of leaders. It is not about moving far enough away from the past in a linear sense. It is about moving away from the past in our hearts.

I believe that real unity will come from finding common values and common goals. But it must also come from the top. Former President Mandela and I knew that reconciliation was a process that had to filter down from the top, towards the grassroots. Our intention to hold joint rallies was an attempt to show our people on the ground that we were serious about reconciliation. Our leaders of today need to make the same commitment.

We need to do whatever it takes to foster good relations between our diverse people. If that means muzzling the ANC Youth League, or stemming the flow of financial mismanagement in Government that allows officials to live lavish lifestyles while our people suffer in poverty, then those are steps we must take. After more than half a century in politics and public life, I long to see national unity within my lifetime. But I will not be satisfied with a forgery. Real reconciliation is possible. But it demands the political will of our leaders.

As I close my remarks for this evening, I wish to again thank my hosts and all those who made this meeting possible. Thank you to Mrs Grosser, the Press Representative of the Ethnological Museum, for advertising my visit. I am pleased that all the hard work that was done in advance of this meeting has culminated in an evening of mutual benefit and enjoyment.

I am sure you have many questions, and I will be pleased to answer them as best I can. In the end, the friendship between our countries and our people can only be enhanced by a better understanding of where we come from and where we are trying to go.

I thank you.