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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
I thank you.