MEMORANDUM FOR SUBMISSION TO
MS OPRAH WINFREY


BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

Harding: December 11, 2002

It is a great pleasure for me to become acquainted with one of the world’s best known and most loved public figures. I think it is a privilege for South Africa that Ms Oprah Winfrey has chosen to extend her friendship to South Africa and its people. For a long time I have been a sincere and trusted friend of the United States and its people, and I have always appreciated American citizens who become ambassadors of goodwill, creating new ties between the United States and Africa. Many Americans have built bridges between deeply diverse American and African worlds. However, I feel that Ms Oprah Winfrey’s presence amongst us carries a special message which brings immediate relevance to the dialogue which must unite these two worlds.

Her message of compassion reinforces the notion that we all belong to a unified mankind. What really matters are the people. As people we all share the same dreams, tragedies and circumstances, albeit in different contexts. As people we equally share the indomitable spirit of mankind which drives us towards never ceasing progress and self-improvement. There is no doubt that the path confronting many of the African people is still long, hard and uphill. But in meeting ambassadors of goodwill such as Oprah Winfrey, we realise that we are not alone in having to confront and conquer this great challenge.

In over fifty years of engagement in active politics and as the leader of my people I have witnessed transformation of a magnitude which seemed almost impossible during the days of my youth. Since my early youth I embraced a dream of a free and liberated South Africa which I nourished under the guidance and mentorship of the political giants of the time. I was fortunate to be mentored by Nobel Laureate Chief Albert Lutuli and other great leaders such as Dr John Dube and Professor ZK Matthews. In my youth I fought hard for our liberation struggle, to the point that I was expelled from Fort Hare University because of my activism in the ANC Youth League. However, in spite of our activism we really did not know whether freedom would indeed come in our lifetime, nor could we fully imagine what it would be like.

I guess many of us thought that once we achieved our liberation, the struggle would be over. We underestimated the responsibilities and challenges which come with freedom. I often recall the discomforting but sombre reflection which PAC leader, Robert Sobukwe, captured in his famous sentence "Black man, now you are on your own". Fortunately, I had to confront this tragic truth much sooner than many of those who were my colleagues and partners in the liberation struggle during the days of my youth. After I studied law and while practicing as a young lawyer in Durban, the ANC leaders who were my mentors pointed out that because of my responsibilities of birth, I had to abandon my chosen profession to become the leader of my people so that our liberation struggle could be strengthened by my assuming my hereditary role.

Not all of us can choose our destinies completely. To a certain extent, I was born into mine. I have never mentioned this, but in putting pen to paper to leave Ms Oprah Winfrey, a person whom I sincerely admire, with a memento of our encounter, I felt I could use the opportunity also to confront a short reflection of my own life. I have rarely done so before as the rush of the struggle and the tumultuous political events which I have been involved in as a leader for almost fifty years have rarely allowed me to look backwards. Only the future mattered and to a great extent I am still locked in the same paradigm, as I know that my task is far from being completed and perhaps all that has gone before has been merely in preparation for that which is still to come.

I was born in a position which was conducive to my becoming the traditional leader of one of the largest clans of our nation, the Buthelezi Clan, and on account of such position to serve as the Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Kingdom. My maternal grandfather, King Solomon, was an extremely wise king who dedicated his reign to unifying the Zulu nation which had been artificially divided by the British conquest which interfered with the structure of our kingdom to disintegrate it. In fact, the British defeated our kingdom but never entirely conquered or subjugated it. For this reason, King Solomon chose his daughter, Princess Magogo, to marry my father, who was his Traditional Prime Minister and the son of Mnyamana Buthelezi who was the Commander-in-Chief of all the Zulu troops under the reign of my great great grandfather King Cetshwayo. In that capacity Mnyamana Buthelezi defeated the British army at the Battle of Isandlwana. Therefore, since my birth the Zulu nation looked to me as the one who would need to carry the burden of rebuilding its unity and leading it to its redemption and liberation.

When as a young man I went back to lead my people, I was confronted with the hard lessons of reality. It is easy to be ideologues and great political theoreticians when sitting inside universities, or even when suffering in prisons, or for that matter while being abroad in exile. However, when confronted with the pressing needs of the poorest of the poor who look to one for leadership which can feed their families and provide essential services such as basic education and health care, one cannot but become a pragmatist. I grew up and lived all my life amongst the poorest of the poor who are the majority of the people of South Africa. Whatever decisions I have ever taken in my life, and indeed I had to take many hard and difficult decisions which have often isolated me and even led to my vilification, I always asked myself how I could improve on the conditions of the poor and suffering masses of South Africa. I also constantly sought the guidance of God Almighty. I have always tried to do what is right, irrespective of the consequences, as I have always believed, as I still unwaveringly do, that for as long as I remain true to my conscience and act on the basis of what I understand to be morally and ethically correct, divine providence will in the end ensure that through me the work of God may be realized.

This has not been an easy path and it led me to pay very high prices. However, I have lived long enough to have the satisfaction of having seen history prove me right time and time again. In 1975 I formed Inkatha as a cultural liberation movement to organize and provide a political home for the large black masses which were orphaned of political leadership when the ANC was declared illegal. After the death of Chief Albert Lutuli the new and younger ANC leadership chose the path of armed insurrection, violence and intimidation as the tools to be employed in our liberation struggle. Until then, the ANC had ascribed to a philosophy of passive resistance and nonviolence which was in no small measure inspired by the Mahatma Gandhi who, during his stay in Durban, was intimately involved in the events and circumstances which led to the creation of the ANC and the formulation of its philosophy. I grew up in that tradition and always remained faithful to it, not merely for ideological and spiritual reasons, but because as a real leader of real people I knew that one could not play with history. Only negotiations, negotiations, negotiations could lead to a liberated South Africa. I was aware that a military victory over the mighty South African army was impossible.

Inkatha was formed with the blessing and the assistance of the ANC. However, when in 1979 the ANC chose to upgrade its strategies based on violence and armed insurrection, it confronted us with a blind alternative of either being part of the armed struggle or being against it. I pleaded that we should use a differentiated approach that would enable each component of the liberation movement to follow its own strategy, thereby enabling Inkatha to pursue its very effective campaign of nonviolence, passive resistance and civil disobedience. However, it soon became clear that the armed struggle was not as much a tool to secure the demise of apartheid as it became a tool to defeat various competing components within the liberation movement, and to gain political hegemony within the liberation movement to prepare for political hegemony after liberation. Tragedy of unforeseeable proportions befell South Africa as the armed struggle was turned against other components of the liberation movement in the so-called black-on-black conflict.

The world, especially the Western world chose to ignore the tragic reality of the black-on-black conflict because it unsettled its simplistic and Disney-like understanding of a South Africa divided between a united majority of righteous black people, fighting against a united minority of oppressive white people. In fact the conflict was much more complex. It is surely simplistic to explain and measure conflicts in terms of casualties, but in this case the figures of the armed struggle speak for themselves, as they reveal that about 600 white people were victims of the actions of the armed struggle, while more than 20 000 black people were killed and hundreds of thousands were dispossessed, injured and forcibly removed by actions of their black brothers. Yet I do not regret my decision not to embrace the armed struggle because I know well that it could never have succeeded, as indeed it failed, and in the end we ended up having to achieve liberation only through negotiations and merely on the strength of the high moral ground which we conquered through nonviolent means.

I also knew that had I led the Zulu nation, which is a nation of warriors, into the armed struggle, South Africa would have been burned to ashes, with no spoils of victory for anyone. Had the Zulu nation taken up arms, the figures of casualties of the armed struggle would have been many times greater. Instead, I preached and practiced a philosophy that no South African had to be regarded as either a terrorist to be banned, a foreigner to be expelled or an enemy to be defeated. But we all had to achieve the freedom of the country so that we could all be liberated to live together irrespective of race, colour and creed. These concepts are now truisms and common cliches, but in those days they represented heresy and became the reason for two decades of vilification and isolation which I had to suffer. Nonetheless, I kept on my straight and narrow path and I continued to defend and protect my enemies. I do not think anyone in South Africa held as many rallies as I did under the banner of "Free Mandela", nor has anyone else quoted and propagated as much as I did the speeches and documentation of ANC leaders, which at the time were banned and prohibited. I felt that I never left the ANC, albeit the ANC had left me.

Even my church tried to isolate me because I would not go along with the Kairos Document in which the South African Council of Churches had declared the armed struggle a "just war" which could be theologically justified. As a theologian in my own right I could not accept such a fundamental departure from the evangelic teachings. Things became even worse when I was forced by the concern I had for my people to reject the call made by the ANC in exile for international sanctions against my country and the urging of foreigners to disinvest. I knew well that sanctions and disinvestment would have but a minimal impact in securing the demise of apartheid. I was right, as our economy reorganized itself internally and the prosperous white minority did not suffer under sanctions. If anything it benefitted from an unintended system of international economic protectionism. However, I knew well that sanctions would affect the poorest of the poor, as they would shrink the economic bases, leaving those who were on the margin of the economy out on a limb of hunger and despair. I also knew that such shrinkage of the economic bases would have long lasting implications as it would reduce the rate and scope of our economic recovery after liberation. My predictions proved to be tragically correct.

Under sanctions, the poorest of the poor suffered untold misery. After liberation our economy did not recover and we are still struggling to attract back those investors we chased away. Without fast economic recovery and a rapid expansion of our economic bases there is little hope to bring into the mainstream of development all the underdeveloped segments of our population and to begin redressing the legacy of apartheid. Because of my positions I was labeled "Margaret Thatcher’s lapdog" and was regarded as a conservative, a counter-revolutionary or even an unwitting supporter of apartheid. The fact is that I have been a radical all my life and I know few people who are more liberal than I am. The fact is also that in our context the Western political classification and labels such as "liberal", "conservative", "right wing" or "left wing" make little sense, and indeed, if anything, show the lack of comprehension of the analysts who employ them. I believe in the free market because I believe in progress and I am aware that only the unabridged forces of the free market may produce the wealth and progress necessary to redress the plight of the poorest of the poor. This is now an element of common sense, but twenty years ago it was considered heresy.

South Africa is a complex country now, but it was even more complex before liberation. However, the challenges confronting us now are still very much intertwined with the complexities we inherited from the past. Many unresolved issues continue to haunt us. In the past eight years I have served in the Government of the new South Africa as the Minister of Home Affairs. It has been neither easy nor simple. During the first five years I was entitled to be in Cabinet under a provision of the interim Constitution which mandated a Government of National Unity. The purpose of my taking advantage of this provision was merely that of promoting reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC to heal the wounds amongst our respective constituencies. No formalized peace process ever took place to declare an end to the low intensity civil war between the IFP and the ANC. This was not done because we still labour under the illusion that we can ignore what really happened. It was not done so that we could avoid having to confront the truth and deal with the issues of culpability and reveal the aggressor and his real motives, all of which would undermine the rhetoric of liberation on which much of our nation-building efforts are now predicated.

For this reason, it was essential that our people could see their leaders cooperating and working together at the highest level of Government so that they could find it in their hearts not only to reconcile, but also to work together in the task of reconstruction and development with those who were once their enemies. For this reason, President Mbeki and I decided to bring the work of reconciliation forward even after the end of the Government of National Unity. After the 1999 elections, President Mbeki offered me the Deputy Presidency of South Africa. However, he then withdrew his offer because his KwaZulu Natal component had imposed on him the condition that I could only be Deputy President if I were willing to relinquish the IFP premiership of that Province to the ANC, in spite of the IFP having received the majority of votes at the elections. It has not been easy, either for me or for President Mbeki, to walk this path of reconciliation. However, history should praise him for his willingness to bear the difficulties of this process.

The present juncture is one of the most difficult. Various circumstances seem to indicate that the coalition Government between the IFP and the ANC may have come into some difficulties. It is not possible to predict whether such difficulties may be overcome or whether they will mark the end of the IFP-ANC cooperation within Government. However, both the IFP and the ANC have committed to continuing the path of reconciliation, even if we are no longer in the position to cooperate in Government. For the IFP it is essential that reconciliation continues. In fact, violence against the IFP has never stopped, although it has diminished. In the past ten years alone over 400 of our leaders and office bearers have been killed in targeted assassinations. No party in any established democracy could compete in a democratic system under such conditions. Throughout my life I have always preached nonviolence and have invited the ANC leadership to become proactive in preaching nonviolence amongst their constituency at this crucial juncture of our history. I am very concerned about a resurgence of violence against the IFP.

My greatest concern is about preserving and promoting democracy. South Africa can only realize its full democratic potential in the context of robust, free and open policy debates, multiparty dynamics, and progressive entrenchment of the rule of law to replace the rule of man. I hope that in the future our voters will have the same democratic options people have in the United States, and may exercise real choices between two or more political parties with the likelihood of becoming the future government. The real test of democracy is not in empowering a majority, but in the capacity of the system to allow one majority to give way to another in an orderly, free and conflict-free manner. Most African countries have failed this test and South Africa must pass it for the sake of its continent.

There are serious concerns which attach to many new democracies and relate to the pattern which develops when there is a one-party state or a dominant-party-state. In such cases not only government but even society itself becomes identified with the political movement and the divides between government, state, political party and civil society blur. One group of people ends up controlling the whole of society, including the state, the economy and social dynamics, thereby strangling the vital dynamics of on open and plural society which make progress and prosperity possible. Stagnation, creeping totalitarianism, obscurantism and autocracy become part of a complex syndrom which finally spells out that country’s failure in history. He who wins such new democracy’s first election, and then proceeds to take control of not only the institutions and resources of government, including the civil service and parastatals, but also other elements of civil society, such as media and business, often ends up in such position that he cannot be replaced through the democratic cycle.

I feel that the completion of my destiny has something to do with preventing this consolidation of power from occurring for the sake of South Africa. I am no longer a young man, but I am inspired by the same passion for politics and freedom which motivated me when I was at Fort Hare University. I feel much stronger and healthier than I have ever been before in my life. I am the same age as President Mandela was one year before taking office as the first President of the new South Africa, which suggests to me that the age of retirement and tranquility has not yet arrived for me. I sincerely feel that the strongest democratic challenges for South Africa are only now beginning. For this reason, I sincerely hope that South Africa may continue to count on its dialogue with its many friends in the United States. I strongly feel that South Africa’s foreign relations should tie our country more to the friends of democracy and progress and less to those opposing them. For all this, South Africa needs to continue to count on good and trusted friends such as the many ambassadors of goodwill whom we often receive from the United States. It is a great privilege for us to be able to count among them, and to give a special place to our good friend, the much admired Oprah Winfrey.

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