Emsinga, Umzinyathi District: 18 September 2010
I shall never forget the day we buried our
brother, the Reverend Celani Mtetwa. The date is etched into my
mind, for on that very day I lost my daughter, Princess Lethuxolo
Bengitheni, in a terrible car accident. My grief at losing an
esteemed colleague and friend was amplified by the shock of losing
Lethuxolo. Today, as we gather to honour the memory of Rev. Mtetwa
with the unveiling of a tombstone, I thank God that His hand of
grace has been upon us since that dreadful time in July 2008.
The gap that is left behind at the passing of
people like my daughter and my brother, the Rev. Mtetwa, is not one
that can be filled by time or busyness. We still remember Rev. Mtetwa. We still feel his absence. And in our daily work we still
sense that we are poorer for having lost him, yet infinitely richer
for having known him. As we honour his memory today, I wish to pay
tribute to him as a friend and confidante, as a patriot and a
faithful servant of our nation.
The Rev. Mtetwa was a founding member of Inkatha
yeNkululeko yeSizwe, the National Cultural Liberation Movement. I
had the privilege of working with him for 38 years. Since Inkatha
was founded in 1975, Rev. Mtetwa never missed one single Conference
of the Party. I fear we shall never see the likes of him again. He
was the embodiment of diligence, loyalty and dedication to a cause.
Over the years, I regret that I embraced many traitors who did not
hesitate to stab me in the back in order to ingratiate themselves
with our political adversaries. But I never had reason to regret
befriending the Rev. Mtetwa.
At the IFP’s Annual General Conference of August
2008, we adopted a resolution paying tribute to our brother.
Conference resolved that it: “THANKS GOD for the long and fruitful
life of Reverend CJ Mtetwa MPL, a man of God, a founding member of
the IFP, a staunch loyalist, a dedicated community worker and a
former Minister in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government as well as in
post-1994 provincial governments, who was credited by all parties as
having made a substantial contribution to assisting in bringing
relative peace to KwaZulu Natal. His wisdom, diligence and common
sense enriched us all.”
It is impossible to capture in so brief a summary
the vastness of Celani Mtetwa’s character and contribution. But
those few words express the depth of our admiration and appreciation
for this great man. We relied on Rev. Mtetwa to represent Inkatha
and later the IFP, and to seek what was best for our country. And he
never once let us down.
From the very beginning, when the ANC was banned,
I relied on Rev. Mtetwa to assist me in maintaining constant
communication with its leaders in exile. I continued to work closely
with Mr Oliver Tambo and we met in London, in Mangoche in Malawi, in
Nairobi in Kenya, briefly in Lagos in Nigeria, and in Stockholm in
Sweden. I also had exchanges with the ANC’s mission-in-exile through
communications and emissaries. One of these was the Rev. Celani
Mtetwa, who met with Mr Thabo Mbeki, Mr Moses Mabida and Mr Jacob
Zuma in Mozambique and in Swaziland. I addition I used the late Mr
Walter Felgate and Mr Gibson Thula, amongst others, as emissaries
who also met with the ANC’s mission-in-exile.
In 1976, when I became Chief Minister of the
erstwhile KwaZulu Government, I appointed Rev Mtetwa as my Minister
of Justice. In September the following year, Executive Councillor
Mtetwa accompanied me, together with Mr Gibson Thula, to a meeting
in Pretoria with the then Minister of Police, Mr Jimmy Kruger.
Minister Kruger’s intention was to try to forbid me to allow African
people other than Zulus from joining Inkatha.
I took the opportunity of that meeting to warn Minister Kruger that the polarization of our country along racial grounds would lead to a race war. I warned that if people were afraid to talk to each other, they would end by killing each other. At that time, the PAC was already committed to violent change and the ANC’s mission-in-exile was developing its strategy of an armed struggle, which would lead to an ideological divide between the ANC and Inkatha.
Violence was already a fact in our country, as
people had died in Soweto. But Minister Kruger repeatedly stated
that if polarization between blacks and whites led to conflict, the
whites would win. He failed to understand that such a conflict would
have no victors at all; all of South Africa would suffer. It was
Rev. Mtetwa who explained Inkatha’s policy to Minister Kruger; that
we did not want whites out of South Africa, but that we wanted all
of us to live together.
Rev. Mtetwa was never one to shy away from
difficult decisions or uncomfortable conversations. I recall that
when Griffiths Mxenge wished to practice law, Rev. Mtetwa and I made
a direct plea to the then Minister of Justice to allow him to do so.
I had placed my own freedom in jeopardy by my association with Mr
Mxenge and Mr Rowley Arenstein, the lawyer with whom I was to do my
legal articles in 1952. Both Mr Mxenge and Mr Arenstein were later
arrested. Rowley Arenstein supported me and the IFP to the end of
In the darkest hours of our liberation struggle,
when the black-on-black conflict raged in this province, Rev.
Mtetwa’s life was threatened. His allegiance to Inkatha and his
leadership position made him a target for assassination. There was
an attempt on his life, but thanks God he survived. Indeed, he went
on to live a long life, during which he never stopped working for
the full liberation of all our people from the bonds of oppression,
poverty, fear and ignorance.
When we achieved political liberation in April
1994 and the IFP was elected to lead KwaZulu Natal, I appointed Rev
Mtetwa as MEC for Safety and Security. In this position, he took on
the challenging task of unifying the KwaZulu Police and the South
African Police. The following year, he was appointed MEC for Public
Works and he served in this capacity for 8 years.
Soon after the 1994 elections, discussions about
reconciliation began within the KwaZulu Natal provincial government.
They were conducted with my blessing, and the blessing of the then
Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. These discussions led to the
establishment of a permanent committee of three-a-side to monitor,
facilitate and normalise relations between the IFP and the ANC and
our respective constituencies.
The three members on the IFP's side were the
Reverend KM Zondi, then Premier LPHM Mtshali and Minister CJ Mtetwa,
and the three on the ANC side were then Deputy President Jacob Zuma;
Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, then the Secretary-General of the ANC; and Mr
Mendi Msimang, the former South African High Commissioner in London,
and then the Treasurer-General of the ANC. The three-a-side
committee facilitated the resolution of many crises, some of which
could have been explosive. Rev. Mtetwa was crucial to brokering
I recall that when he died, Rev. Mtetwa was
praised by members of the ANC for his courage and vision. During his
funeral service, the President of the ANC, Mr Jacob Zuma, spoke in
glowing terms about my and the IFP’s role in the liberation
struggle, refuting much of the propaganda that for years had been
spewed against us. And former Premier S’bu Ndebele declared that the
peace in our province was largely due to the immeasurable patience
of Rev. Celani Mtetwa.
But patience was not his only virtue. Rev Mtetwa
understood that the interests of the Party took precedence over his
own ambitions. When floor crossing legislation was introduced on
2003, some members of the IFP fell prey to cheque book politics. But
Rev. Mtetwa sacrificially relinquished his ministerial position in
the Government of KwaZulu-Natal to make it possible for the Premier
to offer two Cabinet posts to the ANC. By doing so, he ensured the
continued leadership of the Government of KwaZulu Natal by the IFP.
It was this selfless dedication in the Rev. Mtetwa that led me to entrust delicate matters to him. For instance, in September 1994, I sent Minister Mtetwa together with Mr MZ Khumalo, the IFP’s Administrative Secretary, and Minister of Traditional Affairs, Inkosi Nyanga Ngubane, to visit the King of the Zulu Nation to diffuse a difficult situation.
The King had invited President Nelson Mandela to
attend King Shaka Day celebrations at KwaDukuza, but the possible
attendance of Mr Mandela had been marred by a group of youths who
demonstrated against the presence of Mr Mandela outside Enyokeni
King’s Palace. When allegations were made that these were IFP
youths, the King was deeply offended. Minister Mtetwa, Mr Khumalo
and Inkosi Ngubane were sent to convey our apologies to the King and
offer two head of cattle from me and the IFP. I regret that the King
declined to accept this offer.
Throughout his life, Rev. Mtetwa displayed
integrity of character. Yet he did not escape the kind of
vilification that I and my Party have been exposed to for several
decades. In 1999 Rev. Mtetwa, together with Prince GL Zulu, Mr TD
Ntombela and Mr Philip Powell, became the objects of a smear
campaign by some leaders in KwaZulu Natal who opposed peace and
reconciliation. He endured the slander with a sense of dignity that
spoke of his faith in Christ. Had his identity and self-worth not
been grounded in Christ, he would no doubt have faltered under the
burdens that destiny heaped on him.
Following the success of the three-a-side
committee, the IFP and ANC recognized the need to continue
bi-lateral discussions after the 2004 elections through a newly
established joint committee called the ANC/IFP Four-A-Side. The ANC
was represented by Dr ZL Mkhize, Mr S Mchunu, Mr M Mabuyakhulu and
Mr S Gcabashe. The IFP side was represented by the Rev. KM Zondi,
the Rev. CJ Mtetwa, Mr MZ Khumalo and Mr MB Gwala.
These discussions were not focused and consistent
but would be initiated as and when there was a pressing problem to
be resolved either in the KwaZulu Natal Cabinet, in the Legislature,
or when the ANC felt that my role as Chairperson of the House of
Traditional Leaders in KwaZulu Natal had become too problematic for
The tragedy of the story of reconciliation between
the ANC and the IFP has been the fact that, although many cases were
resolved by these talks in which the Rev. Mtetwa was involved, we
still have unfinished business up to this very day between the ANC
and the IFP. Because of his passing away, I doubt even now if this
unfinished business will ever be finished. This is because of the
key role that he played in all these talks because of the special
skills that God had blessed him with.
I remember a crucial meeting that we had with the
President of the ANC, Mr Thabo Mbeki at the Sheraton Hotel, which he
and the Secretary-General attended with me when I was still the
Minister of Home Affairs in Mr Mbeki’s Cabinet. This was around the
sensitive issue when our then Premier in KwaZulu Natal, Dr LPHM
Mtshali, had discussed two ANC MECs for his Cabinet.
I presented a memorandum to Mr Mbeki on that day
to which, up to this day, the ANC has not responded. President Mbeki
had promised that it would be responded to. This is of course just
like many others, including correspondence to even the present
leader of the ANC, which he never responds to. I remember with great
emotion the contribution of the Rev. CJ Mtetwa even on that
occasion. He sometimes had one-on-one meetings with the Secretary
General of the ANC, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, and had important heart to
heart talks with him.
I recall these few milestones in the history of
our country in which the Rev. Mtetwa played a role, to illustrate
the enormity of the contribution he made to our Party, to our
province and our people. I believe that lives were spared because of
his skill as a negotiator and peacemaker. In 2003, Rev Mtetwa became
a Member of the Provincial Legislature. And, like me, he never
stepped out of politics. He remained in the service of our nation
until his passing in 2008.
I am quite certain that, had Rev. Mtetwa been alive today, the damage that the “Friends of VZ” have done to the Party would not have been as extensive. I can say the same about Prince Gideon and stalwarts such as Winnington Sabela in Durban.
It has not escaped my attention that our brother
died at the very age I am now. God blessed both of us with added
years to our allotted three score and ten. To reach this age is at
times a bitter sweet blessing, for I have seen so many of my friends
and family members enter eternity before me. But when I think of the
Rev. Celani Mtetwa standing in the courts of Heaven, the sense of
loss is lightened. For however many more years God gives me to serve
our nation, I shall do so with passion, for I am continuing the work
of a generation that committed itself to liberating South Africa.
That work is not complete. In honour of the Rev.
Celani Jeffrey Mtetwa, let us commit ourselves to keep striving for
Contact: Lyndith Waller, 073 929 1418