Remarks On The Occasion Of Unveiling Of A Tombstone
 In Honour Of Rev CJ Mtetwa -  By Prince MG Buthelezi MP

   

 

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 his days.

 

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 peace. 

 

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 them.

 

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 the goal.

 

Contact: Lyndith Waller, 073 929 1418