Birthday Celebrations
of His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu 
Leader of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star

  Guest Speaker
 Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Inkosi Of The Buthelezi Clan
Chairperson: Zululand District House Of Traditional Leaders
Traditional Prime Minister Of The  Zulu Nation

 On The Theme –

Liberating a Nation Through Servant Leadership:
The Role of a Christian Politician


Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria: 20 November 2011


I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I received an invitation from His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu to attend this weekend’s Birthday Celebrations, I asked my office to move heaven and earth to get me here, even though I was boarding a plane for Germany and would only be home for one day before travelling to Nigeria. I was eager to join you because of the friendship I have recently found in the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. But more so because of the great respect I have for Bishop Obu.

Last month I had the pleasure of hosting twenty Bishops of the Brotherhood in KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa, where you so kindly bestowed on me an award for my life’s work in pursuing liberation. I recognized that we were brought together by our shared interest in furthering the liberation of all people from the bonds of poverty, disease, social injustice and despair. But beyond this meeting of minds, our hearts were brought together by our shared faith, as Believers in Jesus Christ.

I was humbled by the award. But I was delighted by the book that was given to me, containing some of the writings of His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu. What a prolific writer this man of God is! Just glancing through his book, my eye caught how directly he presents his message. He writes, for instance, that Christ did not come so that Believers can have material blessings, but so that our sinful nature can be transformed closer to the image of God.

I appreciate a man who can be so direct, not sugar-coating the truth of the gospel and tickling our ears with promises of wealth and pleasure in this world. Christ Himself warned that in this world we would have troubles; not riches, but troubles. And what should our reaction be? We are to be of good cheer, because Christ has already overcome the world.

As I introduce myself to you, you will see that I am one of the least of God’s servants; a man who has known many troubles, many heartaches and conflicts. But I am a man who knows that the battle is the Lord’s, while the victory is ours. I could never have done all I have done without God. I could never have stood firm. I could never have persevered. God is my refuge and strength, a sure anchor in every storm. My life is a testimony to His faithfulness.

For more than half a century, I have served my country in various leadership positions. I was Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government during Apartheid and Minister of Home Affairs for the first decade of South Africa’s democracy. I have been appointed Acting President of South Africa more than twenty times. I am the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and the Zulu Nation. I am the Head of the Buthelezi Clan, and I lead the House of Traditional Leaders in Zululand. I am a Member of the National Parliament and I still travel throughout the world.

But I have not done any of this in my own strength, nor for my own benefit. I believe in servant leadership. Christ Jesus Himself was the greatest example of a servant leader. His message was never more powerful than when He took up a basin of water and washed His disciples’ feet; or when He hung on a cross between thieves and prayed for His Father’s mercy on those who spat and jeered at His torment. Christ was the greatest leader, because He was a servant.

Throughout my life, I have tried to follow Christ’s example. I was born into politics, as the son of Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, the daughter of the King, and Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, the traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation. I was raised at my uncle’s palace, KwaDlamahlahla, where Prince Mshiyeni, who was the Zulu Regent, was often visited by Inkosi Albert Lutuli, Dr JL Dube, Dr Edgar Brookes and other prominent leaders. These men were among the founding leaders of South Africa’s liberation struggle. Inkosi Lutuli later became the President of the African National Congress and I came to regard him as one of my mentors.

The African National Congress, or ANC, had been founded by my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, in 1912. It was only natural that when I entered the University of Fort Hare in 1948, I became involved in the ANC’s Youth League. I paid a price for my political activities at Fort Hare University, when I was rusticated together with two other students for staging a boycott against a visit by the Governor General Dr G Brand van Zyl. Although his position was that of a titular Head of State, we regarded him as the rubber stamp of our oppression. It was the first political price I would pay for having the courage of my convictions, but it would by far not be the last.

In a sense, this was the opening salvo in a lifelong battle in which standing up for what I believed to be right, would cost me dearly. I continued my political activism against oppression and racial discrimination when I left Fort Hare and continued my studies at the University of Natal. As a student at Fort Hare University I had met Mr Walter Sisulu, the Secretary-General of the ANC, and also Mr Oliver Tambo who was then a member of the ANC Youth League. Through them, I met Mr Nelson Mandela in Durban, whom I later discovered was a friend of my father-in-law, Mr Zacchariah Mzila.

I built solid friendships with many of the leaders of my generation and we worked together for South Africa’s liberation from the moment we cut our political teeth, to the moment in April 1994 when South Africa was declared a democracy. After that, we continued to work together in the Government of National Unity. But our relationship was tried by fire; so much so that today, seventeen years into democracy, there are still issues of conflict to be resolved between the various components of South Africa’s liberation movement.

When the ANC and PAC were banned in 1960, it became clear that the majority in our country would have no political home. I maintained communication with Mr Oliver Tambo, the leader of the ANC’s mission-in-exile, and we met as often as we could, in London, Mangoche, Nairobi, Lagos and Stockholm. We also exchanged emissaries. In 1963, I met with him in London en route to the Anglican Congress in Canada as the lay delegate of the Anglican Diocese of Zululand and Swaziland. When I returned, the South African Government confiscated my passport for nine years.

I was elected Chief Executive Officer of the Zulu Territorial Authority in 1970, and the Government then found it difficult to refuse to give me a passport. Immediately I met Mr Tambo again. I also travelled to the Vatican and met with Pope Paul VI. To date, he is the third Pontiff with whom I have had a private audience. I also travelled to the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany and sought support from world leaders for our liberation struggle. I continued seeking international support when I became Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, a position I held for eighteen years.

I gained a vast deal of experience in administration during that time, and learnt the painfully difficult skill of balancing needs and resources. The Government in KwaZulu was on a shoestring budget and we received proportionally less from the State coffers than any other Homeland Government. Our administration had to work hand in hand with its people in order to meet the vast ocean of need in KwaZulu. Every day, I came face to face with the reality of poverty, distress and hardship.

In a sense, I fell in love with my people during that time, because I saw the very worst in human nature expressed through the Apartheid regime, juxtaposed with the immeasurable generosity, long suffering and kindness of a people who had nothing. We worked hard to build schools and clinics and houses. There were no government hand outs. Ordinary people – men, women and children – built and ploughed and planted with their own hands. We exhorted communities to pool their meagre resources, and then met them Rand for Rand in development projects.

In 1975, I founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe, the National Cultural Liberation Movement, to offer a home to the disenfranchised majority. The following year, in 1976, I met with Mr Oliver Tambo in Nigeria at the invitation of former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. That year, Mr Tambo addressed the United Nations General Assembly as the recognised representative of the South African people, and launched the ANC’s call for international sanctions against South Africa and large scale disinvestment.

The leadership of the ANC on Robben Island then agreed to appoint Mr Tambo as the President General of the ANC, and the ANC’s mission-in-exile launched the strategy of an armed struggle. Guerrilla warfare began in earnest. It was at this point that an ideological divide opened between Inkatha and the ANC; a divide that would eventually become a chasm.

How could I possibly accept the call for international sanctions and disinvestment, when I lived every day among the poorest of the poor and saw the pain that poverty inflicted? I knew that sanctions would not substantially affect the minority who were in power, as they would simply consolidate and form industrial monopolies. Instead, I warned, it was the poorest who would suffer. I paid a high price for expressing this view.

Nevertheless, I believed that damaging the economy of our country was simply damaging the inheritance we would all receive when political liberation was achieved. I was reminded of the instruction in Deuteronomy 20 verse 19: “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an axe to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down.”

So I opposed sanctions against South Africa and I travelled the world to see Heads of State to appeal to them not to support the imposition of sanctions. To this day I still thank God that He opened the doors of all those Heads of State, such as Lady Margaret Thatcher and Mr John Major in the UK, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior in the USA, and many others.

I was also warmly received by Heads of State on the African continent, who recognized my credentials as an opponent of Apartheid and a champion of liberation in South Africa. I was privileged to attend the Africa-American Dialogue Series in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, where I met Emperor Haile Selassie and members of his Government, including Endalkachew Makonnen who was the interim Prime Minister before the insurrection took place.

Following a meeting with Mr Oliver Tambo in Nairobi, I stopped in Lusaka to thank President Kenneth Kaunda for giving sanctuary to our exiles from all political parties. I also travelled to Dar es Salaam to thank President Julius Nyerere for giving sanctuary to our exiles. I was a guest of President Hastings Banda at the celebration of Malawi’s independence, and was invited to Liberia by President William Tolbert.

At the request of Mrs Nokukhanya Luthuli, the widow of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, I accompanied her to Lesotho where she received her husband’s posthumous award from the Organization for African Unity. The award was handed over by King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho. I was received by his Prime Minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan, with great warmth, and was shown houses of South African refugees which had been bombed by the Apartheid regime’s army.

In 1976, the then Head of State General Olusegan Obasanjo, invited me to Nigeria on the same day that the Apartheid regime was to grant so-called “independence” to Transkei. Through the Embassy in Pretoria, General Obasanjo sent plane tickets for me, and for my wife, Princess Irene, and my two aides, Mr Gibson Thula and Mr Eric Ngubane. During that visit, I was to speak at the Institute for International Affairs in Lagos, where I was hosted by Dr Bolaji Akinyemi who was the Director of the Institute and was later to become the Nigerian Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs.

All these Heads of African Governments received me warmly, for they did not doubt my credentials as a champion of freedom. I am grateful to God for their support, for it came even at the height of the ANC’s vicious campaign of vilification against me.

When the ANC’s mission-in-exile pursued sanctions and disinvestment against South Africa, I was firm about our economy. But when they sought to pursue an armed struggle, I was nothing short of zealous against it. When the ANC was launched in 1912, the founding fathers of the ANC committed themselves to the strategy of negotiation and non-violence. That is why, when I founded Inkatha, I stated that it was structured on the ideals of the founding fathers of our liberation struggle. I could not agree with the ANC’s decision to abandon non-violence and embrace an armed struggle.

As a Christian, it went against my very core to see blood being shed and lives being lost, particularly for a cause that I knew would eventually be won through negotiations. I made it quite clear that I could not support a violent struggle. I knew my people; they were mothers and sons and uncles and cousins. To my mind, they were not expendable cannon fodder in a war that was being launched from a distance. They were children of God with as much a right to life, as a right to political enfranchisement.

My stand against international sanctions and the armed struggle met with intense frustration in the ANC. I was one man; but I had behind me the support of close on a million card carrying members of Inkatha. From the very inception of Inkatha, I determined to gauge the actual needs and interests of my people, rather than arrogantly dictating to them what it was they wanted. Listening to the heart of the people, I believe they never wanted an armed struggle.

A rift opened between Inkatha and the ANC over this issue and, in October 1979, Mr Tambo suggested a meeting in London. Seventeen members of Inkatha’s Central Committee accompanied me to that meeting and we sat with leaders of the ANC behind closed doors for two days. In the end, we could just not agree. Within less than a year, the ANC launched a vicious campaign of vilification against me and Inkatha that would last for several decades.

The ANC and its allies maligned me throughout the world. I was labelled an Apartheid collaborator, even though I had accepted the leadership of KwaZulu at the urging of Mr Oliver Tambo and Inkosi Albert Luthuli. The fact that I successfully undermined the Apartheid system from within did not erase the years of propaganda against me. Neither did former President FW de Klerk’s admission that it was I who convinced him to release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and to unban political parties. The years of vilification and propaganda did lasting damage.

At the height of the vilification campaign, I was even condemned by the World Council of Churches, of which my own Bishop and mentor, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, had once been President. But still I could not agree with the ANC moving our liberation strategy away from non-violence and passive resistance. It would cost many of our people their lives, but there would also be costs to pay in the future.

The armed struggle was not an issue on which anyone could simply agree to disagree. It was emotionally charged and people’s lives literally hung in the balance. It was an extremely difficult time for Christians, because those of us who went against violence and an armed struggle were branded as traitors to our country. There was also no succour within the Church, as the mainline churches, to which I belonged, embraced the notion of a “just war”.

The South African Council of Churches produced what became known as the Kairos Document, which suggested that this was a kairos time to engage in violence. Christian leaders were outspoken in their support and often quoted Canon Burgess Carr, who had spoken in Mozambique during Freedom Day and suggested that Christ had sanctified violence through the crucifixion. I must admit, my Christianity was challenged during this time.

I realize that the Church is not without its periods of violence. One need only think of the Crusades and the bloody tempest they awakened. But in my own heart, in my deepest convictions, I could not find space for violence against my people. I did not consider my people to be only the black majority whom I served in KwaZulu, nor were they limited in my mind to the Zulu nation. My people were all the people of South Africa; the country of my birth and the country for which I was pouring out my passion, my sweat and my tears.

In June of 1985, Mr Oliver Tambo addressed a consultative conference of the ANC in Zambia and called on his countrymen to “engulf the Apartheid system in the fire and thunder of a people’s war”. At that point, I sought a meeting in London with the Head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Robert Runcie. In advance of the meeting, I sent a memorandum through the South African Ambassador in which I sought the Archbishop’s guidance on the issue of a “just war”. Theologians had wrestled with this issue for centuries. Was this truly the time?

When I arrived at Lambeth Palace for our meeting, the Archbishop had my memorandum in his hand, and before we even sat down he asked me whether other leaders agree with me in opposing the armed struggle. I responded, “Your Grace, you too are a leader. Do other leaders always agree with you?” When he did not respond, I then asked him, “Did everyone agree with Christ?” Needless to say, I did not receive any guidance in that meeting. I had sought the advice of the highest authority in my Church, and found myself on lonely ground.

Indeed, loneliness has characterised my Christian walk. I was branded a traitor and a sell out because I would not lead my people into war. It was a very painful time. I thank God for a lady by the name of Dr Anthea Jeffrey, an academic who has engaged in comprehensive research of that period in our history and has written a seminal work called “People’s War”. I would encourage anyone to read it, but particularly those who seek to understand the true dynamics that shaped the violent struggle and internecine low intensity civil war that raged in South Africa during the eighties and early nineties.

“People’s War” also details the role of the Church during that time and notes how leaders of the Church expressed their support for the armed struggle. I recall that high profile priests would attend the endless funeral services that were held during that time – and let us not forget that 20,000 lives were lost. But the funerals of members of the IFP, Inkatha, saw very few prominent clergymen.

It was also difficult for me being poles apart with the head of my Church, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We were of directly opposing views. When Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, died in 1978, I was invited to deliver his funeral oration by his brother Bishop Ernest Sobukwe and the leaders of the PAC in exile, who phoned me from London. At that funeral service, in Graaf Reinet, an attempt was made on my life by a group of youths. In the aftermath, Archbishop Tutu publically praised these young men, saying they were a new breed of young people with iron in their souls. This from the head of my own Church. Where then could I turn for comfort?

When President Nelson Mandela proposed Archbishop Tutu as Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I was a member of Cabinet, and I went on record with my objection, saying that the Archbishop had been a patron of the UDF in the time of conflict. The TRC required a non-partisan leadership. Nevertheless, Archbishop Tutu chaired the TRC. When I appeared before it, I boldly addressed the Chair and said, “Your Grace, I shall not be judged by you. God is my sole judge and I shall be judged by Him alone.”

In the end, the TRC concluded that I, in my representative capacity as Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government and Head of the KwaZulu Police, and as President of the IFP, was responsible for more gross human rights violations than anyone else in South Africa – even though I had never once condoned, sanctioned, authorised or ordered a single violation of human rights. The pronouncement of the TRC was terribly painful for me to bear.

Nevertheless, being a Christian is a remarkable thing, because Archbishop Tutu and I still exchange birthday wishes every year. When Archbishop Tutu turned 80 last month, I was invited to the celebrations, and I went with nothing but goodwill in my heart. That is the glory of Christ; that no matter what humiliations and trials are heaped upon his children, they are able to forgive.

People have often asked me how I have managed to forgive the atrocities committed by the Apartheid regime in my country, or the slaughter of my people by members of the ANC. I have even been asked how I could forgive God for taking from me four of my children, two to car accidents and two to HIV/Aids. Forgiveness is not a luxury I can choose to extend or withhold, depending on my mood. Christ taught us to pray, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us.” Being Christians does not only mean that we can forgive, but that we must forgive.

During the liberation struggle I attended many Christian Fellowship meetings which were also attended by Dr Piet Koornhof, a Minister of the Apartheid regime. Sometimes we even met in his house. When I visited Yale University in the United States, I was castigated by Professor Greenberg for praying with an Apartheid Government Minister. I responded that if I believe as I do that Christ’s blood was shed for my sins, then how could I say that Christ’s blood was not also shed for the sins of Mr PW Botha, the then Head of the Apartheid regime?

Today, tolerance is a very important word in South Africa. When the leaders of South Africa gather in the national House of Parliament, before we attend to the business of the day, we observe a moment of silence. In this moment, we are encouraged to pray or meditate as our faiths and consciences dictate. We do not engage in formal prayer, nor do we make a corporate declaration of reliance on God.

As a Christian, I use this time to silently seek God’s wisdom and counsel, and to ask that He would guide us as we lead our nation. But I am always left with a sense that this is not enough; that we have somehow missed a profound opportunity to unleash the immeasurable power of God.

I understand the need for religious tolerance, particularly in a country whose population is as diverse as ours. I respect the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights of South Africa’s Constitution. But I also believe that we will never truly express the love Christ called us to display, if we seclude ourselves from one another. For this reason I count myself a friend of His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu, as well as a friend of the Dalai Lama, a friend of the Divine Life Society, as well as the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Muslim Judicial Council.

Does it make me any less of a Christian that I befriend those outside the Christian faith? I think not; for Christ sat down to meals in the house of Gentiles and sinners, and we know that when the Pharisees questioned Him, He explained that those who are well have no need of a physician. Wherever we go as Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ, and where else can our lights shine brightly, but in the very midst of the darkness? This has been my reference point all my life, as I have sought to lead and serve my nation.

When I consider the life I have lived, the doors that God has opened for me and the dangers from which He has preserved me, I cannot help but wonder as King David did, “What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8 verse 4). It has been an incredible challenge being a Christian and a politician as I have sought to promote liberation in the last 63 years. I know that I could never have fulfilled my calling had I not been grounded in Christ.

I have received many awards. The Bishops of my own Church have conferred on me the Order of Simon of Cyrene, and last year I was awarded the newly inaugurated Order of St Michael and All Angels. The Patriarch of Alexandra and All Africa, of the Greek Orthodox Church, has awarded me the Order of St Markhus. Christians for Peace in Africa conferred on me the title of “Peace Maker”, and a sage from India conferred on me the title of ‘RASTIA PITA’ – Apostle of Peace.

While I am humbled and honoured to receive these awards, I understand that the highest accolades of man are little compared to the simple words we must strive to hear from the mouth of God; “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I live to hear those words.

I know that I am nothing more than a redeemed sinner, justified by the blood of Christ. Thus I know that it is not about me. It is not about my desires, or my ambitions. Rather, it is about how I can serve others. I believe in servant leadership. Therefore I exhort the leaders of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star with the same words the Apostle Paul used to exhort the Philippians. I read from Philippians, Chapter 2 –

3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross…14Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.”

We do indeed shine as lights in this generation. May we have the courage to diverge from following the world, and rather follow the heart of Christ. If we follow manmade rules, our highest accolades will be that we were tolerant or politically correct. Yet if we follow the laws instituted by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, our greatest blessings are these; that we will be comforted, filled, and shown mercy, that we will inherit the earth, that the kingdom of heaven shall be ours, and we will be called the children of God.

As we celebrate together the birthday of His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu, I pray God’s blessing on this church and on its Leader. Bishop Obu must be praised for following in the footsteps of his master, our Lord Jesus Christ, in serving God’s people. He is an inspiration to us as Believers, whether we are bishops, pastors, laymen or leaders in other spheres. His example reminds us to serve God’s Kingdom wherever we are, using whatever God has placed in our hands.

Into Bishop Obu’s hands, God has placed an astounding capacity for theological interpretation and teaching. He is using that gift to serve God’s people. Into my hands, God has placed the responsibility of political leadership and He has blessed me by surrounding me with Godly men and women who support, inspire and pray for me. I encourage us all to consider the gifts and responsibilities we have been given, and to embrace them with gratitude.

May we emulate the commitment and passion of His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu, as he emulates Christ. I think that would be a welcome birthday present for the Leader of this Church.

I pray now that, through servant leadership, the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star will achieve its vision of helping to liberate this nation and the nations of the world from despair, poverty, injustice and disease. In this, we are of one mind. May our faith unite us as we serve God’s purposes in this generation.

I thank you.