Funeral Service Of Inkosi Mthinteni Robert Msibi
Deputy Chairman: The Zululand District Local House Of Traditional Leaders Message Of Condolences By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
Inkosi Of The Buthelezi Clan
Chaiperson Of The Zululand District Local House Of Traditional Leaders
And Undunankulu KaZulu



Inkosi Msibi's Great Place: 23 October 2010



It is with a heavy heart that I rise to pay tribute to Inkosi Mthinteni Robert Msibi. The Zululand District Local House of Traditional Leaders has lost a formidable champion, for Inkosi Msibi fulfilled his role as Deputy Chairperson with exceptional integrity and honour. With his passing, I feel that the entire institution of traditional leadership has suffered a loss, for Inkosi Msibi displayed remarkably keen judgment over our past, our present and our future. He was one of the few with perfect clarity on the role of ubukhosi.


Last week on Friday I sat down to write a letter to Inkosi Msibi. This was a letter of condolence because my cousin, the Princess of KwaZiphethe to whom he was married was to be buried the following day. I did not know then that as I was writing Inkosi Msibi was passing away on the eve of his wife's burial. I expressed our gratitude that he had recovered after he had a stroke. I was shocked to learn from my messenger that Inkosi had also passed away. So I come here to mourn his death as a colleague of many years. At the same time I mourn his death as a husband of my late cousin, a member of the Zulu Royal family.


We are short of words to express our condolences to the Msibi family and to the Msibi Clan for this double loss. It is rare for any Clan to lose a father and mother of the Clan the same day.  This is a void, which is impossible to fill up.


I am able to speak so highly of Inkosi Msibi because I knew him for many years. We worked together in the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly and toiled side by side for the good of our people, during the harsh days of apartheid and the somehow treacherous days of democracy. I developed the greatest respect for Inkosi Msibi, for he always spoke his mind, and what he had to say was valuable, intelligent and honest.


He was a great oak that could not be swayed. I recall that before 1994 when the ruling Party financed some bogus political parties to oppose me, some people were lured into believing lies. But Inkosi Msibi opposed such deceitfulness and faithfully supported me. We often spoke of the unexpressed agenda of the present Government to undermine the powers and role, and curtail the functions, of traditional leaders. It pained us both to see the continuous broken promises and unfulfilled intentions of Government towards traditional leadership.


It is difficult for me speak of these things at a time like this, as we bid our final farewells to a great leader and friend. I must ask forgiveness from the Msibi family and Clan for bringing up politics when we all stand in mourning. But anyone who knew Inkosi Msibi well, would know that a tribute to his life would be incomplete without reference to his convictions and his work. Indeed, in many ways, his convictions defined his life, for they fuelled the passion with which he lived and worked in the service of our people.


Inkosi Albert Lutuli penned a statement in 1952 in which he wrote: "My view has been, and still is, that a chief is primarily a servant of his people. He is the voice of his people - and not a local agent of the government. Within the bounds of loyalty it is conceivable that he may voice and press the claims of his people even if they should be unpalatable to the government of the day."  President Jacob Zuma reminded us of these words when he opened the National House of Traditional Leaders in February this year. He took it to mean that traditional leaders must work with government. But it seems clear to me that Inkosi Lutuli was emphasizing the fact that cooperating with government plays second fiddle to serving one's people.


Inkosi Msibi understood this. He understood that serving his people as a traditional leader took precedence over what government would have him do, or not do. It has been frustrating for us to witness the deterioration of government's commitment to amaKhosi over the years. 


In 2005, President Thabo Mbeki spoke to the National House of Traditional Leaders and said, "Traditional leadership is an institution of our people, and as such, government stands ready and willing to collaborate with you so that it becomes stronger and is better able to serve our people." But just five years later, President Zuma said, "Traditional leaders have a key role to play as partners with government - government will work closely with traditional leaders in the implementation of government programmes".


I find it strange that it is the same government which has legislated that only a certain percentage of Amakhosi can attend Municipal Council meetings. It is also the same government that legislated that Amakhosi who attend such meetings cannot even vote at such meetings. 


In this way it is clear that for all practical purposes we are outsiders at such meetings. I commend our Mayors in the Zululand District most of whom have cordial relations with Amakhosi. In fact, the offices of the Zululand House of Traditional Leaders were built by the Mayor of Zululand and the Municipality. But up to now no other facilities have been supplied for such offices such as the telephone for example. This in spite of the fact that we requested such facilities.


There is no mystery over who pulls the strings and who is the puppet. 


It was a source of tremendous pain to Inkosi Msibi to see the institution of traditional leadership take a back seat, even when a black government took the reins. We are now 16 years into democracy and nothing has been done to protect the powers and functions of traditional leaders. Indeed, legislation has weakened our position. At the dawn of democracy there were utterances by several important politicians which exposed the intention to sideline ubukhosi.


Even in this Province a former Premier of KwaZulu Natal threatened the disestablishment of the institution of traditional leadership. Yet there are many who have been bluffed into thinking that everything is hunky-dory, because we have a National House, Provincial Houses, District Houses and Traditional Councils in our areas. Some traditional leaders wish to be seen to be cooperating and therefore pretend that everything is fine as far as traditional leaders are concerned.


But it is difficult for me to pretend, particularly at my age and with my vast experience. And it was difficult for Inkosi Msibi to pretend, for he was not a man given to deceitfulness or pretence. He knew, as I do, that all our Houses have been castrated. Originally, the Public Finance Management Act stated that the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders is an entity. But I battled in vain to get the former MEC to recognise it as such. It was not resourced then. And it is not resourced to this day. Let alone the District Local House of Traditional Leaders and Traditional Councils. When the KwaZulu Taxation Act was repealed we thought that the government was going to provide resources for Traditional Council. We thought there would at least observe the ancient basic principle of education of ELIMINATION by SUBSTITUTION.


I was invited by the Provincial SCOPA once to account in Pietermaritzburg as the Provincial Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders.  When the then Chairperson of SCOPA Ms Joan Downs discovered that the Provincial government did not recognise the status of the Provincial House as an entity she was surprised. The then Chairperson of the Finance Portfolio Committee Mr Cyril  Xaba fiercely defended the position of the ANC government in not resourcing the Provincial House.


The Province then imposed legislation on traditional leadership which actually does not address the issue of the powers and functions of traditional leaders at all. On the contrary, it says municipalities may help us; but at the same time we are told we must cooperate with municipalities. It is really amazing that we are required to cooperate, when even the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 passed by the apartheid regime provided that we could generate our revenues. Each Tribal Authority had a budget. We held meetings as Tribal Authorities each year to consider estimates and expenditure for each financial year. Today we do not have funds even to pay those who look after the traditional offices and those who clean and attend to the upkeep of these buildings.


Because of the current recession we were suddenly told that there will no longer be any refreshments provided by the department. It was the decision of the department when these Traditional Councils were provided with refreshments when they met. In the case of the Buthelezi Traditional Council my wife provides for members of the Traditional Council from our kitchen. And I raised this matter when the budget of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs the Honourable Mr Sicelo Shiceka was discussed in Parliament.  I mentioned that we no longer get even refreshments as a belt-tightening measure by our Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.  The Minister stated that such a thing cannot happen that Traditional Councils should not have refreshments when Municipal Councils are provided with funding for this. But nothing has happened. Where is all this talk about the government having great respect for the institution of traditional leaders and for the institution of traditional leadership?  I am ashamed to tell you that as a House we have no means to enable us to assist the family and clan in this bereavement.  There is no budget for us to do that.  What we do comes from our own pockets.


These are contentious issues, but they are not being expressed by me alone. At the unveiling of Inkosi Dingiswayo's tombstone at Oyengweni, the King himself pointed out that Traditional Councils are disempowered, and he said this in the presence of the Premier. The present Government in this Province has repealed a great deal of legislation, and it becomes more and more difficult to uphold the pretence that the institution of traditional leadership is respected in our present democracy.


When he spoke at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders this year, President Zuma admitted that there are many outstanding issues that are of concern to traditional leaders, including the need to clarify roles in governance. He said that Government needed to develop a framework for the allocation of roles and functions; which implies that we must accept any old bone that Government throws to us. For instance, President Zuma said, the terms of office of kingship councils must be aligned to that of local government, and laws must be amended to ensure that non-traditional leaders of kingship councils are remunerated.


Inkosi Msibi felt strongly about these matters. He did not appreciate traditional leaders being dictated to with one hand, while having their powers stripped away with the other. He was honest enough not to pretend that this is not happening. The Zululand District Local House of Traditional Leaders has lost one of its strongest pillars. On behalf of the House, I express our sympathy to the Msibi Clan and the family of Inkosi Msibi. We share your grief in this dark hour.


My sorrow at Inkosi Msibi's passing was compounded as I have already said by the fact that his wife, my own cousin, had so recently passed away. In fact, even as I was writing a letter of condolences to Inkosi Msibi on her death, I was unaware that he himself had stepped into eternity. Because of the family relationship we shared through Mrs Msibi, it is my duty to express the condolences of my family to the Msibi Clan. I do this, knowing full well that nothing we can say will ease the pain of your suffering. We simply stand in support of you, praying that time will heal this wound.


My foremost reason, however, for standing here today to pay tribute to Inkosi Msibi, is not because he was my Deputy, or even because his wife was my cousin. I stand here because I sense the weight of destiny pressing us on towards a goal. That goal is the very prize that Inkosi Msibi and I sought through our lifelong work as traditional leaders.  It is the prize of a strong, respected and influential ubukhosi; for we are indeed the repository of our people's culture, history and identity.


For however many more days the Lord grants me on this earth, I shall keep running towards the prize. Inkosi Msibi and I ran the race together. My comrade has fallen, and I must take up his burden and keep pressing on. May his memory be honoured.


In ending this tribute to one of the pillars of our society, Inkosi Mthinteni Robert Msibi, let me quote the words of that great Scientist - Albert Einstein who lived from 1879 to 1955.  Someone headlined this with the words; "FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS"  "Strange is our situation here upon earth.  Each one of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life however, there is one thing to do now. That man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smile and well being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy.  Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labours of my fellowmen both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received."


May he rest in peace.


Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.