KING SHAKA DAY CELEBRATION
KWADUKUZA: SEPTEMBER 24, 2000
The Honourable Master of Ceremonies; members of the Royal House and amaKhosi present; Your Excellencies; members of the diplomatic corps and honourable members of the Consular corps; our religious leaders; the Mayor of KwaDukuza; the Honourable Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr LPHM Mtshali and Mrs Mtshali; Honourable Ministers from both the National Assembly and the KwaZulu Natal Legislature; members of Parliament; members of provincial Parliaments; Chairpersons of Regional Councils; their Worships the Mayors; Councillors and Indunas; members of the various clans who comprise the Zulu Nation; our distinguished guests.
With each yearly celebration of King Shaka Day a new meaning and significance emerges to the legacy of the founder of the Zulu Nation. The past is constantly being rediscovered in the light of the present, and the legacy of King Shaka which is bestowed on this generation sheds new light on the challenges confronting us today. We continue to be faced with the ongoing challenge of bringing the process of unification of the Zulu Nation a step further on the hard and uphill path of reconciliation. It is only once we have achieved peace that we may have victory in the struggle for development.
In facing the need to develop our country we must seek the wisdom of our past to map a future which maintains our pride, not on the basis of past glory alone, but on the strength of our present and forthcoming achievements and national goals. We were a glorious Nation at the time of King Shaka, and we must be a glorious Nation again, now and in the future, by developing the land and uplifting our people into social stability and economic prosperity. As we build such a future out of the legacy of the past, we will be well served to maintain the momentum which sprang out of the forging of our Nation by King Shaka ka Senzangakhona. The past is a force which pushes us forward into a future of change which can no longer be delayed or impaired.
King Shaka was a great transformer who irreversibly changed the world he lived in to mould it into a new shape, forged by the alchemy of his steel will-power, untamable courage and visionary dreams. During his time, he was the king of change who drew a watershed line between what came before and the future which he opened for all of us. Year after year, the father of the Zulu Nation is honoured on sites throughout this province. The legacy of King Shaka is heralded as the legacy of our Nation’s fire. We celebrate him as a passionate warrior, a noble king and a fierce leader of his people, our own ancestors, as well as the first King of this Nation.
Yet often we do not lay focus on the political genius of our founding King, as though administrative matters take second place to matters of war. We also give little attention to the intimate character of a man who had no fear of revolutionising the past he inherited from his ancestors, to accommodate the needs of the present, and forge a future which was unimaginable until he entered the centre-stage of history. Within this historical perspective, we can better appreciate how the strong arm of King Shaka was not raised to destroy outside clans, but rather to draw them in to strengthen the Zulu Nation and produce change never before seen. Through the vision of integration, King Shaka built an empire which became the pride of Africa. The prosperity of our Nation never grew on the subjugation of others, but flourished in the fertile soil of good administration.
The Kingdom which King Shaka built expanded out of his central priority of promoting development. This perhaps is an aspect of his legacy which holds the greatest relevance to our present-day political discourse. Our struggle for liberation which engaged my own generation for many decades, as it did the generation before mine, has now reached the first stage of glory. We have reached the dim glory of achieving the full rights of political franchise for all South Africans, but we must now move forward towards the real glory of giving all South Africans a dignified life free from poverty, criminality and abject social conditions.
There have been a lot of writings about the role of amaKhosi in the media because of the issues that are under discussion on the new municipal boundaries which obliterate traditional areas and make them part of municipal land. Some analysts who have written on these matters have gone out of their way to pick on black sheep amongst amaKhosi as prototypes of how traditional leaders behave. The majority of us as traditional leaders see ourselves as servants of our people. We look after our people and our people look after us. The majority of us do not exploit our own people. We know that there are rotten apples amongst us who degrade the office of Inkosi. These are people who demand cash at every turn from their poor people.
I wish to make a distinction here between tributes that subjects of amaKhosi pay of their own volition, and money that some extort from people. I also do not include levies that traditional communities impose on themselves. For example, I can say that in the 47 years that I have been Inkosi, not once have I ever asked anyone to pay me a cent for a site in my area. There are those people who extort money by duress from their subjects. It is such people's conduct which unfortunately tarnishes the image of traditional leaders. Quite often people hostile to the institution of traditional leadership hang on these characters as typical.
I was also very surprised by the article about the Zulu Nation appearing in a recent issue of the prestigious American publication, the National Geographic. The author worked closely with me as I had already corrected some of the mistakes in the original draft. However, when he published the article the author could not resist the temptation to re-hash old and discredited propaganda against the Zulu Nation and its Kingdom. He portrayed us as a divided Nation split between modernists and traditionalists and undermined by endemic and fratricide violence. He also portrayed our King as a pawn in political machinations and intrigues. Because of the authoritative nature of this publication that is how our Nation is portrayed to the world. Through our unity and commitment to peace we must prove that this image is false and unjustified. I reject with contempt the allegations of violence made against segments of the Zulu Nation, as well as the suggestions that at any time segments of the Zulu Nation supported or made common cause with the colonial or apartheid regime. The Zulu Nation has been the engine of the liberation movement in our country which since its commencement was driven by our King and our amaKhosi. The Zulu Nation has driven the whole of South Africa towards political freedom and can rightly claim a role of pre-eminence in ending colonialism and apartheid.
When former President de Klerk made a presentation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he told the TRC that it was my rejection of independence a'la Pretoria which made them abandon apartheid. It was this rejection of apartheid by the largest single Nation in South Africa that made them give up their plans to balkanise South Africa. I further wish to reject the implication of the sub-title of the National Geographic that we as the Zulu Nation are "heirs to violence."
With full political franchise, we have been given the liberty to pursue that which always underpinned our liberation struggle, namely development, development and development. We never sought a country in which all our sons and daughters would merely be free to pursue their ambitions and satisfy their needs. Our dream was of a country in which we all would be empowered to access the quality of life from which the striving for these things could meet with victory. This was King Shaka’s dream when he changed beyond recognition the poor, conflict-ridden and uncertain world in which he was born, into a prosperous and stable Kingdom.
King Shaka’s mighty Kingdom held the struggle for development as its own and this struggle remains an intrinsic part of our inheritance. Through the reign of King Shaka, the Zulu Kingdom found unprecedented success and developed an administrative infrastructure predisposed to creating internal peace and social stability. When we measure the difficulties we face today against the achievements of our past, it is clear that there is a lesson to be assimilated which applies to our present context. The Zulu Kingdom did not reach beyond what its people could hope to grasp. It was not driven by greed or imperialism. It merely developed the potentials of the time to their fullest capacity and so provided for its people. The legacy of this Kingdom gives us the framework to make development the focal point of our country’s transformation in the present.
Today, we are facing the dire challenges of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, poor health, lawlessness and disorder. Yet in the Kingdom of our founding King, everyone was able to grow their own crops and be fed by the labour of their hand. Life was sustained through the internal availability of food, eliminating the spectre of malnutrition. The structures of the Kingdom provided a rich fabric of social solidarity and community support for all individuals. Every member of this Nation was employed in the task of strengthening our Kingdom, through the production of food, the care of our offspring, or the defence of our people.
The Zulu Kingdom boasted an army capable of fending off any enemy, fuelled by the effective administration of our internal structure. This was not an idyllic world, for it also had its harshness and injustice, but it was a world that worked for the people at the time and for many subsequent generations, and was a world which vastly improved on the past. As we face the challenges of the present, we must be inspired by how successful our past Kings were in reshaping their own times into a future worth living. They were strong, determined and courageous, with no fear of moving forwards.
The most immediate challenge we face today is that of protecting and promoting the institution of traditional leadership. How we engage this challenge will underpin the way in which South Africa is to be transformed from the old to the new. For generations, the people I see before me have worked this soil, in KwaDukuza, Nongoma, Hlabisa, Emzumbe, Ndwedwe and Eshowe, and all over KwaZulu Natal. No one need tell us that a plant can grow in no other way than from its roots upward. If the true roots are cut, the plant will die. Traditional leadership is our roots. Any change we undertake can only move out of our roots and only remain as viable as our roots remain strong. This age old wisdom applies to the growth of South Africa.
We cannot remain stuck in our roots forever but must grow upward and outward towards a new light. However, we cannot move out of our roots, for in doing so we would perish. As we emerge from underground, the face of our country will be as different in appearance as flowers are from the roots of the plant. Yet this does not mean we must sever ourselves from our roots and leave them behind. We must move forward with courage and determination, to which end we must protect and strengthen our roots.
In the cycle of growth, there is always continuity. This is particularly true in respect of the issue of traditional leadership. Our amaKhosi are faced with serious threats to their traditional role, powers and functions, and are being challenged by the process of local government transformation which fails to take into account the importance of our traditional leaders within their communities. The simple truth is that traditional leadership has no choice but to evolve with the evolution of society, but cannot be forcibly transformed out of existence. Our amaKhosi cannot be obliterated with a flourish of the legislative pen. It is sad that since the breaching of the solemn Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation signed by former President Nelson Mandela, Mr Frederick de Klerk and I, an attitude of dismissal has crept over government’s dealings with traditional leaders.
What present political leaders still fail to recognise is the position of amaKhosi as the real backbone of the Kingdom we have inherited. It is this Kingdom which we are required to bring forward, so that it may serve future generations as it did in respect of our ancestors. Our Kingdom is established in a framework which can both accommodate and promote change. As we move further into the third millennium, our amaKhosi have become custodians of a rich heritage which must pass from our history into our future. Yet our government has not given proper place to the role of amaKhosi within our communities. I cannot help but wonder what may happen to all of us when the government becomes more important than the people. I am saddened that a process of transformation which is to immediately impact on the lives of every rural and urban citizen, can deny the existing and respected leaders of our fathers, our children and ourselves.
As the significance of our amaKhosi is being challenged and their leadership ignored, I feel that we the people should stand in applause of the role of leadership which has been provided thus far by our Kings and by amaKhosi and members of the Zulu Royal House. I believe that traditional leaders ought to receive our congratulations as we express our ready gratitude, recognition and appreciation for their position within our traditional way of life. Through our support, we must enable them to play a similar role in our country’s future. It is the quality of these people which underpins the strength of the Kingdom. These are people of substance, people of integrity, people of leadership, and people of courage. They are the present heirs of a legacy that dates back to our founding King, King Shaka ka Senzangakhona.
The resounding call of the people should be a demand that traditional leadership not be eliminated through a struggle of attrition. Any eruption in respect of traditional leadership is bound to affect the performance of the whole country, its international image and its future. For this reason, I am sounding a cautionary warning because I fear what may happen and I do not wish to see that happen. With great sorrow I must announce that I can see the signs of bad weather coming and I hope that people may recognise the clouds on the horizon and act so that the storm may not devastate our hopes for the future.
The role of traditional leadership now is to take inspiration and be ignited from the fiery belly of King Shaka. Our amaKhosi are being challenged to operate with the same courage, volition and determination which drove King Shaka, to provide a leadership to South Africa which may take us a few steps further along the path of the genuine liberation which springs from development. Our liberation must remain a matter of development. The challenges of the present are the very challenges dealt with in the past. Today, people still need to be empowered to a better quality of life in which they may work and enjoy the fruits of their labour, eat and enjoy the health of their bodies, strive for fulfilment and relish the liberation of their minds.
It is saddening that today, as we celebrate King Shaka Day on the very soil upon which our mighty ancestors walked and toiled and fought, we have not yet seen enough done for our country to secure for the present even the achievements of the past. We are forced to recognise that impotence has bred poor results and, in time, if left to prosper, failure will be born. Our Nation desperately needs the courage of action and the courage to win once again over its enemies. Today our enemies are the social and economic evils afflicting our people. Our greatest enemy remains the spreading of the HIV-AIDS pandemic which is decimating our people and which we must prevent with adequate precautions. Ours is no longer the age for idle philosophising or even for visionary conceptualisation. Our past has given us a legacy of success on which we may base our present efforts. Today, we are challenged to act. My prayer for my Nation is that it will be imbued with the spirit of King Shaka, to take up the struggle for development with his vision before us. Fixing our sights on this noble target, we dare not miss the mark.
To the Zulu Nation I say we are a mighty people, a courageous people, and a people of victory. This is still the pride of Africa. This remains King Shaka’s legacy. This remains the legacy which has inspired me for so many years of struggle. We are the keepers of a destiny imprinted on our collective memory in generations past. I stand proud of my people, and their contribution from King Shaka's era to our present generation. King Shaka lives for he continues to inspire us from his grave.
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