AFRICAN RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL


REMARKS BY

MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP

CHAIRMAN, THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS (KWAZULU NATAL)

MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

ON THE THEME OF

BEYOND CONFLICT,

THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE CHALLENGE IN KWAZULU NATAL TO BE THE BEST WE CAN BE

ICC, DURBAN : MARCH 25, 2000

His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki; the KwaZulu Natal Minister of Transport, the Honourable J.S. Ndebele; His Excellency Dr Andrew Young, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, and long-time friend of our country; national and provincial Ministers and Members of the national and provincial Parliaments present; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is significant and valuable that this important conference on the African Renaissance is taking place in the province of KwaZulu Natal. Correctly, the theme of our conference suggests that renaissance arises out of having gone beyond the conflict stage. We must focus carefully both on the notion of conflict and that of renaissance to realise that conflicts do not disappear merely by ignoring their existence, and lack of conflict is not by itself a renaissance. In the past six years, we have been engaged in promoting conflict resolution while pursuing the dream of a renaissance with African features.

I recognise that many efforts have been made to put to rest the conflicts of the past. These efforts will succeed only to the extent that they recognise the nature and dynamics of the conflicts they intend to reconcile. Within our debates, an early connection was established between the notion of truth and that of reconciliation which led to the establishment of a commission so styled, with the task of promoting reconciliation through the granting of amnesty, the enquiry on the dynamics of the conflicts and monetary compensation to victims.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has achieved some success in investigating, portraying and publicising the dynamics of the black-on-white and the white-on-black conflicts, especially the conflicts relating to the employment of the so-called armed struggle. Time will tell whether the TRC has been successful in reconciling such conflicts. However, in respect of the black-on-black conflict neither truth nor reconciliation has been achieved by the TRC. If anything, the TRC produced some major set-backs in the research and understanding of the root causes and dynamics of the black-on-black conflict, and hindered its reconciliation.

The black-on-black conflict has been the major conflict of our recent past. It has claimed the lives of some thirty thousand victims and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of people of their houses and property. When comparing the number of black people who died in this conflict to the approximately 600 white people who died as a result of the armed struggle waged against the apartheid regime, it is clear that we are far from having exposed the full picture of what really happened in our country. We still do not have a full understanding of the dynamics which led to the systematic assassination of about 400 leaders and office bearers of Inkatha who were targeted one after the other in their houses, taxi ranks and work-places.

We have still not exposed how the armed struggle led new black political leaders to gain control of black communities across the country through violence and intimidation. We must account for the fact that the armed struggle mainly targeted black townships to make them ungovernable, necklaced black people to subjugate entire communities in fear, and destroyed the black education system causing an entire generation to be lost from the productive cycle. We must explain how the armed struggle became a tool of political action to gain political hegemony within the liberation movement. I have often advanced the justification that these perversions were the by-product of the dynamics and intrigues of the Cold War, and of activities which took place in South Africa without the full knowledge of a necessarily detached ANC leadership in exile or in prison.

Nonetheless, we must admit and accept what happened. We must admit and accept the resistance that people of this province exerted to prevent our communities from being subverted. We must accept the moral and principled stand which I took when I rejected the armed struggle as a tool of political action which I knew would leave behind a legacy of violence, lack of respect for human life, rebellion and lawlessness which would last long after the inevitable demise of apartheid.

This truth has not even been scratched by the TRC. The pursuance of this truth has become the responsibility of responsible IFP and ANC leaders who, in the past, have tried to reconcile their differences and come to terms with our past. One of the major difficulties has been the thick layer of propaganda and vilification which suffocated our nation's debates. I and Inkatha were portrayed both domestically and internationally as the devil incarnate, and our major contribution to the struggle for liberation was obliterated from the records of history.

I made direct representations to the minority regime for the release of President Nelson Mandela. I was the first leader or person to do so when people still spoke of President Mandela's name in whispers. I directly confronted the Prime Minister of South Africa, Mr John Vorster, in face-to-face confrontations in his office demanding the release of President Mandela from Robben Island. I was in constant touch with President Mandela throughout his time in prison. He wrote to me directly and sometimes wrote to me through my wife, Princess Irene. The last correspondence we exchanged with him was in 1989 shortly before his release where we both shared the pain about the killings that were going on between members of our two organisations, the ANC and the IFP. I held rallies in Soweto and in other townships in KwaZulu Natal to celebrate the birthday of President Mandela while he was still imprisoned. I quoted from "No easy walk to freedom" to tens of thousands of people who attended my rallies in Soweto, as an act of civil disobedience.

Inkatha was the largest membership-based cultural liberation movement within the country during the entire period in which political organisations dedicated to our liberation were banned. Most of Inkatha's leaders, including myself, had to endure untold suffering to pursue the cause of liberation. However, I did not play my role in isolation, for I was in constant contact with the ANC leadership in exile. The President of the ANC mission-in-exile, Dr Oliver Tambo, and I were in touch all the time. We communicated directly when I was abroad. We met in London, we met in Nairobi and we met in Lagos. We exchanged emissaries with messages for each other. On one occasion one of the emissaries whom the ANC mission-in-exile sent to me was none other than His Excellency President Thabo Mbeki, with whom we held a discussion at Heathrow Airport.

One occasion I wish to share with you today was a meeting with the President of the ANC, Dr Oliver Tambo, in Stockholm, where I went to seek his support for funds from SIDA in Sweden, to publish a newspaper 'The Nation', which support he gave me. I recall that occasion because His Excellency Ambassador Andrew Young happened to be in Stockholm at the very same time as my visit there. Naturally, arrangements were made by Dr Ernst Michanek, the then Director of SIDA, for me to meet Ambassador Young. The President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo and I were staying at Dr Michanek's house. However, in making arrangements for Ambassador Young and I to have luncheon together at his house, Dr Michanek exceeded his brief by conveying a message to Ambassador Young that one of the people who would be at the luncheon at his home was none other than the President of the ANC himself. Dr Michanek erred because this arrangement had not been cleared beforehand with Dr Tambo. To save the situation, a white lie was told that the President of the ANC had not arrived as was expected. So I had lunch with Ambassador Young and Dr Oliver Tambo's luncheon was served to him on a tray in the bedroom he occupied in Dr Michanek's house during that visit.

This co-ordination of efforts has characterised my political action throughout my life. The decision of the UDF to identify Inkatha as one of its enemies was taken for political expediency, and had little to do with our liberation. When the vilification against me by the UDF, which was a front for the ANC, was at its height, for example a sad incident occurred. I received a request from Bob Brown that Mrs Coretta King was coming to South Africa and that she wanted to meet me. All arrangements were made for me to meet the widow of one of our icons, Dr Martin Luther King. However, this was not to be. My Archbishop, Dr Desmond Tutu, put pressure on Mrs Coretta King not to meet me. He even went further to state that it was better for Mrs King to meet with President P.W. Botha than to meet with me. However, she was gracious enough to pass on several books by Dr Martin Luther King which she autographed for me. One black civil rights leader also later wanted to meet me and he was asked: "Do you need to go to a sewer to know that it stinks?"

Unfortunately, all these truths were obliterated by the vilifying propaganda thrown against me. In the past six years, these truths have emerged again, often unexpectedly, through the testimony of those who were once our opponents. For many years I had no choice but to maintain a dignified silence, for I knew that my voice could not counter the onslaught of lies and that in the end, truth always triumphs. It is the emergence of this truth which has enabled the process of reconciliation to begin.

Before 1990, a Committee was set up in which representatives of Inkatha sat down with representatives of President de Klerk's government to tease out the obstacles which impeded negotiations. One of the people I nominated to that Committee was Rowley Arenstein, the then longest banned person in South Africa, a member of the South African Communist Party, and someone who was to have articled me for my chosen career as a lawyer. In the document that we produced, one of the things which Inkatha insisted on as non-negotiable, was the release of Nelson Mandela before any negotiations could take place.

This is why when the former State President, Mr Frederick de Klerk, made his epoch-making speech on February 2, 1990, he stated that I had helped him to come to the conclusion that President Mandela must be released and those in exile allowed to return. I was the only person he mentioned by name, black or white, who he said assisted him to decide to release Nelson Mandela. Later, when President F.W. de Klerk led the National Party's team to make a presentation to the TRC, he also stated that it was mainly my refusal to take so-called "independence" for the Zulu Nation, which made them abandon their grandiose apartheid plans. These are all matters of record which not even the media ever says anything about, let alone any other people.

Shortly thereafter, during a ceremony, which I attended, to pay tribute to the memory of Oliver Reginald Tambo, Mr. Cleopas Nsibande, one of the long-serving leaders of the ANC, made a revelation. He revealed to a disbelieving crowd that I had taken up my hereditary position as the Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, and then assumed the leadership of the Zulu Territorial Authority first and later the KwaZulu Government, at the request and insistence of ANC leaders. He had been present when the then President of the ANC, Chief Albert Lutuli, and Mr Oliver Tambo, sent a message to my sister, Princess Morgina Dotwana, to ask her to convey to me that I must take over the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Zulu Territorial Authority, and later the KwaZulu Government. The top leadership of the ANC, including President Mandela and our present President, President Mbeki, were present when Mr Nsibande made that statement of fact and no one contradicted him. I was asked to take over these apartheid-created structures, as a committed leader to the cause of liberation because we could use them to undermine the system from within, which is what I did.

In spite of the enormous hostility against me and my Party and the fact that our views were virtually ignored during the negotiation process, I participated in the electoral process and I served for five years in the Government of National Unity under President Nelson Mandela. I did so because I knew that there was no alternative to reconciliation and that in the end only we, the leaders of the country, were responsible for bringing about truth and reconciliation. In fact, since 1991, I have been pleading with President Mandela that we hold joint rallies in violence-torn areas to reconcile our people and bring truth and reconciliation directly to them. President Mandela agreed to one of such rallies to be held in Taylor's Halt in Pietermaritzburg, but was prevented from going through with it by the local ANC leadership.

It took eight years before the leader of the IFP and the leader of the ANC could stand together on one podium to speak together to those who had been divided by violence. President Thabo Mbeki and I did so when we addressed our respective constituencies during the unveiling of a monument to the victims of violence in Thokoza in October 1999, which was one of the centres of the low intensity civil war which divided the IFP and the ANC. For me, the most touching aspect of that ceremony was that, from the podium, I could not distinguish my supporters from ANC supporters. Also on that occasion, truth fostered reconciliation, for President Thabo Mbeki volunteered the statement that all those who for many years referred to me as a sell-out or a leader in any way less committed to the cause for liberation, were wrong and were deeply ignorant of the true facts of the matter.

This history shows that in our context, the responsibility for truth lies with leaders. We have tried to respond to this call. Soon after the 1994 elections, discussions about reconciliation began within the KwaZulu Natal provincial government and 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 now serving on the IFP's side are the Reverend KM Zondi, Premier LPHM Mtshali and Minister CJ Mtetwa, and the three members on the ANC side are His Excellency Deputy President Jacob Zuma; Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, the Secretary-General of the ANC; and Mr Mendi Msimang, the former South African High Commissioner in London, and now Treasurer-General of the ANC. In the past three years this Committee has facilitated the resolution of many crises, some of which could have been explosive. In this Province of KwaZulu Natal, a KwaZulu Natal Peace Committee was set up about three years ago as the brain-child of His Excellency Deputy President Jacob Zuma, and His Excellency the present South African Ambassador to Egypt, Dr Frank Mdlalose, who was then the Premier of this Province.

The presence of this political structure between the IFP and the ANC has avoided many crises, as I have just mentioned. Among them I must mention the persistent and blatant breach of the solemn promises contained in the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace calling for international mediation to settle outstanding constitutional matters and the recognition of our Kingdom. I must also mention the violence in Richmond from the reign of the late Harry Gwala to the assassination of Sifiso Nkabinde. This committee was also conducive to the preparations of the historical gesture made by President Mbeki when he attended and addressed the IFP's Annual General Conference in July 1998.

President Mbeki further offered me the position of Deputy President of South Africa on the 8th of June 1999, after our last general election. It was unfortunate that I could not accept it because of certain obstacles. However, President Mbeki's determination to achieve reconciliation and peace still prompted him to offer me the position of Minister of Home Affairs in his Cabinet. This is significant in that after the first democratic election in 1994, I served in the Government of National Unity because I was entitled to do so in terms of the then interim Constitution. The Government of National Unity is not provided for in the final Constitution of South Africa. But President Mbeki, like me, feels that there are wounds that we still have to heal between the ANC and the IFP, and he has insisted that we should continue to work together to address the needs of the people.

On this basis, the co-operation between our two parties was able to continue after the termination of the Government of National Unity. We recognised that the co-operation between our parties at national level remains a condition of continuing stability and fosters the process of reconciliation, while enriching the range of policy perspectives contributing to the good governance of the country. We believe that our country is governed better not only because the IFP and the ANC are still striving to find reconciliation, but also because our different views and policies both contribute to achieving the goals we share, and to serving our common constituency.

However, I must openly say that our co-operation has not been without difficulties. Difficulties continue and persist. IFP leaders and supporters have been assassinated in the past six years, as also have some ANC leaders. Violence against our people and supporters has continued and arms have been supplied to this end. There is a perception in my Party that organs of the State have been manipulated and interfered with for political purposes. It would be a terrible mistake for anyone to consider that the reconciliation process is complete. Tensions on the ground still run very high. There have been death threats received this very week by some of our prominent leaders in this Province. The country is far from being stable or having been stabilised. It would be a mistake to believe that we can frame discussions about an African Renaissance on the assumption that conflicts are now entirely behind us. They are not. We are all determined to eliminate them, which does not mean that they have vanished.

We cannot ignore the tensions at grassroots level, nor the problems and potential conflicts which we constantly encounter in the national Cabinet and in Parliament, as well as in the coalition government of KwaZulu Natal. The coalition government in this Province is operating with a much lesser spirit of reconciliation than that which the IFP and the ANC constantly practice at national level. The provincial legislature of KwaZulu Natal has often been the theatre of displays of confrontation, lack of co-operation and opposition, which the IFP at national level has never displayed. The IFP has adjusted its Cabinet and parliamentary conduct to pursue reconciliation and its efforts in this respect have not yet been matched in KwaZulu Natal. It is our responsibility to continue to design efforts, procedures and venues in which these conflicts can be acknowledged and resolved through efforts based on truth and a spirit of reconciliation.

Many issues still remain outstanding from the conflicts of the past. Amongst them, the need to give amnesty to all those who were drawn into the black-on-black conflicts ranks high on the agenda. It is absurd that amnesty has been received by those engaged in the black-on-white and white-on-black conflicts through a mechanism which was adequate to deal with that issue, namely the TRC. And yet because of the TRC's shortcomings, amnesty still remains unavailable for those who were drawn into the black-on-black conflict. The basis for a genuine African Renaissance can only be found in genuine truth and genuine reconciliation. This basis cannot be achieved overnight and leaders must continue to commit themselves to building peace and reconciliation whenever and however possible. We have not crossed the bridge yet and we have great difficulties to overcome.

As I stated at the outset, the resolution of conflicts is a condition for our renaissance but by itself, it is not what makes a renaissance. The notion of an African Renaissance is one of those exceptional ideas which from time to time springs from the minds of revolutionaries and leaders. This idea needs to be translated into the thoughts, actions and transformation of our communities. We are at the stage in which we need to give texture and credence to this idea by identifying its parameters and the direction of the transformation which it intends to command. I subscribe to the notion of a renaissance and did so long before it was in vogue. And I subscribe to the fact that the transformation it produces must have specifically African characteristics and features. A renaissance is a powerful stride forward which projects our aspirations into a future of economic prosperity and social stability. A renaissance is characterised by a new paradigm in which the knowledge of the past is overcome by enlightenment and progress.

In order to give texture and credence to the notion of a renaissance we must focus on how we can educate and train large segments of our population who still suffer under the plight of ignorance for lack of education, exposure and knowledge. There cannot be any renaissance for as long as ignorance, superstition and bigotry lie heavy on the minds of people. We must free the minds and the souls of our people through knowledge and information, and broaden their horizons by bringing them into the mainstream of a consolidated society in which job opportunities become more available to all. We must create a national alliance for development and enlightenment among all South Africans. We must have the goodwill to do it. We need a revolution of goodwill. The whole of South Africa needs a renaissance. Even those segments of our community who were once isolated by apartheid in their affluence need the benefit of a renaissance. The old South Africa was old indeed, even for the white community, some of which needs to be freed from the persistent oppressive features of an inward and narrow looking colonial perspective. Renaissance is about changing the paradigm of an inward and backward-looking, fragmented and divided society, into an outward and forward-looking cosmopolitan world.

For this reason, it is necessary that we build a political environment in this country which sends throughout all building blocks of our society the clear message that the whole of South Africa wishes to be transformed into something better, more progressive, more tolerant and more open. I am concerned by certain tones and undertones of the present political debate which tend to create political divisions across racial lines. We simply cannot afford any segment of our population to be isolated from the contribution that it can and must make to transform the whole of South Africa, while transforming itself. A revolution of goodwill must call on everyone. There cannot be an African Renaissance without all South Africans accepting the need to walk together on the path of transformation and social development.

Only a common future can redeem our past of divisions and conflicts. We must subscribe to a long-term vision in which we can all find a rewarding stake. We must achieve the unity of all South Africans by putting on the table a credible plan which highlights how, in the not-too-distant future, we can uplift the human conditions of the poorest of the poor through education, training and employment, and we can bring about generalised and equally distributed economic prosperity and social stability. If we fail the challenge to promote development and economic growth, the renaissance we aspire to will simply not come to pass and the reconciliation we have brought about through our efforts will be in great jeopardy. Economic growth should be our primary focus. We must grow the economy at all costs, with the efforts and contribution of all the people of goodwill.

I remain committed to continuing this struggle. I entered the struggle more than half a century ago and I have dedicated my entire life to it. For me, the struggle has never been about political liberation alone. The final objective of the struggle is economic prosperity and social stability and to this end, I continue to dedicate the rest of my life and all my efforts. To this end, I subscribe to the notion of an African Renaissance.

I thank you.

 

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