Letter to Editor: Response from the IFP to Ranjeni Munusamy

By Daily Maverick Staff Reporter 25 February 2015

Earlier this month, Ranjeni Munusamy wrote an article in which she argued that there had been a distorting of history in the representation of Apartheid’s heroes, among them Mangosuthu Buthelezi and FW de Klerk. Here, the IFP responds in a letter to the editor. In the interests of robust debate, we reprint the letter in full. By Mzamo Buthelezi, IFP Deputy President.

Earlier this month, self-proclaimed witch and spin-doctor Ranjeni Munusamy penned a poisoned article titled ‘History, Distorted: Forgiving and Airbrushing Apartheid’s Protagonists’ (Daily Maverick, 4 February 2015).

In it she dedicated a substantial rant to IFP leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, not so subtly challenging him to write a response or pursue a defamation suit. Clearly she hoped for the latter, noting that Buthelezi “has several successful defamation suits under his belt”.

Apparently Munusamy hopes to make a name for herself by attacking a respected public figure. It’s an old trick employed by those who crave the spotlight but have no skills, means or worth to achieve it.

Buthelezi may well pursue a defamation suit, for the lies, insults and absurdities published by Munusamy would provoke even the most forgiving man. But, whatever transpires, what she has written demands to be countered with the truth. For the sake of enlightening those under the weight of Munusamy’s propaganda, I will set out the facts.

What Munusamy calls “his version of history” is history according to the facts on record. Indeed, “he was encouraged by the ANC to establish Inkatha inside the country to oppose the Apartheid regime” (my emphasis). When Buthelezi visited President Kenneth Kaunda to thank him for giving sanctuary to our country’s exiles, President Kaunda advised him to form a membership based organisation to reignite political mobilisation in the hiatus following the banning of the ANC and other liberation organisations.

When Buthelezi returned to South Africa, he canvassed the views of his mentor, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, and Mr Oliver Tambo, the leader of the ANC’s mission-in-exile, and they agreed. Thus, on 21 March 1975, Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe was born. It quickly became a home for the disenfranchised and oppressed.

Again, it is a fact that “he then became one of the foremost liberation fighters”. No one in South Africa held more rallies under the banner “Free Mandela” than Buthelezi. He challenged leaders of the National Party at every turn and derailed the grand scheme of Apartheid to balkanise South Africa by refusing to accept nominal independence for KwaZulu. Thus KwaZulu never became a “Bantustan”.

His relationship with Nelson Mandela is well-documented, even in letters published by Mandela himself. They were old family friends long before their political association, as Mandela often visited Buthelezi’s father-in-law at Wenela Compound in Eloff Street Extension. Based on this family connection, Mandela wound up Buthelezi’s father-in-law’s estate.

Buthelezi’s “contribution… as a minister in Mandela’s Cabinet” is also a matter of historical record. Under his leadership as Minister, the Department undertook the full transformation of legislation and policy on migration, and issued identity documents for the first time to every South African. Under this leadership, the van Zyl Slabbert Commission investigated electoral reform to make elected representatives more accountable to the people. Under his leadership, anti-retrovirals were rolled out across KwaZulu Natal, and national government was forced to follow suit, in one of our country’s greatest victories against HIV/Aids.

These things are not Buthelezi’s “version” of history. They are just facts.

It is malicious and disingenuous to say that Buthelezi will never speak about “his tin-pot dictatorship” or “how he presided over a civil war” or “the covert training Inkatha members received”. That is like accusing Gandhi of never talking about his hate-speech, or Mother Theresa of staying silent on her snobbishness. Why would they talk about things that didn’t happen?

By definition, a “tin-pot dictator” is an autocratic ruler with little political credibility, but with self-delusions of grandeur. “Tin-pot” describes something that is of low quality, has a poor reputation or is unknown altogether, or has an insignificant history; something inferior, worthless or unimportant. Yet Buthelezi’s credibility as a political leader has always been accepted, whether by African Heads of State who warmly welcomed him, or by Prime Ministers Thatcher, Andreotti and Chirac, Chancellor Kohl and Presidents Carter and Reagan, who all received and honoured him.

The Times of London dedicated an editorial to Buthelezi for advocating in the seventies then uncommon economic principles, which are now common wisdom. The New York Times applauded him for promoting nature conservation in Africa when being concerned about the environment was often considered as a sign of not being serious.

Among many international and national awards, Buthelezi received the George Meaney Human Rights Award right after Polish Lec Walesa, which places him among an elite that promoted trade unionism and workers’ rights. He also received the first United States ACU’s Courage-Under-Fire Award for his role in the liberation struggle.

These are not the kind of awards and attention given to “tin-pot” individuals.

Buthelezi cannot be accused of skirting any issues. Looking at the record of his speeches it is patently untrue that he never speaks about his leadership of KwaZulu, or about the People’s War that engulfed KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, claiming some 20,000 black lives.

It is equally untrue that he never speaks about Operation Marion or the Caprivi Strip. He has spoken freely about the 18-month-long High Court trial over Operation Marion that ended in acquittal when the court, in its own words, could find “no convincing evidence that the SADF had authorised the KwaMakhuthu attack or that the Caprivi training had intended to equip Inkatha to carry out unlawful killings.”

Buthelezi’s battle to prevent the TRC Report from making unfounded allegations should not be reduced to an attempt to silence the TRC. There is a popular misconception that the IFP refused to participate in the TRC process. On the contrary, we made a comprehensive 700 page submission, detailing the murders of more than 400 IFP leaders and office bearers who were killed in a systematic plan of assassination during the internecine low intensity civil war waged by the ANC against other components of the liberation struggle.

Yet the TRC failed to pose the question of who killed these individuals and never held any public hearing on the matter. This was one of the main complaints in the action Buthelezi lodged with the Public Protector against the TRC. To date, none of those murders has been solved. And, in a now familiar display of disregard for the Public Protector, the TRC failed to provide a response when instructed to do so by the Public Protector.

Buthelezi did appear before the TRC, but was not prepared to ask for amnesty, for he had done nothing wrong. He publicly stated that if he had committed any crime or had orchestrated any criminal acts, the State should charge him. When it comes to those political leaders (including half the ANC Cabinet) who did seek amnesty, the TRC process ensured that we will never know the details of the criminal acts for which amnesty was sought.

Not surprisingly, the family of Mr Steve Biko described the TRC as “a vehicle for political expediency”.

Buthelezi was a Minister in President Mandela’s Cabinet when Mandela announced his decision to appoint Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Chairperson of the TRC. Cabinet records will show that Buthelezi objected even then, for the success and the credibility of the TRC depended on non-partisan leadership. Archbishop Tutu was aligned with the ANC and was a former patron of the UDF. How could the IFP expect fairness in the TRC process?

The failings of the TRC have been comprehensively explained by the late Honourable Dr Oriani-Ambrosini MP, as follows –

Given the immunity granted to applicants and witnesses, the lack of cross-examination and independent or adversarial verification of evidence, and the lack of rules of evidence, it was clear from the outset that whatever the Commission was presented with, it had to accept. On top of this, the law completely exempted any statement made by the TRC within the exercise of its functions from the law of defamation. Simply put, this gave the TRC the legal latitude to fervently lie if it wished to do so.

Buthelezi’s Party’s request that amnesty be handled by the judiciary rather than by the TRC was in line with past practice. The judiciary had the structures and expertise to handle a large number of applications and process them on an objective basis. There would also be no incentive for the applicants to lie about political purposes and political agendas…”

In the end, the TRC could not find one shred of evidence to link Buthelezi, personally, to human rights’ violations. That is because he never once committed, ordered, ratified, sanctioned or condoned any violation of human rights. Nevertheless, the TRC sought to implicate him regardless. He was thus forced to bring a lawsuit to rectify the preposterous findings in the TRC Report.

Before the lawsuit was over, the TRC closed its doors, publishing its draft report as its final report. In settlement with Buthelezi, to avoid a protracted legal battle that would be difficult for the Department of Justice to conduct considering the poor record keeping of the TRC, it was agreed that Buthelezi could “put his side of the story” in the final chapter. When Buthelezi submitted his document, however, they reneged on the deal, heavily editing and censoring the views of Buthelezi and the IFP. Thus what is contained in the TRC report, even from Buthelezi’s own hand, is effectively re-written and censored.

Munusamy, like the ANC, would have us believe that the black-on-black conflict was not a product of ANC strategies and was independent of ANC leadership directives and approval. Yet history records copious ANC propaganda literature in which they identified the IFP as the major target of their military action and called on their people and structures to target Inkatha.

It is absurd to say that “the signing of a peace deal between the ANC and IFP” allowed Buthelezi “to revise his legacy and expunge his dastardly deeds from public consciousness”. Clearly Munusamy has no idea what the Agreement was about.

The Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace was signed at the Union Buildings by President de Klerk, Mandela and Buthelezi just days before the 1994 elections, and set out the conditions under which the IFP would participate in those elections.

We had withdrawn our participation when it became clear, during negotiations, that some of the critical issues raised by the IFP were not going to be dealt with. We did not feel we could continue in an atmosphere of bad faith, where those at the negotiating table refused to consider the form of state, whether unitary or federal, and refused to recognise the Zulu Monarch or Kingdom.

When international mediation collapsed, because the ANC and the National Party Government suddenly rejected its terms of reference and refused to allow mediators to redraft the Interim Constitution, the ANC and NP agreed that henceforth, consensus between the two of them could be considered “sufficient consensus”.

At that point, the IFP withdrew its participation from the elections.

The Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace allowed us to return, for it promised that the international mediation process would resume “immediately after the elections” of 27 April 1994 to settle the outstanding issues raised by the IFP and KwaZulu Government in respect of the Interim Constitution. It also agreed that the provincial constitution of KwaZulu Natal would be written “as soon as possible” after the election and would address the issue relating to the “Kingdom” of KwaZulu.

Despite many requests, protests, parliamentary and public debates and outrage, the ANC and NP defaulted on their respective leader’s solemn promise that the international mediation effort would resume. It never took place.

Moreover, the adoption of a provincial constitution for KwaZulu Natal was unduly delayed and most proposals relating to the actual recognition and entrenchment of the Zulu monarchy and the entire system of traditional leadership set out thereunder were rejected. In a final volte-face, the ANC opposed the certification of the provincial constitution before the Constitutional Court, preventing the constitution from coming into effect. Shortly thereafter, the final Constitution reduced the scope of provincial constitution-making.

That is the real story of the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace.

Munusamy claims that the ANC indulged Buthelezi in order to neutralise him. What hogwash. Buthelezi did not become a Cabinet Minister through the magnanimity of the ANC. In terms of the Interim Constitution, any party that received more than 10% of the vote would secure seats in Cabinet. With more than two million votes, the IFP won its positions in the Government of National Unity.

The ANC was not trying to “neutralise” him. Their stated goal for almost two decades was to destroy him. In the words of former President Mandela, “We used every ammunition to destroy Buthelezi, and we failed. He is still there. He is a formidable survivor whom we cannot ignore.”

Democracy did not see Buthelezi metamorphose, as Munusamy claims, into “a meek, wily” political leader. He had been a politically astute leader for decades, and had championed peace even through the fire and thunder of a People’s War. His character never changed. His contribution in Parliament is recorded in Hansard and documented in the public debate. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said to bring “shame to our hard-fought democracy”. He has been applauded by presidents and citizens alike for his bold leadership in the National Assembly.

Munusamy argues, quite pathetically, that “people have learnt to humour” Buthelezi “in his reformed character as a respected elder leader”. Her evidence? That there is a highway named after him in Umlazi and a university of technology now bears his name.

Yet the Mangosuthu Highway was named several decades ago by the Township Council of Umlazi in recognition of the major contribution to the area by Buthelezi and the KwaZulu Government. Prior to that, it was simply labelled “Spinal Road”, a descriptive term used by engineers. It was not named Mangosuthu Highway at the request of Buthelezi, but at the request of the community of Umlazi. In matters such as this, the will of the people is paramount.

As Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government, Buthelezi engaged in fundraising efforts to build houses, shopping malls, schools and other facilities, including the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital and the Mangosuthu University of Technology. The community sought to honour his efforts.

While Buthelezi served as Chancellor of the University of Zululand, a post he held for 22 years, he raised the need with Mr Harry Oppenheimer for a technikon that could equip oppressed young South Africans with vocational skills. He wanted to see young people able to take up jobs and create jobs, becoming entrepreneurs and giving their contribution to our society and our liberation. Mr Oppenheimer immediately grasped the vision and offered to fund the creation of the Mangosuthu Technikon, which now, many years later, has become the Mangosuthu University of Technology.

Finally, I must challenge Munusamy on her statement that “The vitriol directed at FW de Klerk has yet to be chanced on Buthelezi” because “people are just scared of him”. From the opening salvo of the ANC’s vilification campaign against Buthelezi in 1980, to the calls on Radio Freedom for his assassination, to the rubbish said about him in the media for almost four decades, Buthelezi has suffered more vitriol than most could withstand.

Yet he emerges, not bitter and vindictive, but determined to keep fighting for the good of his country, no matter the personal cost. He is an elder statesman, whatever fools and bigots write. With all the poisoned lies Munusamy has spilled, I count her chief among the bigots and fools. DM

Photo: Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi greets his supporters, 21 April 1994, at an election rally, at Nseleni (Reuters)

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