Reader’s letter: The story behind the myth of Buthelezi


Fanie Cronje writes:

With the death of Mangosuthu “Gatsha” Buthelezi, many opinions about him are now emerging. Among the most ridiculous are the names “murderer” and “apartheid supporter”. It mainly comes from the Free Weekly until the Sowetan and City Press.

In this connection, Mondli mentions Makhanya from City Press him “a thoroughly evil man” and the Inkatha Freedom Party describes him as a “man of his word who always acted conciliatory”. The former reckons the epitaph on his tombstone should read “chief apartheid collaborator and mass murderer“.

Around his alleged share in the Inkatha “warlord”-war against the ANC I am not going to say much, except to confirm that the “war” in the early nineties two had involved parties.

The other part of this terrible chapter in our recent history, which is not told, is the role played by bloodthirsty ANC warlords such as Harry Gwala, ANC leader in the Natal Midlands, and Sifiso Nkabinde, his accomplice in Richmond. Both got senior ANC positions after 1994.

The TRC found Gwala, today still a great ANC hero, “functioned as a self-styled ANC warlord”, while Nkabinde later admitted in a debate in the provincial legislature in KwaZulu-Natal that he was an ANC warlord, but insisted that he was only protecting his people.

But back to the allegation that Buthelezi was an “apartheid conspirator”. In the 1970s, the ANC wooed Buthelezi and Inkatha, mainly to publicly declare ANC ties. Buthelezi never wanted to bite, mainly because of the strategy he did present to the ANC. His position was consistent that there must also be someone in the system to wage the “fight for freedom” on all fronts.

Inkatha and Buthelezi were that inside figure. It is not known whether the ANC actually advocated the policy officially on a secret level, but the fact that criticism against Buthelezi was of relatively low intensity supports the suspicion that the ANC at least understood and tolerated this school of thought.

(Buthelezi was also formerly a member of the ANC, before he founded Inkatha. The question is whether the foundation was not precisely an ANC strategy.).

Buthelezi also continuously refused for KwaZulu-Natal (then Natal) to accept independence, like the TBVC states (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei). If the National Party government could indeed succeed in persuading Buthelezi and Inkatha, it would decisively improve the chance of success for the policy of separate development.

Then Buthelezi and Inkatha also did not get actively involved in the South African Federal Union (Safu) initiative of other “homeland leaders” – especially Cedric Phatudi van Lebowa and prof. Hudson Ntshanwisi of Gazankulu, who was supposed to serve as a counter-offensive for the UDF – didn’t. The non-involvement of Natal as well as the lukewarm reaction of the NP government also caused the (retrospectively promising) initiative to die a quick death.

The outrageous criticism against Buthelezi as an accomplice of “apartheid” is inappropriate and grossly exaggerated. One can only be amazed at such ignorant journalism that tries to drive the narrative.