This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
03 Oct 1995: Buthelezi, Mangosuthu
POM. Dr Buthelezi, let me begin with a background statement. I have now been interviewing you since 1990. Our bargain at that time was that I would not publish anything until 1998. I have now gone back to my publishers and said that I don't want to publish anything until the transitional government is over, that is ten years, so nothing will be published until the year 2000. A lot has been said in the last number of months about the direction in which Natal/KwaZulu is going and whether it has moved from wanting federalism to autonomy to self-determination.
MB. I don't think we have ever moved, we have never changed our position. I am not aware that we have moved at all. We have always believed in a classical federation but we have always believed that if our people don't want that we, in KwaZulu/Natal, would like to have a federal relationship with the rest of the country and that's where we stand even.
POM. Do you think that your position is being unfairly portrayed in the media when they put on headlines like "IFP lays down gauntlet to Mandela", which was in The Star yesterday?
MB. I think if you are going to be dealing with what the media says then you are not going to get ...
POM. The white media.
MB. Then I believe that really we are not going to make much progress because by its nature the media has its own agenda, some of them are controlled by the ANC and Mr O'Reilly who owns these papers is a friend of Mr Mandela and therefore they are bound to distort whatever we say. There is not a single time, I mean if you look at everything that I have done, if you look from right back from the time of the Buthelezi Commission in 1980 and then you go further and see 1986 the creation of the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba, I have always been consistent, that's the route I've always followed. I first spoke about federation in 1974, I think at the University of Cape Town where I delivered the Henley Memorial Lecture. So I really don't think, because we have never used the word secession, and I don't see why the press and whites generally want to speak for us. I think the whites are so used to speaking for black people that they would like to put things into our mouths because for generations they have done that. If we want to secede we will say so ourselves, we won't need spokespersons to tell us that.
POM. So how would you see the way the press has interpreted the Shaka Day celebrations?
MB. You were present you have said.
POM. Yes, I was present.
MB. But you have got to understand, if I'm going to give you that really I think it's a waste of my time. It's better to ask me about my views and so on, but to be answering the press, really I don't know whether it will get us to ...
POM. Well, your views. What are the outstanding differences between KwaZulu/Natal ...?
MB. From the very beginning of CODESA, from the very word go when CODESA was set up, the Statement of Intent did not provide for any federal formula and that is the reason why Dr Frank Mdlalose, who is now our Premier in KwaZulu/Natal, would not sign the Statement of Intent. And that is right through, there isn't a problem. CODESA 2 aborted on the basis of this issue of federation. At that point the National Party changed their spokespersons. Dr Tertius Delport was the spokesperson but since he was on the same wavelength with us he was removed and Mr Meyer was put in his place. So as far as I am concerned nothing has changed from our point of view, we haven't chopped and changed. It's not part of my nature to chop and change and in fact most of my following, especially amongst whites and others, is always based on the fact that many people of my followers say that I don't chop and change, that I've always said the same thing. I'm not a chameleon.
POM. I came across a book that was published in 1979 by Dr Shirley Dean, published by Oxford University Press and you wrote the preface to the book and there was a portrait of you in it, and you said in your preface that besides it being a great joy to be asked to write the preface for such an important book, you said she was told that a black Who's Who was divisive and that it perpetuated separation or apartheid, that this was far from the truth, that the people of South Africa have policies of the present government is the heritage of the whole South African way of life starting from the days of slavery to the colonial days on to the segregational policy of the previous white minority, racist regimes, up to the present era of apartheid. What I'm interested in is that you were so, I won't say outrageously, you were magnificently anti-apartheid, you were the person who stood in the gap.
MB. Am I pro-apartheid now? What do you imply? Do you now imply that I am now pro-apartheid?
POM. No, the very opposite. It is why do elements in the white media and the ANC attempt to portray you as being somebody who was a puppet of the apartheid government when for years you were the only person who stood between the black community and its aspirations?
MB. Isn't that a question to be answered by them really, because I really can't say what motivates them to do that. I don't know. They can account for that, because I cannot know what motivates them to do that because in the first place Mr Mandela, in fact Mr Mandela and I were friends for more than 40 years and I would also say that I was instrumental to his release. Mr de Klerk himself in parliament, as you remember, actually acknowledged that I was one of the people who helped him to reach the point of releasing him because I made his release non-negotiable. I said he should be released before we have any talk about the future of this country.
POM. You are described in the article, this I like, it says that you are open, warm, demonstrative yet almost entirely a secret. The woman who edited the book in which you wrote the preface in describing you said, "Dr Buthelezi is a prolific reader, speed reads 300 page books within a few hours mentally storing relevant points with almost perfect recall. How does he do it? It's his disciplined Zen-like mind, a friend postulates. Subtlety is characteristic, open, warm, demonstrative, yet almost an entirely secret - " How would you comment on that?
MB. It's his opinion again. Why should I comment about what other people say about me?
POM. I know, but we've gone through this a number of times and I am trying to get to know you and part of getting to know you is part of what you think about yourself. When I saw you at Shaka Day it was an entirely different Dr Buthelezi that I saw.
MB. In what way?
POM. Because you ...
MB. Because I was wearing traditional dress?
POM. No, because you were open, smiling, you were dancing with your people, you were mingling with your people.
MB. Are you implying that I am always morose in all the times we have talked together?
POM. No, I'm not implying anything.
MB. If you say I'm different I don't ...
POM. You know what I mean. Do you accept that you have different moods?
MB. Is that a mood? Surely if I'm celebrating and talking about the history of my people it's not the same as talking to a purely political rally, it has nothing to do with politics. In talking to friends it's not the same as talking in a rally.
POM. But when you were talking at those rallies, because I went to both Stanger and Umlazi, the issue of self-determination for the Zulu people was mentioned.
MB. It was organised by the United Nations. United Nations recognises self-determination for people throughout the world.
POM. So how do you interpret that? Some people would interpret that as a bid for an independent KwaZulu state.
MB. I'm not responsible for morbid mindlessness, for those who want to denigrate me.
POM. No, no, but I'm asking, what do you mean by self-determination of the Zulus?
MB. What do you mean, what do I mean? I mean what those words mean. I have just said that the United Nations recognises self-determination of any people and no-one in South Africa has ever taken issue with me with self-determination for that reason, that even the United Nations recognises that. The Zulu people are a nation as you know, but history has made us South Africans, so within that we say we want to retain our self-determination in the area where we are, but we have a federal relationship with the rest of the country. I can't add anything to that.
POM. When you talk about the Zulu nation, when you think of yourself ...
MB. Yes, we have got a king. There is no other king who is like that in South Africa. Even the present constitution, I mean he is the head of the state, he's not just a cultural leader.
POM. Yet again in not just the media but in political circles they constantly talk of the divisions between you and King Zwelithini.
MB. How does this come into this? How does it come into this, that? I'm just talking about the facts of the matter that we have got a king. To say that in the media and political circles, there is a division between us, how does it come into the issues? As far as I am concerned we should talk about issues. That's what I believe in, I've not changed.
POM. Again I'm going back, do you think the media have a particular kind of vendetta against you, that they misinterpret what you say?
MB. I don't know. You are an academic and intellectual, what do you think yourself?
POM. I know what I think, I'm asking you what you think.
MB. No I'm not prepared to do this, because it's quite clear what they are doing and why they do it and I've just explained to you that who owns those papers and who is the person who owns them.
POM. So the issues are, as you enter there is a Constitutional Assembly taking place which you are not participating in as a party? That's number one. And that's because of the question of international negotiation that was supposed to be pre-negotiated on at Kempton Park. Would you budge from that position unless ...?
MB. Why should I budge? I'm not a chameleon, I've told you. I honour agreements, I'm a man of honour and I honour agreements and I think that all men of honour throughout the world honour their agreements. And I don't see then why I should buy from that honourable position of respecting what I have signed.
POM. So if the ANC and the NP don't budge from their positions, this is simply they won't enter into international negotiation, do you adhere to your position that in that case ...?
MB. I will do whatever my people say I must do. I am a constituency leader, I've got a constituency, it's visible and I don't dictate to them, I don't pre-determine what my people should think at any particular time, but what my constituency tells me is what I will do at the time.
POM. But Dr Buthelezi, one of the most striking statements you have made, I heard you make it twice, both at Stanger and Umlazi, was that you had a particular mission in life and that mission was to lead the Zulu people to self-determination?
MB. And what of it then? What of that?
POM. Many different people interpret that in many different ways.
MB. They can interpret it a hundred times if they like, I don't care. I have told you what my mission is and how consistent I have been. I have told you that I spoke about federation in the seventies when it was fashionable, it was not the politically correct thing to say to talk about a federation in black politics. I adhere to that, that's my mission. The interpretation is your interpretation and those you refer to. It's your business, I'm not going to get into that.
POM. I have no interpretations, I am only here to record you year after year. I think you ought to know that by now. I don't put interpretations on what you say.
MB. No but you speak about the interpretation of what I say when I have stated what I mean by those words and you are saying how consistently I have advocated the same thing consistently and concretely. I established the first multi-racial government in this country before apartheid was even abolished. The Joint Executive Authority of KwaZulu/Natal was the first multi-racial participation by people of all races in a government in South Africa at all, and that is my mission.
POM. I once asked you, was there anything you would die for and you said you would die for federalism.
MB. I would die for my people for reaching their destiny. I am prepared to die for that. And any person worth his salt would die for people reaching their destiny, which is true freedom, which we haven't got yet. There is no true freedom.
POM. That's the true freedom of the Zulu people?
MB. Of everybody. What is good for KwaZulu/Natal is good for everyone else in South Africa. You should know that there was a case even in the Western Cape where the court has thrown out some of the things that the President has done. In all my speeches I have said that what is good for KwaZulu/Natal is good for any other province.
POM. So, on the other hand KwaZulu/Natal is not quite ready for local elections on 1st November?
MB. It's not only KwaZulu/Natal that's not ready. The elections are staggered throughout South Africa, not only KwaZulu/Natal. Even in parts where the elections will take place there are parts where it won't take place because of the demarcations, because of the practicalities on the ground, not for any ideological reason.
POM. So is that not only in KwaZulu/Natal and the Western Cape but in other parts of the country as well?
MB. The decision was that it would be staggered. Where people are ready it will take place. Where people are not ready, wherever it is, it won't take place.
POM. Can I ask you a funny kind of question, and that is on the one hand you are a key minister in the government of national unity occupying one of the key positions as Minister of Home Affairs, and on the other you're the leader of a very powerful political party which has points of view which are very divergent from the dominant political party in that coalition. Do you have a problem in reconciling your role as a member of the Cabinet? Do you have a problem reconciling your role? Sorry, reconciling is the wrong word.
MB. I'm surprised, because I'm an opposition party I'm opposed to what the ANC stands for. It's not mysterious at all or secret.
POM. But at the same you occupy a key ministry.
MB. That I have not chosen. It was the constitution which was actually put together when my party was not even there at Kempton Park, that if any party gets a certain percentage it will be part of that government. So it's not a thing which I decided. It's not a thing which I'm comfortable with.
POM. But you were chosen to occupy one of these key ministries.
MB. But it is the constitution of the country which says, the constitution of the country says that any party that has more than 5% will have seats in the Cabinet. It's as simple as that. It's a forced coalition.
POM. To you it's an enforced coalition?
MB. It is a forced coalition I have discovered publicly many times like that.
POM. So do you see how you operate in Cabinet in any way different from the way you operate as the President of the IFP?
MB. I don't understand your question, with due respect.
POM. Let me put it this way. On the one hand you are a key minister in a government that believes in centralism, that has moved that agenda forward increasingly in recent weeks as we have seen after the rulings of the Constitutional Court, and on the other hand you are the leader of the most powerful political faction that is in opposition to the ANC particularly in KwaZulu/Natal which your party, under Dr Mdlalose as Premier, rules. Now do you find a difference between the role you must play as a national leader and as leader of your people?
MB. I am in opposition to the ANC. My party is an opposition party but because the constitution dictates that we have to work together like that during transition then in fact I asked my National Council whether I should because I was not even keen to do so. And they said that we should because the constitution says so and because they think it's good for us to go in and to fight for our rights where decisions are made.
POM. But one of the lovely things of being in Stanger and in Umlazi in the last couple of weeks, and forgive me, was besides seeing your smiling face and your dancing and you in tune with your people, is that you were very clear about the difference between what is national and what is good for the Zulu nation, and what the Zulu nation must do and how the Zulu nation must pursue its dreams, not it's dreams, its aspirations. Am I misinterpreting something?
MB. Of course you are, which I'm used to in fact.
POM. What am I misinterpreting?
MB. Exactly by that statement, because it's something, it's your thoughts of what you think I stand for. But I have spelled out to you, Prof. O'Malley, exactly what I have stood for for a long time consistently and constantly and which I stand for even now without any apologies even now.
POM. Well, I have been interviewing you now since 1990 I think, and I think you recognise the importance of the work I am trying to do which is to record over ten years the statements, thoughts, aspirations, deliberations of all the important players in South African politics. And I have felt that you don't get a fair shake, that the media mistreats you, that they are not fair to you. I have said that I will publish nothing until the year 2000 and God knows which of us will be around by that time and I am offering you a forum that will not be in the paper tomorrow morning but will not appear until the year 2000 about what you think about the way in which ...
MB. That's what I am trying to give you, if you put the questions I will do so, but if you are going to deal in perceptions and what people are doing really I find that boring to be honest.
POM. OK. Well then let's deal with the Covenant of Allegiance which says some powerful things. It says, "Give our kingdom a government which can effectively secure the welfare, progress and social and economic growth and upliftment of all the people living in the kingdom and the prosperity of our region. Rise as a nation which now embraces all the people living in our territory irrespective of colour. Resist with all democratic and peaceful means any dictatorial actions which encroach on our inalienable God-given freedoms and our right to self-determination." Could you elaborate on just that latter statement?
MB. No. That English is complicated for use. I really have no elaboration to make. I'm not prepared to.
MB. It's explicit enough.
POM. I would interpret that when people look for self-determination that they look for independence.
MB. Well that's your interpretation, but I have told you that we talk about autonomy.
POM. OK. So it's a little bit further than federation. It's autonomy within a federal system.
MB. It is autonomy in all classical federations. You know ... in Germany has got a certain amount of autonomy.
POM. Why do you find such opposition to your views from even the United States which is a federal system? Why do you find such opposition to your views on the way government should work from even democracies like the United States which relies heavily ...
MB. But it's a lie to say that. I have a lot of support in the United States. I mean, to say that the United States opposes me, I am not aware of it until now. I know that I have enemies and friends in the United States.
POM. But why, you say you won't deal in perceptions, but one of the key ingredients of politics is perceptions?
MB. But I'm not prepared - I speak very often and frankly what I believe in. I'm very blunt and so on. I don't want really to be dealing in perceptions.
POM. I have known that about you for many years and I value that about you, that you state exactly what you think and when you think a question is stupid you say, "I think the question is stupid because I have already answered it in one way or the other". I would like to come back to statements that you made to me that are in transcripts that I have provided to you, that what the ANC wanted to do was to establish a Xhosa speaking nation that would dominate the Zulu people.
MB. Where is this? Unless you put it in front of me I am not prepared to do this. Unless you put that - I have spoken about the ANC wanting to establish an autocracy, but this Xhosa, I don't know, I don't remember saying this. If you bring the transcript now and say there is the line then I can deal with it, because I don't recall saying that. But I have always said that the ANC are committed to establishing an autocracy in this country.
POM. A one-party state.
MB. A one-party state, because in fact most of them are socialists and those who have influence even now, I don't say the President, are members of the South African Communist Party which still believes in Marxism and that kind of pattern. I mean the USSR for a long time was the model for the ANC, it is well known, it's not my opinion, it's a fact.
POM. So when I interviewed King Zwelithini he would say much the same thing that you said, that the ANC was out to create a one-party state that would deny the diversity.
MB. But they are doing so now in fact. One doesn't need any elaboration to see that this is what they are doing even now, because they can't even adhere to the interim constitution which was their constitution. They don't even give the rationalised laws or even devolve the limited powers that are actually spelled out in the interim constitution. So it's not just a question of opinion, it's a fact that it is.
POM. Do you think they are kind of ram-roading legislation, constitutional amendments? There have been something like 16 constitutional amendments in 18 months. In the United States I think there have been 26 constitutional amendments in 250 years. Do you think the ANC is playing fast and loose with the constitution?
MB. Absolutely at this point.
POM. If it doesn't get it's way?
MB. This is my view completely.
POM. How do you change that?
MB. I don't understand the question.
POM. If they are playing fast and loose with the interim constitution and it's going to last until 1999 and there's a new constitution being drawn up in a Constitutional Assembly in which the IFP representing the province in the country with the most people are abstaining, how can they pass a constitution that is unacceptable to you?
MB. On the basis of majoritarianism. If they did it, the constitution, on the basis of majoritarianism they will do so. And if the National Party connives with them as they have been colluding with them, then they can pass it. But the question is whether the National Party is going to connive and collude with them, continue to do so shall I say, because the National Party say they also believe in the federal formula but their actions don't bear that out, and this is what we have said to them.
POM. At one point in time it used to be believed that there was a natural coalition between the NP and the IFP against the ANC and now you have this sunny situation of where you have the NP and the ANC who are bedfellows together.
MB. That was promoted by the press. There was no coalition between us and the National Party. I have been an opponent of apartheid for all my life, all my adult life I have been an opponent of apartheid. But at the beginning of the negotiations at Kempton Park I have already said that CODESA 2 was destroyed and it crumbled purely on the basis of the disagreements that the ANC had with us. At that time Tertius Delport represented the NP and Tertius Delport in fact was on the same side as ourselves on the federal issue. And then he was removed and Mr Meyer took over and then there was the Record of Understanding in 1992 which they signed in September of that year and from that time onwards everything was orchestrated between them. They still say they believe in a federation, they still say so. Mr de Klerk often says to me, "Why doesn't your party come back to the Constitutional Assembly because you are weakening the case of us federalists?" implying that because we are all federalists. He often says that, even in the presence of Mr Mandela he says it, he doesn't say it secretly.
POM. Do you have frank discussions with President Mandela?
POM. I don't know.
MB. I don't know. You mean such as when?
POM. Do you ever sit down together and say - you used to tell me about, and I've read it in history and seen it verified through documents I've looked at, that you were the person who said that you would not under any circumstances negotiate ...
MB. But I've just said it myself in this interview just now.
POM. But will he not sit down with you and say, let us talk about what our differences are and get them out of our system. Or are the animosities too deep?
MB. I don't think that if I was prepared to talk to the members of the apartheid regime that I would not be prepared to talk to Mr Mandela who is a black man like myself and who has been a friend for more than 40 years. That would never be my attitude. But whether he gives us such opportunities, that's an entirely different matter.
POM. Do you believe that he is in control of the policy of his party or that he is the symbolic figurehead who is the great reconciler but that it's people at a different level of government who actually ...
MB. I can only quote one example because the Cabinet is supposed to decide things on the basis of consensus, but in fact the decisions in the Cabinet are decided on the basis of majoritarianism, because very often I have disagreed right through the 16 months we have been together, in fact I have prepared memoranda in some cases disagreeing with some of the proposed legislation and so on and all that is said is that, well what the Minister of Home Affairs says must be noted, that's all, but we'll go ahead. That's how it operates.
POM. So in a certain way it's a sham.
MB. It's a sham. I agree.
POM. How long will you participate in a sham?
MB. It depends on my people. Again, we go back, if you don't understand that then you will be in trouble. You will keep on coming back to that.
POM. But you're the leader.
MB. I'm leader. As a democrat I do what my people want, even if I don't like it. I did not want to go into this government of national unity in the first place but in the discussion that took many hours the majority said that we should go into that. Unless I was a dictator I couldn't say, in spite of the majority view I saw we will not go there. But I have never operated like that.
POM. But you are the leader of your party.
MB. Which means what? Which means that I must dictate to them?
MB. I don't understand my leadership question.
POM. But you have vision for them which is spelled out in your Shaka Day statement of where you want them to go. They have to make many sacrifices.
MB. That's where they want to go to.
POM. "We have to make many sacrifices", didn't you say that?
MB. Yes, of course.
POM. And you were speaking to them as a leader.
MB. Yes, yes.
POM. To his people.
MB. Yes, but a party doesn't operate like that. There are organs, decision making organs of the party which decide for the party. Now I was talking there to the Zulu people that were there on a cultural occasion. But a party as a party operates differently from that because you decide your vote and so on.
POM. Going back to votes, on the one hand KwaZulu/Natal is not yet ready for local elections on the 1st November it seems.
MB. I have already said that not only KwaZulu/Natal. There are many parts of South Africa.
POM. There are many parts. On the other hand the IFP threatens to call a snap election in KwaZulu/Natal. How can it call a snap election if it's not ready for local elections?
MB. I wish you could read, perhaps we could fax you the decisions of the Council, because it's nonsense to say that we have called for a snap election. It's just utter nonsense to say we have called for a snap election because even physically it's not possible to have an election even tomorrow, even this year you can't have an election. Inasmuch as you can't even have a local government election this year I don't see how you can have a provincial election before the local government elections. It's all the misinterpretations that are given again by the press and I get bored to explain their misinterpretations.
POM. I know.
MB. Because that is an improper legal position.
POM. This is what I want to get by ...
MB. There is still an Electoral Law which is not there, so that means any election in the sense that is not the 1999 election, but it's not a snap election in that sense which they like to portray it as a snap election.
POM. Probably what I want to get back to is, again, headlines in the media, like today, yesterday, "IFP throws down gauntlet", "IFP self-determination".
MB. Why don't you ask the writers of those things?
POM. But I do, I do.
MB. Because I'm not interested in interpreting.
POM. What I'm interested in is how you interpret what they do, what are they up to?
MB. They have got their own campaign, you know what they are up to. You know what they called me before the elections. I think even the interview that we had last year they said I was a spoiler and so on, if I was not there everything would be fine. I mean yesterday there was a whole big article here in Pretoria saying, am I the new bogeyman? I don't know what that means. And it surprises me that when you talk about election, which is the measuring rod of democracy, that everybody should jump for joy if you talk about an election because that's the only thing that is decisive, that people should say that we are a spoiler if you hold an election, which is actually provided for even in the constitution. Then people say you are a spoiler, you're a bogeyman, and in fact even the election we picked up the gauntlet, but they say it's us who threw the gauntlet but it was Mr Zuma, in fact, in July who threw the gauntlet, who said that they wanted to deal with the IFP once and for all. But they had distortions of turning things around now in order to demonise us. I'm not going to be talking about that because it is quite clear what they do.
POM. I want you to do it a little bit because when I talk to people in the ANC they say the white controlled press are demonising the ANC, and they are saying we are a failure as a government, we achieve nothing, blacks can achieve nothing, that there was less corruption under white people, there was less this, less that, less the other, and the whole emphasis is on saying black people are incapable of governing themselves irrespective of whether they belong to the ANC or the IFP. When President Mandela said racism exists in the media, would you agree with him?
MB. I'm not an interpreter of Mr Mandela's statements. He has a right, just as I have a right, to say what I have said about the press. I don't want now to be the interpreter of Mr Mandela to say that I agree or disagree with him, because we are saying that in a different context.
POM. Do you think that the media are racist?
MB. There are a lot of racists amongst them. Some of them are not even conscious that they have been racist but there are some who are racists, but I wouldn't say everyone in the media is a racist.
POM. This famous incident that happened the other night, or when President Mandela and Deputy President de Klerk had their confrontation on the street on a red carpet outside a Mercedes when, as people say when President Mandela takes off his glasses be ready for the unexpected, it's when he departs from his prepared script. When he said that the level of crime was a legacy of apartheid, now to me that seems so obviously true that I don't have any problem with it at all. Why should Mr de Klerk get so upset about something that is so obviously true?
MB. I don't know whether Mr de Klerk was objecting because that statement is not true, because that statement has truth in it as you say. But I think that Mr de Klerk's objection, as I understood it, he was objecting to the appropriateness of the moment, whether a centenary dinner like that, a centenary function, was the right moment to be party political. I think that is what he objected to, but I don't think he was objecting to the truth of that. So that is debatable of course. One can say since they are politicians they should be prepared for that anyway, but of course that's a matter of opinion and choice whether in fact one says anything anywhere, any time.
POM. Where do you see yourself politically?
MB. What do you mean?
POM. Again, and forgive me for maybe not understanding, but on the one hand you are a key member of the government of national unity. Without you the government of national unity could not exist. That's a fact. On the other hand you have your politics in KwaZulu/Natal where you are looking for the maximum degree of devolution of powers to the provinces and fighting for that. You are abstaining from the Constituent Assembly.
MB. But you know the reason for that.
POM. I know, but what does that mean? Does that mean that when a constitution comes out of that body that you will accept it or that you will not accept it?
MB. My party has already said in a conference resolution that they will not accept the constitution.
POM. Of which you are not a part?
MB. Yes, that's what they have said.
POM. And meanwhile KwaZulu/Natal wants to pass it's own constitution.
MB. It's provided for in the constitution.
POM. And you have the right to do that?
MB. Yes. If there is no agreement then we could pass a vote of no confidence in the government and go for elections as provided for.
POM. When you look at the future of the country, what do you think after 18 months is the direction in which it is heading? Is it heading towards reconciliation and a democratic structure?
MB. I don't think so.
POM. You don't think so?
MB. No. I don't think it is heading for reconciliation at all because quite clearly I think that it's even - I even heard that some people were surprised when our President sent someone to Nigeria trying to help by intervening there because they said why doesn't he start at home between himself and Buthelezi? In the end I think that Mr Mandela, on the basis of majoritarianism, he thinks that they can do what they like and get away with it. I am sure they can do what they like but whether they will get away with it I don't know, or whether in fact it can stick, shall I put it like that, I don't know. Because a constitution is a fundamental law of any country and therefore it follows automatically that as many people in the country as possible should accept it and uphold it as such.
POM. So, no constitution without the consent of eight million Zulus can be a constitution that is accepted by the country?
MB. Well I'm not - that's how you phrase it, those are your words, I'm not prepared to have them put into my mouth.
POM. You're a brilliant man, let's agree on that, so you know what I am trying to say.
MB. Constitutions have been destroyed by either a disaffected majority or a disaffected minority. The reason why there has always been trouble, for instance, in Northern Ireland is precisely because of a disaffected minority.
POM. Is the biggest problem facing the country a constitutional problem or is it an economic problem?
MB. It's both. You see a certain culture was cultivated here deliberately in this country. You know during the struggle I think that even in some of our interviews that were done over the years I did say that the ANC set it out as its policy that they wanted to make the country ungovernable. They broadcast from Lusaka that they wanted to make townships ungovernable, so they developed that culture of ungovernability. So now the entitlement culture was established by them, they encouraged people not to pay their rents and for electricity, so now even if we come with the RDP, with Masakhane, that people must pay, but in fact people paid a little at the beginning of Masakhane, about 32% were paying but now they are not paying. But of course that was cultivated by them really. So I can't see, as you talk economically, how we can make it because I have not heard of any country in the world where people don't pay for services. Now at the same time the only hope that we had as a government is this RDP of trying to address the enormous inequities of the past, but actually if that, as is not happening, I don't see how else we can do so. And every day since you arrived you see on television eruptions all over the place, strikes and so on. That also was established by them. I'm not against people, of course, standing for what they want because I believe in that myself, but they have cultivated that. In fact it is the success of their teachings. I mean the idea that every ... on television this evening we will see some strikes, we will see people everywhere.
POM. When I went to the hospital this evening I couldn't get treatment.
MB. Just look at that, just look at that.
POM. This is very small.
MB. Yes, just look at that you see. I don't see how we make it up, to go back to your question, we make it up economically if we have a country where there is such chaos and where people in fact in spite of the fact that we have a very big international debt in this country, and in spite of the fact that about 90% of the budget goes to salaries for members of parliament, various parliaments, civil servants, nurses and others. This nurses' strike they have a good case but the point is that there is no money to pay them. When they go on strike, of course, especially illegal strikes, the economy is suffering. At the same time people who watch this, would-be investors, are discouraged. I remember talking once to Mr Mbeki, the Deputy President, he had been overseas in London, no, in fact someone had been to London and I was talking to him, and he was saying that some of the would-be investors were saying, "Why take the risk of investing here?" That's the key question. With all these things happening in the background I can't see how any entrepreneur in America or Europe would very eagerly take the risk or be keen to take the risk. So we are in trouble there. We are in trouble constitutionally as well with the constitution as it is. The ANC themselves, they are the ones who should really be more learned in these matters because if USSR could disintegrate like that, which was their model, I don't know how they think they can get away with forcing things down people's throats here and think they would last.
POM. So how do you think you can change people's attitudes if there's this culture of, you know, I haven't paid my housing bond, I haven't paid for electricity, I haven't paid for water for years, so the first benefit of liberation appears that I am told to pay up, that my standard of living is going down not up? Where is the, again, out of the government where is the kind of message that is being communicated to people that we simply can't do this? Or are you making a case where the IFP and the NP and other parties, the PAC, should be saying, we should become an effective opposition?
MB. Of course. Even in my party, even in the National Party there are people who say so. There are people in the IFP, there are people in the NP, I don't know how many in the NP but some NP members of parliament have expressed a strong feeling about us being just opposition parties and not bearing the blame of something for which we are really not responsible. We didn't promise people so many million houses but the ANC did promise them. They made a lot of extravagant promises which have not been fulfilled and which have no hope, they haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of being fulfilled in the near future.
POM. Why can't that be mobilised into effective opposition? The RDP is one of these great myths. I keep looking for where is the RDP?
POM. And I can't find it.
MB. No, it is true.
POM. It's like a public relations exercise.
MB. That's true. But you see everything is tied together because we have been talking about constitutional matters lightly, about the attitude of my party to federation and so on, but quite clearly the RDP itself cannot be implemented, it can't be delivered unless you have local government and you have subsidiarity recognised where people down there actually deliver to the people. They really interfere even with local government elections, they interfere with the traditional leaders. They say they won't recognise traditional leaders who are in fact in the rural areas, are the local authorities in the rural areas. They are the local authorities. And, of course, I think even some senior members of the ANC were talking to some of the traditional leaders who are members of the ANC and as you may have seen the report yesterday, there was a deadlock because they couldn't agree with them and they are very angry because on the 16th some of the traditional leaders who are ANC had a meeting with traditional leaders from KwaZulu/Natal and from all over South Africa where all of them are on the same wavelength. They say that they want to stand against being crushed by the central government and being made into mere ceremonial figures.
POM. Do you think that talent exists, this is what I find the contradiction, and, again, I'd like you to comment because it's my observation, it may be entirely wrong, is that many people say that the cream of the talent of the country went into central government and that provincial government levels were left with less talent.
MB. That may be true to a point, it's quite true to a point. Maybe it can be said of many parties but even more so for the ANC, of course, which got the majority of their leaders there. But I wouldn't say that the country as a whole is denuded of any talent at all merely because of that, but there is some truth in it, yes.
POM. But if you turn it around now and you go to local government, I haven't met any two people in this country at your level who can tell me how the local government voting system works.
MB. No in fact it's a mystery because even the voters' rolls have been - there are a lot of things which appear just inept, from ineptitude, more than ineptitude, whether it is just outright fraudulent things that are being done as we saw in the last election with people who were registered in different parts, even here in Gauteng and so on. They have a lot of complaints about the voters' rolls for instance so there is a lot of confusion, I agree with you, as far as how the voting is going to take place. There is a lot of confusion, of course, in the minds of mainly our black followers, our black members who, of course, were excluded in the past from participating in municipal elections and were participating for the first time. So there is a lot of confusion on the issues. You ask how it's going to work? It's still very worrying. But, of course, I think that we as South Africans also have a very queer habit of locking up ourselves into time frames because you remember even last year we had that agreement for mediation because we could not agree, because once they said the 27th was the date of the elections they went on to say that that date became then sacrosanct. So in the same way about November 1st, they decided on November 1st without taking into cognisance the fact that people were not prepared on the ground, there was still a lot to do, compilation of lists and so on, demarcation, but they made the 1st sacrosanct. So this country is going to suffer a lot of thing because of this habit of our leaders of always locking ourselves up into time frames.
POM. Is it the habit of black leaders or of black leaders who have inherited the way white leaders used to work?
MB. Yes, quite so, it's partly a legacy but it's partly how they are deciding things themselves, because after all even if others decided they still have their own brains, it doesn't exempt them. It is a legacy of the past, but it was their own ineptitude, I would say.
POM. Just talking about the legacy of the past, coming from Ireland which was under 600 years of oppression from a colonial power and we are still only getting over it, how long can you blame 'the past' for the lack of progress in the present when you must motivate people that what's important is to take control of their own lives and they can't always blame everything all the time on the past? You can't always say everything is due to apartheid, period.
MB. I agree with that, because I myself have said it sometimes in my public addresses. Apartheid really devastated black people. I agree with you that while apartheid devastated our people and there is a legacy of apartheid which explains some of the sufferings which we have to endure, which are legacies of apartheid, but I also do not agree that one must use apartheid then to explain everything even when our people don't take initiatives and so on, to say that it all was apartheid. You can't be milking that cow indefinitely, for ever, as an explanation for every failure even our own failure, to say it explains our own failure to get hold of our lives and try and do something for ourselves.
POM. Do you not think that makes a persuasive argument that a better form of democracy is not a government of national unity but a democratically elected government with a democratically elected opposition, and that the opposition takes after the government and doesn't have to keep its mouth closed all the time?
MB. Yes, but of course I'm not myself constrained, if I may use that word, in saying what I think.
POM. I don't think anyone has ever accused you of being that, Dr Buthelezi.
MB. No, I mean even in the Cabinet, even in the Cabinet I disagree and cause a lot of unhappiness amongst them for disagreeing with them. I think there is no debate whatsoever in saying the ideal position is really where you have a government elected and an opposition party or parties on the other hand. But this, as I have said already more than once, was a constitution in which the ANC and the National Party colluded to put together which was foisted on some of us, which is not really the ideal position.
POM. So all the goings on at Kempton Park were really kind of a - that the deals had been made behind closed doors?
MB. Everything. Others were meeting just to endorse what the National Party and the ANC had agreed to at so-called bush meetings.
POM. I know you don't like to answer speculative questions, you always say that to me year after year.
MB. I'm not a prophet.
POM. Two questions. Do you see divisions within your own party between those who want to take a very hard line on federalism?
MB. Why should it be described as hard line to say to people, I mean the Zulu people are a sovereign nation, perhaps the most powerful in southern Africa with a king and a kingdom and then we were crushed by imperialists, but then we suffered with all other black people so that made our cause one cause. Now at the time of liberation when we say, OK, we still want to of course retain our identity with all the people of our region regardless of race, why should it be hard line just to want to say that when many countries in the world including our own country are federationists, to say that if we insist on that it's a hard line? Why should it be a hard line?
POM. No, no, but what I'm asking is, is it causing divisions within your party in the same way?
MB. There are no divisions in my party, I can assure you of that.
POM. There are none?
MB. There are no divisions, but I can tell you that amongst some of the leaders in my party there are some leaders who are quiet, especially from other race groups, especially amongst whites, some of whom perhaps were attracted by the IFP maybe to get positions for themselves you see, who therefore do not mind, for whom anything goes. There are those who believe politically anything goes as long as we are MPs and we get our salaries, we all have Mercedes cars, there is a group of people among leaders only, but not even extensively, but really as I say amongst people with whom we are interactive for the first time, because this country had the Improper Interference Act where people of different races were not allowed to belong to the same party. We are now acting together for the first time and we find that we, therefore, live in different worlds altogether because white politics is quite different from black politics. So there are no divisions, I want to assure you, in my party, but there are definitely differences of opinion with some of the leaders, particularly whites who come from a completely different culture and for whom, the struggle that I was talking about at the celebrations you attended, may not have the same ring in their ears as it has for black people.
POM. Do you see, almost last question, do you see divisions within the National Party?
MB. Oh most definitely so, because you see we are not taking a stand, some people who were members of the Cabinet of Mr de Klerk, who were members of his Cabinet, very senior people, shake hands and say, "Continue doing what you are doing, we are with you." I know that there are many who don't agree, in fact it was in the papers. I don't know whether it arrived in this country, just about a week or two weeks ago there was a lot about the National Party, there have been ructions in the National Party, a lot of them being angry with Mr Meyer who they think is dragging them along to where the ANC wants them to go and so on. It is so, it is correct that there are differences.
POM. Do you see, not to speculate, but do you see the possibility of those differences leading to two different forms of white politics, those who want to accommodate, so to speak, the ANC, and those who want to strike a more ...?
MB. It's strange really, I don't know how to answer that because I'll tell you, because the National Party is really sold on the idea that this thing will even ... about this government of national unity ... who say that even after 1999 this should continue, but, of course, I don't think many of the ANC people want that, but Mr de Klerk himself has said so, they want that to continue. So in pursuance of that sometimes they do things that you wouldn't expect them to do, but whether others who disagree will break away honestly I don't know, really I don't know.
POM. What do you want after 1999?
MB. Well I think it's better for those who are elected to run the country and those parties which are opposition agree to be opposition.
POM. Last question, and thank you for the time as always, I really appreciate it, I think you know that. The violence in KwaZulu/Natal dipped after the elections, it's now back up again.
MB. Yes it did. It's very bad really, it's very bad because even today I was just looking at the paper here and I received a fax actually telling me how many people were killed yesterday including an Nkosi, a Chief. It's really, really bad. I'm very concerned about it because the compounding factor now is the fact that some members of the military wing of the ANC have now been integrated into the army and some into the police and our people are complaining that they are being killed by these soldiers and these policemen. There have been cases where in fact it has been established that they have killed people. So that's a dimension which worries me very much.
POM. Now the IFP has its own militia to protect it's own people?
MB. No. Where is it? We don't have a militia.
POM. You don't?
MB. No we don't have any militia. At the time, just for the elections, people were being killed, so when I was Chief Minister they asked if they could protect themselves, then there was a tax of R5-00 which was paid not very enthusiastically and then I appealed to them to pay it so that we could have money to train self-protection units to look after the people. That is what they keep on referring to. Those were done by the government, by myself as head of government, because the people were complaining that they were being killed and I asked that this unit should be trained. Of course then that was overtaken by the elections and so on and they haven't got any status. There was an appeal that just as the ANC military wing has been integrated into the police and army they should also be integrated and some of our members who were involved in training, like Senator Powell, have had talks with Mr Modise, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Safety and Security but I have not heard whether any one of them has been integrated.
POM. Do you think over the years that I have asked you good questions, are there questions I should have asked you that I haven't asked you because of my own biases and prejudices?
MB. No I wouldn't say so. Where I think you go off the rails is when you ask me to address perceptions of the press because I don't think we can get anywhere with those, but I don't think that I can complain otherwise.
POM. And will you keep with the study until the year 2000?
MB. I don't know whether I will still be alive.
POM. If we're both alive.
MB. Well you are younger than me, you'll still be alive.
POM. I wouldn't count on that. Last question. I knew there was a last question, and that is the relationship between yourself and King Zwelithini?
MB. Well the relations between me and the King, we have never crossed any words with the King and often, as I refuse to answer that question, I don't think that when I talk about the institution of the monarchy that then people will then personalise it and say, well but your relations with the King are not good and so on, because it's irrelevant, because we are talking about the institution of the monarchy. We are talking about the throne. Now as far as the King is concerned, of course, I think that the ANC and particularly Mr Mandela thought that, disregarding the fact that we are family with the King and that therefore I would have no reason to exploit his position, even I as a political leader, but when I interacted traditionally as Prime Minister, I was the Prime Minister of his father, and that therefore the closeness is also a blood ties closeness. But they were accusing me and accusing my party of misusing the King, of enslaving the King, of using the King as if he was a rallying point, which of course ignored that relations between me and the King have not always been the easiest. Even shortly after he took over, although his uncle, who is now an ANC MP, who has dragged him into the ANC, was actually accused of wanting to kill him, he came to me, he used to come to me, I protected him. I was accused of influencing him not to go on with his schooling but taking over the position which was not true because I used to say to him that we are living in a difficult world which is going to be a difficult world for anyone who is not educated. And he said once he was installed he would go like King Moshoeshoe of Lesotho to study but of course that never happened you see. But then I think Mr Mandela, the ANC, I used to hear from my intelligence sources that they were saying they were going to catch big fish and so on because they imagined that once Mr Mandela had him in his pocket that therefore the Zulu people would then flock to them, but that has not happened and it will not happen. There have been clashes in the past even in the seventies, 1979 was the last one, where in fact the people did not side with the King when he did something which in their eyes was not very clever. Then that is why he has a second string on his bow now, the second string being this attempt now of trying to pay the traditional leaders. I mean the issues concerning Chiefs or traditional leaders is an issue which is within the competence of the province but Mr Mandela somehow, because the Chiefs support me, because I am one of them and I have been their leader for a very long time and I haven't done anything wrong with them, they imagined that it's because they get a stipend, they will be getting stipends from the government, which is actually an insult to the Chiefs because people have to understand the Zulu people before making such cheap statements about them. I don't think they are 'boughtable' because even the imperialists tried to buy them but it didn't work. So now again that has not worked now. But what is worse, it has gone really sour now when some of the ANC Chiefs have come to us now and sided with us on the issues that they are being emasculated by the national government.
POM. Thank you very, very much for your time. I apologise for our lateness and the scar on my head.
MB. No, no, really, we should just thank God that it was not worse than that Prof. O'Malley.
POM. Is there anything you would like to add that I haven't asked you, that you would like just to add for the record, because this won't be published until the year 2000, so it's an historical record and I'm not the wisest of people, I only pick up as I go through. Is there something that you would like just to add?
MB. We have covered such a wide field, I can't recall unless I sat down for another 30 minutes or an hour and thought about it.
POM. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
MB. It's always a pleasure.