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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Jul 1990: Gumede, Archie

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POM     When we were talking to one of the people yesterday in one of the townships, we talked to one 15 year old boy and I asked him would he have been prepared to die rather than join the ANC? And he said he would have been prepared to die because did not like the ANC. He didn't say 'I hate the ANC', he just said, 'I don't like the ANC.' I can understand people dying for a belief, that they want a free country or that they strongly believe in an ideology or something, but what are people dying for in the conflict in Natal?

VCG     Well people are dying for allegiance to the Inkatha President, Dr Buthelezi, and if they are forced not to follow him their only course that they see as worthwhile is that of dying for Inkatha because they hate what the ANC is doing, trying to kill them, to necklace them and to burn their houses and burn the relatives and friends, indeed to force them to join the ANC.

POM     Just give me, in your view, what the origin of this conflict is and what would have to be done to stop it?

VCG     This is simply - the origin of the conflict is politics. People believe in the Inkatha movement and they believe in following it but the ANC comes with a counter-view of a one-party state so people are quite afraid of the one-party state and so they would rather die.

POM     Why do people believe that the ANC believes in a one-party state?

VCG     Well now and then the ANC calls for a one-party state and discourages multi-party democracy so it says that during 1912 when the ANC was established there was only one party and there is no reason why today there shouldn't be one. So people seem to see the period of 1912 and 1990 as different so they cannot be held to a one-party state ideology.

POM     What's your own background? Where were you born, grow up, go to school? How did you become involved in Inkatha? What have you experienced? You mentioned yesterday that you yourself had been intimidated out of your house.

VCG     I was a herd boy. I grew up in a rural area outside Durban, outside the townships.

POM     You were a herd boy did you say? H E R D?

VCG     Yes. Herd boy. I looked after my mother's cattle and I attended school from 1964 in the same area and then I trained as a teacher at Richmond near Pietermaritzburg and after that I did my matric in Inanda. So I got a position as a teacher in Inanda High School, the school that was established by Dr J L Dube. He was the first President of the ANC.

POM     At that point when you were just qualified as a teacher were you already a member of Inkatha?

VCG     I was already a member of Inkatha.

POM     When did you join?

VCG     In 1977 or 78 when I came into contact with it.

POM     Why did you join?

VCG     Well I joined Inkatha, I must say all of the movements were in fact banished by the SA government and as a result Inkatha came up in 1975, established by the President, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi. It opened my eyes politically because before that nobody talked about politics so when I joined Inkatha my eyes were politically opened. As I grew politically I saw a need to participate in Inkatha because it is the movement that taught me about Mandela, that taught me about Robert Sobukwe of the PAC, that taught me about Walter Sisulu and all these political prisoners, something I had not heard of since I was I mean from my early years up to about when I was round about 20 I never had, just a very little, but I didn't know what it meant and of what benefit was it to me. So the movement, Inkatha, opened my eyes and I respected, secondly, the fact that this movement was created, was founded by King Solomon, the King of the Zulus, but at the time it was Inkatha. [Zulu and] Then Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi revived the movement in 1974/75. As a Zulu I've got allegiance to my Chief so Buthelezi has been the minister of the Zulus, not created by Pretoria, but he was there even before Pretoria could create this position of Chief Minister.

POM     Appointed as Chief Minister to the Zulu people?

VCG     You can trace his descendancy.

POM     All the way back to his great-grandfather, all the Chief Ministers.

VCG     So I had nothing against him so I joined the movement.

POM     At that time or now when you think of yourself do you think of yourself primarily first as a member of the Zulu nation and then as a South African or do you think of yourself as a South African who happens to be a Zulu?

VCG     Yes, things start from simple to complex. First I'm a Zulu and thereafter I'm a South African because if you say you're a South African that's a complex tag that you attach to yourself but things normally move from simple to complex. In simplistic terms I'm a Zulu but then if you move away from there then I'm a South African but I'm a Zulu first then a South African.

POM     Now how do you see Zulus as being different from the other nations or the other people's of South Africa, or the rest of South Africa?

VCG     Well of course the Zulus had a central state, they had their own king which went on for a very long time. The king controlled the land, controlled the lives of the people, the king provided the people with land, the king controlled the political life of the people, the moral life of the people. We were quite different from other nations. We fought many more wars than any other Africans who fought, I mean in Africa, not only in South Africa. In Africa there is no black nation that gave whites a problem like the Zulus did. For instance the Prime Minister Disraeli of England was forced to wage a full-scale war against the Zulus which he did not do with the others. We were different. That's how I could distinguish us from others.

POM     So to continue your story. You began to teach, you were a member of Inkatha.

VCG     Then I graduated from degree to degree in Inkatha. I became the Secretary of the local branch in Inanda New Town, I became the secretary of the constituency of Inanda New Town and then I was elected as chairperson eventually after they saw my leadership qualities. So at the moment I am serving as a local branch chairperson of Inkatha.

POM     So you're the chairman of?

VCG     Of this branch, the local branch.

POM     What area does that cover?

VCG     It's Ward 7 of Inanda New Township.

POM     And how many members of Inkatha would be there?

VCG     Well roughly plus/minus 2500. They operated very well before the conflict, before the ANC total onslaught against Inkatha. As time went on then the ANC attacked me because they saw that I was quite strong and their people were following me.

POM     When you say the ANC attacked you, what do you mean by that?

VCG     I mean it was against me, I was targeted as a chairperson of Inkatha because it is ANC's policy to obliterate Inkatha and discredit it to the people and then kill all its leaders. So many leaders have been killed. I was very much fortunate because I was able to fight otherwise I would have been killed.

POM     How did you fight?

VCG     I used my 9 mm pistol.

POM     Did you kill people?

VCG     I didn't kill any people.

POM     Did you shoot at people?

VCG     I did shoot at people but I didn't kill them. I had no alternative.

POM     Now you would be in your house?

VCG     I was right in my house, in fact it was 11 o'clock at night when I was sleeping when I heard a big bang on top of my roof. I woke up, jumped off my bed and I realised that there was a strange light. It was petrol bombs thrown by UDF/ANC activists. So I went out and I shot in the air because I couldn't shoot in the direction where I could hit and kill people or hit houses. I was just doing it to scare off the attackers.

POM     This was recently was it?

VCG     Recently, it was November, it was November 24. After that I was intercepted with my car on the road with about another ten petrol bombs but the way I shifted the car on the road made me to escape the fire otherwise the car would have caught fire and I would have been burnt and in the car, like many other people burnt, in the car by the ANC.

POM     Here you have a situation where the world outside of South Africa accepts the ANC as being the voice of black South Africa, it regards it as being the primary component of the liberation movement and Nelson Mandela, as you saw, got a triumphant reception all around the world when he was overseas recently. How do you regard the ANC? How do you envisage the future?

VCG     Well the future with ANC government is really bleak in view of the fact of its policies. They are the policy of a one-party rule, the policy of nationalisation. I cannot see South Africa's economy being nationalised, but apart from saying that I have studied African politics at university level and I majored there. I can realise the shortcomings that are embodied or inherent in nationalising the economy because in Africa we've got countries that have nationalised that have been forced to de-nationalise. I am not saying that a correct formula for wealth distribution should not be found, it should be found to satisfy everybody but it cannot be found via nationalisation because that kills the economy completely.

POM     Yesterday one of the men we talked to said Mandela got out of jail and he should have thanked the government for letting him out of jail. Considering that here he was, unemployed, living in a shack under an oppressive system imposed by a white government which has dominated for 40 years, what would lead him to make a remark like that do you think?

VCG     You see it's because of the activities of the ANC. It's not worried about those people who are in such conditions. It simply attacks people and by attacking people and forcing them to join it it's trespassing a bit.

POM     Sorry, which?

VCG     Trespassing. That's a trespass to an individual's life. To me it would sound, this very same individual would have had a different view were it not for attacks that the ANC is waging against the innocent because they have done nothing to the ANC. All the ANC had to do was to try and talk to them nicely and tell them and campaign like any other organisation for membership but not eliminate those who are members.

POM     Would you think their hatred of the ANC is greater than their hatred for the white government?

VCG     At the moment we have reached a turning point in South African politics and really, well I wouldn't say exactly, but I see a mixed feeling. Some people are very much against the ANC and some also at the same time against the government, both seen as delaying negotiations and both causing problems.

POM     Would you be able to live, would members of Inkatha be able to live in a South Africa that would be ruled by the ANC?

VCG     No never, they will be completely obliterated. They will not be able to live.

POM     What do you see happening at these negotiations that are going on now between the ANC and the government?

VCG     I see a removal of obstacles, they're just removing obstacles but they haven't really negotiated. In fact it's not negotiations as far as I'm concerned but it's a get-together to thrash out differences. That's not negotiations.

POM     Do you think that if the government, after these obstacles are removed, were to turn around and invite Chief Buthelezi to sit at the table with Mandela and with the leader of the DP ...?

VCG     Definitely, definitely.

POM     Would he sit at the table?

VCG     Yes.

POM     Even if the conflict is still going on?

VCG     Although if you follow the President's remarks he is reluctant to go to the table while there is intimidation and conflict going on in Natal, he is very reluctant although he is prepared to go.

POM     Do you believe that there has to be a settlement in Natal before real negotiations can go on?

VCG     There will have to be a settlement in Natal before negotiations can take place.

POM     But in a way you're suggesting that if there was this negotiating process and if at the end of it there was a new government and the ANC were to be the party that was able to form a government, you're saying that people in Natal wouldn't accept that?

VCG     Yes, the people won't accept it because the ANC is trying to play the Zulus down. I am not racist in what I'm saying but if you look back into the history of the Zulus they have been the superior to all the Africans in South Africa. In fact they have been ruling South Africa you see, so now that thing comes back into their minds and the ANC is taking advantage of politics and they think they can be able to contain the Zulus. I don't think they will be in fact able to do so unless they are assisted by the white South Africans.

POM     Is the ANC perceived as being somebody else's tribe?

VCG     Yes, it's Xhosa, it's Xhosa dominated. In the executive you will find that there are no Zulus but you find that the cream, the executive part is completely formed of Xhosas.

POM     So would the Zulu people think that in an ANC dominated government this would be an attempt by the Xhosas to subjugate the Zulus.

VCG     That is their aim because they don't fix violence in Ciskei or Transkei but violence is placed in Natal where they know there are so many Zulus. They are trying to set Zulus against Zulus and trying to set Zulus against the President of Inkatha and trying to set Zulus against the King. I don't think they will be able to do that, not unless they will do it in terms of politics to be determined by a war and I don't think they will be able to contain a war with the Zulus because ultimately or eventually if the South African government is failing I do foresee a big war similar to the time when the Zulus were conquering the African black tribes of South Africa, but we don't want to go back to Zulu imperialism. We don't want to replace the South African government with Zulu imperialism but as it goes now I think it's going to come there eventually.

POM     Do you think that in any settlement that is attempted to be negotiated that KwaZulu would go for a federal system in which they would have considerable ...?

VCG     Yes in fact the President has just said he prefers a federal type of system.

POM     So in effect the Zulus would be able for all intents and purposes to run their own affairs.

VCG     Run their own affairs. In fact he made mention, he gave examples of countries like Switzerland for instance.

POM     He's looked at Switzerland and the cantons, built on a canton basis.

VCG     Switzerland and Sweden, something like that.

POM     Sweden. You mentioned two things yesterday that I'd like you to elaborate a little on. The one was when you were talking about South African law and how South African law defined a Zulu's stick or his spear or his sword or shield as a weapon that could be confiscated from him by the Police and this showed a complete lack of understanding of Zulu culture.

VCG     You see the whole thing has been based on apartheid and suppression of the mind and oppression physically. You see because now if a stick is an item as far as the Zulus are concerned ...

POM     It's a special stick, right? It's not just any old stick?

VCG     Anything that is a stick. It's not special but it could be made special. A shield is an item, a spear is an item, a knobkerrie is an item. You can buy those things for decorating even your wall or putting it under your bed or putting it near your headboard to indicate that you are a man. You are not a man without a stick really. So this law it shows me that it completely undermines the sociological and anthropological foundations of the Zulus because if I'm carrying a stick I don't carry it with the objective to kill or to harm or to do that but it's because I'm not a man without a stick, especially when I'm going for a gathering. It could be any form, the gathering could be of any form, it could be marriage, it could be a traditional activity where you return the spirits home, it could be a procession, it could be a dance, it could be a march, it could be anything. The marches that we have today are not new to the Zulus. We had our own marches, traditional marches, we had our own traditional processions so we carried these things, not to be objective, because we couldn't perform all these activities without use of these important items otherwise we would be punished by our ancestors who are in the grave because that particular ceremony - they would define it as something that has not been conducted correctly.

     As I've said it's just like a car without steering or just like a car without bearings. You need to put bearings because that car won't go properly. When the car hasn't got bearings, wheel bearings, the wheels will tell you that it doesn't have a wheel bearing. That could result in fatal punishment from the ancestors, it could result in the death of a family head and then the members of the family would suffer and it could result in sickness, mental sickness, it would result in bad luck. You'd be involved in accidents and things like that if you don't do these things properly. How for instance would you conduct a King Dingaan's Day traditional activity? You won't be able to do that without the necessary items that must be there.

     For instance when we bury members of our family, to identify the site where the grave must be dug you need to have your spear. You see. When you return that particular person back home, return the spirit, the dance there must be a spear and a shield and you must dance and you must imitate something that ...

POM     You said that the Police confiscate, a man can be arrested for carrying a stick or a spear. Is that right?

VCG     Yes, according to the three Acts in South Africa, in fact the Police have got powers to confiscate that.

POM     Would the KwaZulu Police do that?

VCG     They will do that.

POM     Even though they're Zulus?

VCG     Yes they will do that according to the SA law. There are three Acts, they can do that. The problem is when they get to the courts, the court of law, you see you've got to justify what crime has been committed. Now that's where they are blocked.

POM     How would you rate I want to talk about the SA Defence Force that is now operating in Natal and the SA Police and the KwaZulu Police. Have they all been impartial or who has sided with whom?

VCG     Well the SADF is a problem really and the SAP is a problem from my personal experience. They have tended to side with the ANC because they fear it. For instance when the ANC/UDF supporters are doing something it takes a jolly good time for them to consider to go to that particular spot because there will be an attack. As a result they decide not to go there but they come where it is easier and softer to Inkatha. They are crushing Inkatha on the ground those people, I'm telling you.

POM     The SADF and the SAPS?

VCG     Yes they're crushing Inkatha, crushing it like hell. You will find that most of the people really don't run away because they cannot really defend themselves on the ground from the attacks by ANC. You see they don't run away because they fear the Police/SADF is going to crush them. They are assaulted and sent to jail, large sentences are imposed on them which is not the case with the ANC.

POM     What about the KwaZulu Police?

VCG     Well the KwaZulu Police act with some understanding except that, OK, fine, they have been defined as the people's enemy by the ANC. But it's ridiculous, it's interesting to note that the ANC is referring to the KwaZulu Police as an enemy of the state but it does not refer to Transkei's Police and Ciskei Police as enemies of the people because they are Xhosa.

POM     Mandela. What's your assessment of him and how has that assessment changed since he's been released from prison?

VCG     Mandela to me is an ordinary man really, truly speaking. He's an ordinary man, just ordinary. There are no wonders with Mandela. People take him for a magic of some kind. I'll go back a bit, it is the South African government's foolishness in fact to have jailed Mandela in the first place for such a long time. They are the people who have promoted Mandela according to my own personal view. In view of the oppressive nature of the laws that they passed at the time, I mean you see anybody would have reacted against that, even myself would have reacted against that. If you prevent a person from riding a bicycle in the township because he cannot do that. If you prevent a person to slaughter a goat in the township and to slaughter a goat - I mean this is cultural, this is traditional. He's got to talk, communicate with his ancestors. It's like now taking a stick from me and saying I'm wrong for carrying it. I will respond against that. So Mandela is simply responding to very ordinary things, simple things, that the government took them for very big things and they made a mistake there. To me he is not a very strong leader and he is not a strong leader. Well of course now using the ticket that he's the prisoner, has been kept in jail for a long time for political reasons, then he's got all the chance now to claim popularity.

POM     Do you see Buthelezi as being a strong leader?

VCG     Yes, yes.

POM     What would you point to that makes him a strong leader and what would you point to that makes Mandela not a strong leader?

VCG     When you come to Buthelezi he doesn't like to fight, he doesn't like a war situation. He likes everything to be settled via talking. He encourages talking [rather] than another way. Not that he fears a way but all he fears is that the blood of the innocent may be spilled for nothing or for something that could have been settled via talking to each other. If you look at his political history and as the Chief Minister of the Zulus, if you trace his descendancy, you trace him back to his great grandfathers and great grandmothers. He's a strong leader as opposed to Mandela.

POM     Do you see the violence in Natal ending and what do you think must be done to end it?

VCG     I do see violence in Natal ending but Natal settlement first.

POM     Which?

VCG     Negotiations. A Natal settlement via negotiations and thereafter negotiations.

POM     So first of all there have to be negotiations about Natal.

VCG     We've got to acknowledge Buthelezi, acknowledge him. If you try to exclude him it's a recipe for conflict because people are not going to accept it. Naturally they cannot accept it.

POM     OK, I think I will leave it at that. Thank you very much for coming back. Did you give your address and telephone number that I could have? Would you write it down for me?

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.