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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
22 Aug 1990: Zwelithini, Goodwill
POM. We're speaking with His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelethini at the Nongoma. Your Majesty, if you cast your mind back to the second of February and State President de Klerk's speech on that occasion, for you personally, did what he had to say come as a surprise, and what do you think motivated him to move so sweepingly at this point in time?
GZ. I think, as far as I'm concerned, what the State President has done, you know, I must say that President de Klerk, from the point of blacks, he's a man of integrity. I think he has taken a very bold stand. As you know, South Africa has been in apartheid, led by the Nationalist Party, for almost more than 40 years. So now what President de Klerk has done, I think he has done for each and everyone in this country. I wouldn't say that what had made him do some adjustments was because of the violence. But I think it was the time that really has allowed him to take such a bold stand. To make a new history for the Nationalist Party, and so long that they have been in the ruling of this country. So now, as far as the policies of apartheid are concerned, everybody, really, was looking for change in this country, from the white community who are Nationalists, even from those who are from other parties. Except those parties that won't agree, and who has not agreed with what really the State President has done for South Africa.
. So, as far as we are concerned, we blacks, we accept it, his stand, that, as we believe, that really to live separately in this country, it doesn't help at all. Especially if you can just look at how the outside countries, the world media, have pressurised South Africa by sanctions. Although I do not agree with those who have passed sanctions against South Africa, because South African industries were just accommodating my own people and it is our people who are suffering so much at the moment. As you can see in the gates of the industries of this country, although there are some people who still persist in the outside world to push sanctions against this country. It is because, really, they don't just go around the industries, they don't have any people that come to them. You know, as I myself, I'm leading about more then 7.8 million Zulus, and now all those people, there are too many of them who have lost jobs through these sanctions. So now, I think what really has made in the State President, he has seen, because it's in every leader, must take his own stand and do something, better for his own country, so that everybody should understand each other. And then the deeds of the past must be just put aside and then to start a new South Africa.
POM. Do you believe that the State President has conceded on the issue of majority rule? That he accepts that in the near future South Africa will probably be ruled by a predominantly black government? Or do you think he still is looking for some power sharing arrangement where even though blacks would be the majority in the government, they would share power, like with whites, with the National Party, or whatever?
GZ. Actually, the stand that he has taken, as far as I'm concerned, he has got no fear of that, because there are some people who are qualified for that, really, that they can lead. Because it is not the man that leads but it is the people that lead, who are surrounding that man. So if majority party ruling this country, it will be from all different groups of this country and then the leader can be selected from those. If whites should be upset that a black man should lead this country, it would make no difference, as far as I'm concerned. It will be just the same. But the only problem will be the problem of, in which organisation that believes in what? That has got any feeling of the people themselves, how people must be ruled, how the country must be ruled, how things should be prepared, how the country should be run. Because we have noticed a lot in our African politics, most of the African countries who have achieved their own independence, their own freedom, through Pan-Africa, they rule with a Pan-Africa approach and the only problem, they are killing the country with a Pan-Africa. So, now, I think of one day, we are not going to be blamed, and we are not going to blame God one day, being the last to get rid of all ... in this country, because we've got a lot of lessons from our neighbouring countries. The way how they make corruption into their own countries, economically and administratively. So, that's why I am saying that it will depend on who, from where, from which organisation that believes in what? Because that's where the key will be.
POM. You said that it is time to get on with the future and time to forget the past. Do you think that at some point, as a matter of national reconciliation, that whites will have to apologise for the enormous injustices they have subjected black people to or the enormous harm and injury they have done to them?
GZ. As far as I'm concerned, I think the white government already, the stand that they have taken, they have shown that, really, they want to be accepted as human beings as they have decided to accept us as human beings. Just those incidents that are taking place at the moment. Because each and everybody is fighting for power. So now, I see no reason why people should not forgive the whites with the deeds that are taking place. Because today we are living in a country, I mean in the world, that is so civilized, and we are living in a country where we are so Christian, and we are living in a country where oh, so much is created. So, now, forgiveness from a civilized man, a man that is so much educated, and a man that has so much Christianity within himself, if we believe in our almighty God, forgiveness is number one that we must do. So with all that the State President has been doing, he has been accepted by most of the black community. So, I know the incidents can take place, I mean, have taken place, there and then. When people are fighting for power, it must be something that must take place. Because, as you can see, in the Eastern countries at the moment, the countries that have achieved their freedom, their independence many, many years ago, they are fighting each other today. But if you can just look at South African history, the Boers, the Boer War, I mean with the British, let me say with the English-speaking, they fought those wars, but the way these people are living together, they don't hate each other, they don't fight each other, they live together. In the countries like in the East, and in Europe, they are fighting the wars that have taken almost, have begun more than 2,000 years ago. Where there is nobody who is still living, who are still there from that time. But people don't forgive each other. They are still fighting today. So, South Africa, as far as I can see, I think there is such a very potential, you know, respect within the people that they should forgive each other. It is almost 100 years ago where the English were in the Boer War, but they live together in harmony.
POM. Of course, now you have a situation in Natal where you have Zulu fighting Zulu, apparently for power. Would you give me your understanding of that, of the distress it must cause you, and of how you think it can be alleviated or brought under control?
GZ. Actually, you know, it is a pity when it comes to that point. It is very touchy. I'm the King of all these people and my people have been instigated by certain different, I mean, by certain racial groups. Because I wouldn't say that it is organisations. Because it doesn't matter whether you are coming from a different family, but when you get together, you just live as a family. But the only problem at the moment that has created so much trouble within Natal is because of other races are just pushing to get Zulus to fight each other.
POM. Could you elaborate a little on that? What other races are there?
GZ. Actually, you know, in Natal KwaZulu, there are too many races. While there are too many races, there are some people who don't want to see the Zulus living peacefully. As you know in our history, the King of the Zulus, the founder of the Zulu nation, have built the Zulu nation through Africa by bringing the tribes together to be a nation. And then, just like in Europe, where nations were built out of the sword. In times of King Shaka, when the King Shaka founded the Zulu nation, it was the time when Napoleon Bonaparte was ruling, was fighting in Europe to build his people. So, now, the solidarity that was amongst the Zulu people, it was so quiet in Natal and KwaZulu. But we know that there were some other people who were saying, why, Natal, it's so quiet. Why is it so quiet? And then, they have just pushed the influence of making the Zulu to fight a Zulu.
POM. But who are these other people? Who are these other people?
GZ. You know, there are too many races in this country. There are too many races who don't want the unity amongst the Zulu people because we know what they are afraid of.
POM. Could you point to which races they are?
GZ. Actually, I won't mention them, but I'm just, as I'm telling you that there are some races that are just instigating my people to fight each other. But to point to who they are, that's impossible for me to say that. Actually, that's a thing that I won't say. But we know that there are some races that are instigating the Zulus to fight each other.
POM. What kind of a remedy do you see, what do you think will eliminate the violence and will control it?
GZ. Actually, we have tried all our best. We are busy trying to tell them not to further the fighting. Because if they do this, what are they really going to achieve towards freedom of this country or towards administration of this country? Because today we are waiting to see a new South Africa, but how are we going to see or get into a new South Africa when we are fighting together, when we are fighting alone? Because by doing that, that would mean that there will be destruction, there'll destruction. And we know, as I said, by those people who are dividing our people, it is because they know that if the Zulus could stay, keep on still living in solidarity, it will be a problem for this country. While we are not creating so much problems, because we are coming from warrior stock. But we have taken a stand with my own Prime Minister, Chief Mangosuthu, to fight for freedom in a peaceful manner. That is why we have stood against sanctions in this country. Because we know that the black people are the first people to suffer. So, now, with the stand that was taken, we know that there are some certain people that do not agree that people should be stopped, you know, in creating so much problems in the country. Which we won't agree with it, because we know - I mean, the payment of the war. We come from warrior stock, and we know what war means, and we don't want our people to be killed just for nothing here.
POM. One explanation of the violence that has been suggested to us, and, of course, we saw the Chief Minister this morning, is that it is a power struggle where the ANC is trying to wipe out Inkatha, wipe out political opposition to it. And that the ANC is primarily an organisation which is led by Xhosas.
GZ. Actually he was quite right in that, because in the ANC it is obvious that Xhosas are the people that are leading the ANC. It is not Mr. Mandela that leads the ANC. So, now, from that point, I am agreed with the Chief Minister. Because each and everybody is fighting for power struggle. That's what has made us not to see, really, what things are going on, why people wanted to create so much problem for ourselves, in their own constituencies. It's so quiet!
POM. So, would I be correct in saying that, again, this is one view, that if there was a majority government, say an ANC government, it would primarily be a government of Xhosa people and that they would view an undivided Zulu nation as a threat to them? You would still be the largest single ...
GZ. That is what they are afraid of.
POM. That's what they're afraid of. Now, in the last couple of weeks there has been an even sadder turn to this violence as it has spread to other parts of the country. I suppose what has struck me is that it appears that people in hostels or other places who don't belong to Inkatha Zulus are now coming together as Zulus so that they are seeing these attacks as, not as an attack on Inkatha, but an attack on the Zulu people themselves.
GZ. Yes, actually from that point, you know, the outside world has been brainwashed, especially with all these latest incidents, that it's Inkatha people that are being killed, I mean, that are killing people in the Reef. Which is totally wrong. Because now, at the moment, they are fighting the Zulus. They are not fighting Inkatha. They've just chased away each and every Zulu, I mean, in any township. So now, that does not mean that the Zulus must just fold their arms when they are being attacked. I'm not agreeing with that, although I'm not agreeing with the fighting itself. You know, I'm a man of peace. I believe in peace. You know I've never hated anybody, even the person that really has acted bad to me. No, I'm not a hatred person. I always just say that, well, if he thinks that he can do better, right. So now, with the fighting that is taking place, it's just facing the Zulu people. They are just fighting the Zulu people now. Because the people that are living in the townships, especially in the hostels, it's not just the Zulus. There they are Xhosas, they are Shangaans, they are Sothos, they are Tswanas, they are Vendas, they are Swazis, and other race groups.
. So now, if, you know as this incident that has taken place in KwaThema just recently, where children have gone to the hostel at night, when people are asleep, where we have never thought of any problem at all, we have never had anything, and the children, the youth, have just attacked the hostel and burned everything, and burned all the people when they are asleep. There, there was a Zulu, there was a Xhosa, there was Venda, there was a Swazi, there were many sorts of racial group members, but they have just done this. It's not the Zulus that are living there. So when these people are just mobilising together, they say, The Zulus have done this. When it was not the Zulus who have just attacked the hostels. How can the Zulus attack their own people? They know that some of their own people are inside the hostel.
POM. Have you sensed a coming together of your people? Bonds of solidarity forming? Zulus asserting a stronger sense of their own identity because of what's happening in the last couple of weeks?
GZ. Actually, at the moment, my Chief Minister is busy sending delegations to go and tell the people to calm down. Although it is not something that, really, the world should just look at it, because we know that we Zulus are the main hated nation in South Africa. We know that.
POM. That you are the most?
POM. That you are hated the most?
GZ. We know, we know that. Because they wouldn't say all these things, or either, they wouldn't do all these things that they are doing against us. While the Zulus are being criticized, that they are being called impis and all that. So if your people are being attacked, what really the world should just look for those people to do? Must they just let themselves die when people are attacking them? Why, in Kuwait, most of the European countries have just contributed soldiers to go and protect Kuwait, or to prevent Iraq not to interfere with other countries. So, I see no why, really, because I don't think if the snake should come into this office of mine, and then I'll have to walk out and abandon this office, I'll have to kick out the snake, or either kill the snake so that I can use my office. So, now, with all what really is taking place as far as all these incidents are concerned, it's the hatred, that they want the Zulus to be under their control.
POM. Where does this hatred come from? Why does it exist?
GZ. It is because of our history. Our history is very important. The Zulus really have been so powerful because, actually, we have never let our people to be slaves like our late kings, you know. Even the founder of the Zulu nation has never let his own people to be sold like slaves. And there is not a single king in KwaZulu that has let his people to be slaves of other nations. That's what really they are fighting for today, that they can just win us, just like that.
POM. So, how do you think this can be brought under control? How can this violence against the Zulus be stopped?
GZ. Actually, you know, the only thing, as you know, that they are fighting with my Prime Minister like hell. And that they are doing a lot of, they are talking a lot of lies, let me put it like that. We know how we rule our people. We know how to mobilise our people. But we have never come to that stage where, really, we call our people. We have spoken to our people many, many times, especially when problems were taking place in Natal, the South Coast. Then, there's a lot of things that we have tried when we were celebrating Shaka's days and we called rallies, where we speak to our people, just to make them to be aware of the fact that we don't like what they are doing. They must stop it. But because Zulus, really, were a people who were thinking that things were calming down when Mandela was released, because it was my Prime Minister who was keeping on talking about that, that he won't negotiate if Dr. Nelson Mandela is not released, but now he is the man that is hated by ANC. Why? And if the government were thinking that by the release of him will be the time to have any adjustments of violence in this country, they never achieved anything. Because the violence that is taking place, it's worse than ever before.
POM. What are the perceptions of Zulus of the ANC? What do Zulus think the ANC wants, and what do they think the ANC stands for?
GZ. Actually, you know, as far as I'm concerned, the ANC to the Zulus, there is nothing that ANC has done for the Zulus, there's nothing at all. Except Inkatha, it was formed by the Chief Minister, that has done something. Actually, even Inkatha was formed when the legislation, the city of KwaZulu, has been taking place from 1971, I mean, from 1970. So now, with what the latest incidents that are taking place, it was started by UDF when the UDF was formed. And then, I think it was in 1984-85, where its essence had started to create problems within KwaZulu. There were no problems before that. So, we knew that this is the way of ANC, coming to create problems, and then they started these problems, with such incidents in KwaZulu and Natal, it's because of the formation of UDF to fight us.
POM. Do you think the ANC wants to establish a one-party state?
POM. Sorry, do you believe the ANC want to, these attacks on Zulus are the first step in a campaign they have to eliminate all internal opposition and eventually establish a one-party state?
GZ. Actually, just from the beginning, actually, I don't think, really, even with these negotiations that are taking place, ANC is so much interested that negotiations will take place. Because they want to seize, they want to be in power. Just the power to be handed over to them. So, it means that they don't want even the government at present, they don't want any other parties to exist in this country. That's what they're interested, that was their intention, just from the beginning.
POM. So, what do you make, then, of the talks that are going on between the ANC and the government? Like, how would you like to see that process develop, or can it ever develop as long as this conflict continues to exist?
GZ. Actually, I think the day when all parties will be participating, that will be the day I'll say that God is so great. But the time when the government is still negotiating with ANC, I don't think there is anything that I can comment about it at the moment, because other parties have never been yet, they are not yet, in the process of negotiations. But I know that the government does negotiate with the ANC. But not that ANC should think that they are the only party, I mean, to be negotiated with, because they are not the only ones that represent the people in this country.
POM. Do you believe the ANC has suspended the armed struggle?
GZ. It's a pity, because, you know, most of the people that are ANC, they don't talk - right, those who are negotiating with the government talk about disbanding the armed struggle and those who are not negotiating talk about continuing it, and Winnie Mandela continues to talk about the role of the MK in the future.
POM. You've just been saying, talking about Mr. Mandela and his performance.
GZ. Yes, because actually, as I've said that, really, he didn't come, because the time when I was expecting him to come here, it was the time when he was just taking the overseas trips. So he didn't come to see us. It's a pity because, you know, I am the King of the Zulu nation, and Chief Buthelezi is the Chief Minister of the Zulu nation. A man of his integrity, not to turn up to keep the promise that he is coming to see us. It's very disgraceful to us, it's surprising, really.
POM. One of the things that we've noticed is that Zulus appear to take very sensitively insults made about their Chief Minister or their King. Is this part of the culture, that insult to the King is an insult that must be remedied?
GZ. To the Chief Minister also.
POM. Yes, must be remedied, you must do something about it?
GZ. Actually, if you say something to the King, it's just an insult to the Zulu nation as a whole, because the way of respect, how we respect our culture and how the Zulus respect their kingship. You know, if you attack the Zulu King, if you say something about the Zulu King, you must know that you are attacking the wrong part. You can say something. You know, they have been saying a lot of things about the Chief Minister, but now when they started to say something about the King, they say, now we have attacked him, you have attacked the wrong party. We don't like anything about our King, we'd rather die. That's what the Zulus have made them, for some years, 100 years, to die for their own King, because they know that their King is their symbol of unity. If somebody destroys that, they are attacking the wrong party. They would rather die.
POM. And this still motivates them today, whether they live in Soweto or elsewhere?
GZ. Where the Zulus are, they respect their heritage. Wherever they are. They respect, even those who are still in America, I'm telling you, they still respect their heritage. Even those who are in Europe, they respect their heritage. I've got a lot of people, I mean, in England, there's a lot who still respect their heritage, who are still in contact with us. Because the time when I travelled to the United States in 1987, I met the ANC people. I've met some of them. And they did come there, in the hotel. And they respected me very well as their own King. There was a time when I was in ... they sent a very good message, I mean, from exile in 1971. So, it shows that these people, they still know their roots, where they are coming from. Yes. So, when it comes to the head of the nation, you must know that you have done a terrible thing, because there's no good you can just attack your own leader, then. There's no, not a single one, because you are the one of his subjects. You are the one to protect him.
POM. Well, I think I've asked everything I want to ask you. You have been terrific. It's very funny, when one interviews people, sometimes I interview people, and they will never express an opinion.
GZ. You know, the only problem is that we in KwaZulu, we Zulus, we don't want to talk people crass, you know. We tell the truth most of the time. I think that is what makes us so much hated because we stand to the truth. Because we believe that the love of truth is the spirit of man, that's what we believe, nobody can change us from that. Because we know that the day will come, we are just passing here, we are just bypassing here. This is not our land. We are just bypassing. We know that one day we will stand in front of the door of the Almighty and there we will be asked about our doings, where we are passing. So we must always stand for the truth. That is why we are so much hated. We have never lied. So, we don't believe, we know the nations that allow, that have got lies. We know. We know that. We don't want to be told about it. We know that. And, we don't believe in that. We stand for the truth, that's all. A Zulu man must die for the truth, not for lies. If he dies for lies, he knows that he's not going to be, I mean, to rest peacefully. But if he spoke the truth, he knows that he will rest peacefully.
POM. Well, thank you very much. It's been an honour.
GZ. Well, I didn't know that you'd be coming with a lady. Really, really. I didn't know this, really. But I'll just send somebody from a traditional residence, just to go and get something for you, which will be just a memorable memento of this visit.
POM. Oh, thank you.