About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Jul 1992: Buthelezi, Mangosothu

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Dr. Buthelezi, this last year appears to have been a particularly difficult year for you and that you became the target of attack from your political opponents more than ever. It would appear sometimes that the entire misfortunes of SA are being laid squarely on your shoulders. What do you think are the political motivations of your opponents in trying to create this perception?

MB     I think that anybody who has studied communism would understand. With communists you are either revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries. In my case, they stated this very, very clearly in their document in 1985, which I think you have, where they stated that I was not a puppet of the regime but that they considered me to be a counter-revolutionary, and then they stated in black and white that they must therefore work on bringing me down.

     So therefore, one has to understand that as their whole motivation in all that they are doing, destroying me politically because they regard me as their biggest problem. One release from Lusaka stated that they regarded me as their biggest problem in South Africa, so the intensification of that should not surprise anyone who understands how communists work. The ANC is an alliance between the communists and those who are ANC and the influence of communism is very predominant there. They see me as the barrier between them and where they want to go because they feel that my organisation is an obstruction to where they would like to go, to seize power, because their aim is to seize power. I don't think they have given up that and I think that the deadlock with CODESA is the evidence of the fact that, when realising that they couldn't get their way at CODESA then they decided to drum up what they are doing now, mass action which is going to escalate violence and destroy the economy. They don't care about the destruction of the economy because they know children's empty stomachs are good material for a revolution.

POM     So, would you see now in particular a situation in which the SACP element in the ANC has gained, is now at the fore, is now influencing the movement and its direction far more than at the time Dr. Mandela was released from prison?

MB     This is quite definite because if you look at the segments of the alliance which are there, the ANC/SACP/COSATU, if you look at COSATU you will notice the leaders of COSATU are members of the Communist Party, also if you look at the Executive of the ANC you will see that more than half the members are members of the Communist Party, but they are seen as representatives of the ordinary members of the ANC, so that indicates who influences who. The Communist Party influences the ANC but not the other way around.

POM     The speech that Dr. Mandela gave at the United Nations which appeared in many respects to be a calculated attack on you, do you think that that speech was prepared as part of a plan, and again, what is the plan, why were you consciously isolated as a target of Mr. Mandela whom you have always spoken highly of?

MB     I cannot answer that question as I cannot think for him or read his mind, but I have already defined what motivates them. That is quite clear as he has always said that he is a loyal member of the ANC meaning that he must do what others in the ANC tell him. He said straight in 1990 when he was supposed to come and see me and people came up from Natal led by Mr. Gwala and persuaded him not to come here and later he says he was almost throttled by these people. So that is the position.

POM     When you look at the two and a half years since Mr. Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned, have you been disappointed in the progress this country has made towards becoming a non-racial democracy?

MB     I don't think I am disappointed, the opportunity for talks now is there, whereas in the past we were denied the opportunity to talk, but now the opportunities are there, and it seems to me very unfortunate that at this time the ANC should wreck the platform for talks by withdrawing from CODESA merely because they couldn't get their way in CODESA.

POM     Am I correct in saying that you essentially see their withdrawal as a result of them not being able to get their way and deciding to go back to the streets and try to seize power through mass mobilisation?

MB     Absolutely, that is my opinion. The truth of the matter is it was not the white veto they are talking about which made them walk out, it was just the fact that for the first time it was shown to the whole world that they don't really run the show as other voices were heard for the first time.

POM     Do you see again that two and a half year period as an attempt to marginalise you and KwaZulu?

MB     Marginalise? I don't know how you marginalise the biggest nation in the country. How can one do that?

POM     But do you think they have been trying to do that?

MB     I don't know. I don't understand the world marginalise. I don't know what you mean because we are the largest nation in SA, how can that happen?

POM     By trying to diminish their importance and trying to diminish the importance of the Zulu nation.

MB     But how can it be so? There is no nation in SA which has the history that we have, that all whites, both the Afrikaners and the English acknowledge. The only holiday referring to white/black clashes contains the Zulus on the 16th of December, the Day of the Covenant.

POM     The parties at CODESA, primarily the ANC and the move to have Zwelithini excluded from the forum as a voice for the Zulu nation, was that done just by the ANC or was it done by the ANC and the South African government?

MB     I think there was some collusion. It was primarily done by the ANC because at first they did not press on this, but later the government obfuscated as well because originally we had discussed with them. In fact at the meeting that was held on intimidation and violence there was a delegation there of the Zulu nation, there was the King's delegation, also when we went to sign the Peace Accord in September, the same thing happened and there were no problems. So it was not until the ANC raised the matter and the irony, of course, is that the government should have been in cahoots with them on that issue and that was because the government was still on a spree to placate them. They did that for them when they had made undertakings with us that in fact there was no problem about the Zulu representation and then they turned around and said no, it was agreed that it should only be political parties, and when I put it to them that if that is the case then why are heads of junta governments who have not even been elected, Transkei, Ciskei and Venda, and yet the Zulu nation is not represented, for instance, these people as they are they have not been approved, so they are not political parties.

     So I mean this is not surprising because in July 1990 the ANC/UDF alliance, when the UDF was still in existence, they tried to organise in some of the large cities a stayaway directed at pressurising the government of SA to dismantle, as they put it, to dismantle KwaZulu. We are the only territory that was not created by the policy of the homelands. It seems to us logical that we should therefore be the only ones singled out of the dismantling process when we are a sovereign state.

POM     You made an extraordinarily powerful speech at the recent opening of the KwaZulu Legislature, in fact in reading it I gained the impression that you have little trust for the SA government, don't know whether you can trust their word in the future or don't even trust the kinds of alliances they appear to make, particularly when they are party to arrangements that would appear to placate the ANC and exclude the Zulu nation from the negotiations.

MB     Yes.

POM     In your own analysis what do you think counts for the manner in which the SA government tries to develop its own strategy in trying to placate the ANC?

MB     It has been doing so for a long time but I don't know if it will still continue along that road, because since the CODESA deadlock there is no love lost shown between them. So that while it was so, I don't know whether it will continue. SA having been isolated for so long, for the first time they realised that they were accepted in the offices of the heads of states in the West and even Africa, and of course one of the reasons why is because they are applauding him (de Klerk) for releasing Mandela.

POM     You have talked about CODESA being the only negotiating forum in the country, and the necessity of everyone involved to get back to the negotiating table.

MB     Personally I prefer a multi-party conference which I don't think has been accepted yet in the government circles and we have brought a proposal even to Mr. Barnes, the Emissary of the United Nations, I have put that proposal to him. So I think for now CODESA is more or less frustrated or something I don't know, but for the moment it is dead and I believe that we cannot lose heart now. That is why I proposed that we should have a multi-party conference.

POM     You have said that even if CODESA did get back together its base needs to be broadened to bring in not just the Zulu nation but also others.

MB     That is right, the CP and so on and AZAPO. I have said that it was not flawless precisely for the reason that it was not fully representative and I think that any constitution should be representative as widely of the country as possible based on the masses.

POM     What lessons do you think came out of the CODESA process that will be useful in the next negotiating forum?

MB     That we should have a mechanism whereby no party can just walk out and then make CODESA, or whatever negotiating forum, vulnerable merely because one party walked away and therefore there is no quorum.

POM     Would that inclusion in that kind of forum work where major parties involved in the conflict are left out of the process?

MB     Yes, I have said that it was flawed because certain elements were not there and that they should be included, so I don't know what the problem is now about that. I have already said that.

POM     You said that KwaZulu can never be part of governing arrangements arranged by a forum to which the people of KwaZulu and the King of the Zulus have not been a party, they would not be bound by those arrangements.

MB     Yes. The government can't tell us what to do. Any person who condones that would condone a dictatorship, that eight million people should just be given marching orders in a thing in which they did not participate.

POM     Can you share with us, if you can, (since I started interviewing you I have not published anything and will not do so until the process is over in the next 3-4 years) could you share with us what you told Mr. Vance in terms of the steps that must be taken to reduce violence in the country?

MB     I have always said that the Peace Accord is there but it just not being implemented. The provisions which were signed for were never adhered to or observed.

POM     So the Peace Accord is a fine structure but the violence continues at an undiminished pace on the ground? Therefore what do you do to make that structure work?

MB     Well, I suppose by going back to the co-signatories to look at it. Such a meeting was proposed and was scheduled for the end of the month but were not going to attend this meeting because of the foul things that Mandela said about us, because those should be sorted out first bilaterally before we can be involved as co-signatories, because he is the one who raises such points as saying that we are a surrogate of the SA government, he doesn't know how to deal with us. We can't see that we can just ignore what he said, he has got to define what he means by that. So then we hope by the 11th of August when the Peace Committee meets again, probably that matter may have been resolved.

POM     In a speech to a meeting of the IFP here in Ulundi two weeks ago, you said, "I personally do not see any prospect of the ANC returning to CODESA", and then you say ominously that if negotiations cannot get off the ground then violence will escalate, it will do so more than it is doing now. "We might be pushed into a situation where violence will have to run its course before we can begin negotiations." [Do you think SA ...?]

MB     It is self-explanatory that statement.

POM     Yes. Do you think SA has approached that point that unless this process gets back on track very quickly, that the situation may become uncontrollable?

MB     It is already uncontrollable now. There are aspects which show that even now it has become uncontrollable and it can only escalate.

POM     What specific things can you point to in terms of it being uncontrollable?

MB     For instance, look at the Boipatong violence, the Xhosa violence before that where our members were massacred, people shooting people in the trains, people shooting people, killing people all over, everyday I get reports, daily there are murders. Even yesterday and I am sure I will get some today. That is uncontrollable in my view.

POM     I want to touch on something else for a moment. Were you surprised by the degree to which whites voted 'yes' in the referendum last March?

MB     No, because of the question. I have always said that change did not happen because of any one particular party, but institutionalised SA felt that change must take place because of it. The people themselves want change and the question that was put at the referendum was do they want reform? They showed what I really believe that the majority of white people in this country do want to share power, they do want change, they do realise that it is in their interests to accept change.

POM     Here, throughout that referendum Mr. De Klerk conducted a process in which equality would be achieved in SA through the 'sharing of power' by blacks and whites. The ANC have always talked about this process as being one about the 'transfer of power'. Is this where the basic conflict exists, whether it is about the 'sharing of power' or the 'transfer of power', and in your view, what is the process about?

MB     I think I have already made it very clear that I have always believed in negotiations, which implies that there should be a sharing of power.

POM     You have also made a very strong case that in a new SA regions should be developed on a federal basis, with as much dissolution of power to the regions as possible.

MB     Yes, I believe in federation.

POM     Are you in favour of each region having its own constitution or of there being a national constitution?

MB     In a proper federation it is regional, in any proper federation it is so. So our federation should not be different from other federations. There should be a proper federation with federal powers on a residual power relationship with the central government.

POM     Do you think that the results of the referendum have eliminated or greatly reduced the threat of the right wing, of the militant right wing in SA, or is that still there as a threat?

MB     I am not sure whether they have repented but we tried to talk to some of them who can talk to us. We said they need to join the rest of us, count themselves amongst nationals, they should take part in a multi-party conference.

POM     Were you surprised, yourself personally, when at CODESA, the ANC was prepared to accept a threshold of 75% for items to be included in a Bill of Rights and 70% for items to be included in the constitution, did that surprise you that they would go that far?

MB     Who?

POM     The ANC.

MB     Go so far as to what?

POM     Like when the ANC originally said that 662/3% would be required and then they moved to saying they would accept a threshold of 70% for items to be included in a constitution and 75% for items in a Bill of Rights. Did it surprise you that they were prepared to go that far?

MB     No because in negotiations it is a give and take situation. That shows that they tried to be rational that is all, because in negotiations people give and take, that is the nature of negotiations.

POM     How do you interpret what happened in your response strategy for your party and for your King? Do you see the ANC having moved from a deadlock where both Mr. Mandela and Mr. De Klerk were saying, "We are at a deadlock but things aren't insurmountable" to a point six weeks later where they walk out of negotiations, where they make fourteen more demands before they will return to the table, where they say they are going to embark on a nationwide program of mass mobilisation? Is there a shift of power within the ANC itself?

MB     Well, I don't know whether one can say it is a shift, but it seems to me one can say they have not changed from being a revolutionary organisation and it stands out also in the reasons they give for not converting the ANC from a liberation movement to a political party.

POM     Do you think that there is a dishonesty in the way violence is manipulated for political purposes, for example at Crossroads, the massacre of women and children hardly merited a word in the press and certainly no word in the international media, yet with Boipatong the media of the world gathers and it becomes a huge political occasion? Why do you think that when people who are killed who are supporters of the IFP that their deaths are treated somehow as being less important than when the people who are killed are perceived to be supporters of the ANC?

MB     Well, there has been a misrepresentation the media and the ANC because in Boipatong some of the people that died there are IFP, some of them were buried as members of the ANC whereas they were IFP.

POM     Given the level of violence that you have talked about, do you think that there is a climate in this country now that would allow for free and fair elections?

MB     Given the?

POM     The climate, that you could have free and fair elections here.

MB     That is the thing that should be created, a climate for free and fair elections because that implies that there is tolerance which does not exist, that implies that there is no culture of violence yet it still exists.

POM     So when people talk about an interim government and an election for a Constituent Assembly, in your view they are talking about an election that couldn't be held in the first place because it couldn't be fair and free?

MB     I think that it would be ridiculous, with the level of violence that we have, to imagine what you call a free election, when people are being killed merely for belonging to certain political parties. So, it seems to me that the election would fail under those circumstances.

POM     Have you read the Waddington report about the SAP?

MB     Yes.

POM     Would it reflect what has been the experience of your government with the SA police that on occasion that they are unaccountable, that they are not competent when they carry out investigations? Do you have problems with the SAP?

MB     No I have no complaints about the police. I mean some policemen are good people. I would not condemn all of them because of some. There are some policemen who are in cahoots with the ANC and the ANC have been accused of being in cahoots with the police when the truth is that there have been cases, in fact which went to court, where policemen have been convicted for killing our members. So that complaint is valid from all sides, I would not say of course that it is okayed from the top, but on the ground a lot of things do take place.

POM     I've got this question and I know you don't like to speculate, but so many complaints have been made against the SAP in the last two years, that one must think that Mr. de Klerk, as a political creature, would have ordered some sweeping investigations into police activity or would have removed some of the key personnel and replaced them, yet for the most part, he has sat back, done nothing and said bring me direct evidence and the problem has mounted and mounted and mounted. Why do you think he has been reluctant to take action to bring his own police force to make it more accountable?

MB     He has been reluctant? I don't see as being reluctant. I think that the police were trained on the old system and I think that we are landed with a new system altogether, with the culture changed by the revolution of apartheid. But I would not say that Mr. de Klerk deliberately stayed away and failed to take action against his policemen. I don't think so because the fact that we have any semblance of communities today is because we have got those members of the Defence Force and the military, and there have been cases where people have complained even against the military and not the police in some of the areas. It does seem to me that the important thing is to get senior policemen re-trained in crowd control, for instance, in Britain or even America. But they were trained for quite a different era and we are entering a different era now.

POM     So am I correct in summarising your view as being that the police who were trained in the sixties and seventies are at the vanguard of the struggle against the people, and they use practices that are simply unacceptable today when they are supposed to be more of a civilian peace force, guarding people in their communities?

MB     Yes. I think that, of course, they are. Even us, we have been saying people must have protective units to protect themselves when there is a certain onslaught against them, but according to the Peace Accord we cannot run the risk of being seen as a private army. So in terms of this we can only sanction protective units, to protect themselves in terms of our common law.

POM     You have urged your communities to form defence units to protect themselves against what you see to be the impending and increasing attacks of the ANC?

MB     That is true.

POM     Having read your speeches over the last month, it would seem to me that you are saying that SA is in a state of war, that the KwaZulu and Zulu people are being assaulted and that the time is coming when the people of KwaZulu and the Zulu nation will have to defend themselves strenuously against these attacks, and against arrangements reached at a negotiating forum where their voice is not heard.

POM     Am I correct in my summarisations?

MB     Can you repeat that, that is in the area of the forum?

POM     That you will have to defend yourselves much as against these mounting attacks from the ANC.

MB     Yes, quite.

POM     But also that you will have to defend yourselves against arrangements made about the future of the country in a forum in which you and your people have no say.

MB     I have said that the Zulu people cannot be expected to obey laws which are made for them in their absence, to adhere to constitutional provisions which are adopted by others and which were drafted in their absence. That is it.

POM     Remember when we were here the first time I spoke to you in 1990, how warmly you spoke of Dr. Mandela. You were disappointed but you still spoke of him with great warmth. Is that warmth now gone?

MB     If it were you how would you feel?

POM     I would feel hurt.

MB     That is how I feel. And the fact that he allows himself to be a puppet of the Communist Party, because I know Mr. Mandela, I know his heart, I know what kind of person he is, but being a puppet of these people and allowing them to give me marching orders, he has reduced himself to that level. But it is not him alone who does these things, I have evidence, I am not speculating. He said that they almost throttled him. While I also look after my constituency and have to listen to what they say, I have not yet been throttled by anybody, but I cannot ignore the wishes of the organisation, but I cannot lead from the back all the time, following what others say, sometimes as a leader I take bold step and if people don't like it, they are free to criticise in some forum.

POM     With this stayaway that is coming up on the 3rd of August, do you think that the ANC and COSATU may have over-estimated their capacity to engage in a prolonged industrial strike, that the people simply won't back the whole thing and that this thing might backfire on them?

MB     This is true. They can't sustain that industrial strike, it is impossible.

POM     What options - I mean you said they won't come back to CODESA, you don't see them coming back?

MB     That was merely speculation, they may still come back, I don't know. But their utterances give that impression, it is not what I wish but what they say.

POM     What does your gut feeling tell you about what they will do if they do not go back to the negotiating table?

MB     They will take the matter from the negotiating table to the streets, it is as simple as that. They want to resolve things on the basis of taking it from the forums to the streets.

POM     This is on something quite different. (1) I think, in a new SA, whites will have to learn to live with less privileges. Do you think blacks will have to learn to live with a sense of more responsibility? That the black community, like part of what happened in the 1980's, that the ANC and the UDF said "Let's make the country ungovernable", and created a generation of young people who only know how to make the country ungovernable. In a new SA how do you set about undoing those attitudes?

MB     Well I really don't know. It has been inculcated for a long time, it will take a long time to get that out of their minds. That is the thing which worries us.

POM     You mean the kangaroo courts are still going on?

MB     Yes, they are still going on.

POM     I think you yourself were hanged in Pietermaritzburg recently.

MB     Quite, and in Cape Town too.

POM     Do you think these actions are done with the connivance of the leadership or that in fact there are large sections of the ANC which are simply out of the control of the leadership?

MB     The spokesman for the ANC after the trial in answering to President de Klerk, he said that these were legitimate things and that these people were entitled to try us, therefore giving it the approval of the leadership, because Mr. Macazoma is their spokesman.

POM     So, in your view this is done with the connivance of the leadership? [(I am just repeating that for the tape more than for anything else, so that I can pick it up when I am doing the transcript).]

MB     You are right, I agree with you.

POM     One theory put forward is that the ANC wanted the collapse of talks all along because they know they simply can't go to the country and get a majority vote among the people. Do you think that is true, do you think that you, the government and other opposition parties, in an election held today, would probably gain more votes than the ANC?

MB     How do I know that? Especially with the level if intimidation that is going on, as I have already described to you, the level of intimidation and violence are at a high level. Where there is no free democratic election, how can one predict where things could fall.

POM     If you look at the proposals that the IFP had before CODESA, some of which I think might reflect what the KwaZulu government and the Zulu people would want, if you had to pick the one or two most important ones, the one or two issues on which you would find it extremely difficult to compromise, which one or two would those be? For example, you have talked about federalism as being a key component, you have talked about there being a structure in place which says how the constitution can be amended to ensure that no single party can do that, you have talked about a multi-party executive, you have talked about the devolution of power to the lowest local government units. Just of those items, which one is the one that is most important to you, that you would find it impossible or very, very difficult to compromise on?

MB     I think that would be compromising the federation itself. We have suffered because of the manipulative power that the central government has had on the region, therefore I think that I cannot compromise on that. Anything else it would be a recipe for war.

POM     What would be a recipe for war?

MB     Anything but a federation in this country.

POM     You are talking about a strong federal system with the rights entrenched in the constitution not coming from the central government?

MB     Yes.

POM     Since I have been coming here, I think one government minister, Mr. Wessels, actually said apartheid was wrong, amongst most of the white leaders that I talk to, and in the white community, one does not get the impression that they think what they did was anything very wrong, they rather talk in terms of let's have a new beginning and get on with the new SA. Do you think that there can be any real basis of reconciliation in this country without acknowledgement by the white community, through its representatives, that it did wrong and that it should look for forgiveness for that wrong and that it knows that reparations in terms of eliminating some of the inequalities that exist is an important part of the process? Do you think that has to be done?

MB     For them to confess?

POM     Yes.

MB     Yes I suppose so, but we on our side should not behave as if we are white extremists. I think that there may be degrees of hurt, it may be in various degrees but still, I think you cannot say we as a black community have got nothing to confess about.

POM     Do you think then the black community should confess the acts of violence they have committed against members of its own community?

MB     Yes, and against others. People are killing policemen today merely because they are policemen, they have no quarrel with them.

POM     Do you, as you look to the future today, are you less optimistic about the future than you were two years ago?

MB     No, I still hope for a brighter future, but I realise that the road will be very bumpy. Bumpier than I anticipated.

POM     It is going to be a longer and a more difficult road?

MB     A bumpy road yes.

POM     Is it your hope then that in the coming months a new negotiating forum can be developed? I mean there is no point in going back to the old CODESA is there?

MB     Well, I don't know. I wouldn't want to be the one who says RIP to CODESA, but nevertheless, with the response of the ANC, I don't think that they seem to be overly enthusiastic to revive the process. But I mean it will revive.

POM     If it continues to be exclusive?

MB     Then it is flawed, it cannot deliver peace.

POM     I know you submitted a package to the United Nations of material. Would it be possible to get a copy of those materials?

MB     We are still preparing a complete transcript because I spoke off the cuff as well.

POM     You did? So there not a complete transcription of your actual speech?

MB     No, but they are typing it now.

POM     Ok, thank you. What role do you see for the international community in South Africa?

MB     Well I think the international community can play the kind of role that has been played by Emissary of the Secretary General of the United Nations and also I think that on the basis of fact finding missions, they can play this role, but I don't believe that in doing that we need to have a peace keeping force in South Africa from outside. I think that is going a bit far. But I do believe that there is a lot that the international community can do. The Commonwealth for instance, the OAU and the UN, I don't think it will do us any harm if they mixed amongst us and try to play an honest brokers' role amongst us in SA.

POM     Thank you.

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.