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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
04 Nov 1994: Buthelezi, Mangosuthu
POM Dr Buthelezi, to start off I want to refer you to the statement that you made two years ago I believe. You said, "I am committed to the federal system. I am committed to one South Africa but we are already in a low intensity war and if the worst happens the Yugoslavia option might be hoisted on us." Ultimately what concession did the ANC or the government make to you, what concession at the tail end of the negotiations did the ANC and the government make to you that allowed you to come into the process and contest the elections?
MB There were no concessions. There was international mediation which aborted and when it aborted then someone was advising the team, the mediation team, Professor Washington Okumu from Kenya interceded and as a result of that intervention by him we signed an solemn agreement on the 19th of April which committed Mr de Klerk, then as President, to call a special session of parliament to enshrine the position of the King in the national constitution and which also committed us to continue with international mediation afterwards. So there is nothing complete except that they committed themselves that we would continue afterwards to negotiate concerning the position of the King, concerning the kingdom of KwaZulu which means the autonomy of that region.
POM Have those negotiations gone over the last several months.
MB In fact that's a big problem because up to now that has not happened. On the 5th September the Constitutional Assembly was sitting here and some of our members actually raised the issue of this international mediation. Our Senator, Senator Rabinowitz, one of the members of parliament Mr Mtshali and also the third person who was a member of parliament, Peter Smith, and when they raised these matters ANC members in the Constitutional Assembly were murmuring and mumbling and they were very hostile, very hostile. Before that I must say that as early as June or so I wrote a letter to Mr Mandela and also to Mr de Klerk where I reminded them of the solemn agreement that we made. Mr Mandela happened to be at the University of Zululand on the 25th June and the King was being honoured there and he was present and Mr Mandela referred then to having received my letter, he referred to the fact that he had received my letter.
POM But essentially no action has been forthcoming?
MB Then I wrote another letter seeing that there was no reaction. I then wrote another letter again to him reminding him and asking whether they want this to proceed or not. Then I merely received an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter from Mr Mandela's office, not directly from him and a letter from Mr de Klerk. Mr de Klerk in fact was quite friendly, I mean he was quite positive about the resumption of international mediation but in fact nothing has happened up to now. On Tuesday this week the Constituent Assembly sat again and again Mr Peter Smith got up and said that we wanted international mediation to proceed before the Constituent Assembly gets fully engaged in its work, prior to that. And again there were mumblings from the ANC and murmurs. Then on the same day the acting President or Deputy President, Mr Mbeki, told me that the King was here in Cape Town on Friday and that the King had raised this issue of international mediation as well, but of course I reminded him that it was a matter for the Province of KwaZulu/Natal, of our region. So that's where the matter rests at present.
POM If you see no action developing at all what kind of options are open to you?
MB Well I'm not considering any options. We've already said that we are not compromising.
POM You're not compromising.
MB No. It was a solemn agreement, it must be carried out.
POM Did part of that cover one of the issues that is not yet settled and that would be the range of powers that the region has versus what the government has?
MB In fact we think that that whole thing, that inevitably those issues will be addressed if that international mediation takes place about the kingdom of KwaZulu then inevitably those issues will have to be addressed.
POM One of the things we've found travelling around the country is that at the regional government level there is a lot of frustration and anger because of the slowness with which powers are being devolved to the regions by the central government.
MB In fact, Professor O'Malley, you have touched a very important thing. I attended a meeting of Premiers, I think in May it was, where Mr Mandela suggested I should attend with a few other ministers and I was surprised that some of the ANC Premiers were actually saying to me they don't understand why I should have fought for this autonomy alone for so long.
POM They need more powers to get the job done.
MB Absolutely. Because now they realise they are just puppets with no power and they want to do something for their people and they have no authority. And in fact I must say, Professor O'Malley that we are very much let down, at least as a region of KwaZulu/Natal, by the President because the constitution states that within 14 days after the Premier is elected the Premier can actually proclaim certain laws if he feels that they have the capacity to administer them and our Premier, Dr Mdlalose, did just that within the time frame but he didn't even get a reply.
POM That's a big issue outstanding and will be one of the primary focuses of the Constitutional Assembly when it gets into full swing next year.
MB You see the Constitutional Assembly, it's attitude as I have already stated to you, they seem to think that they must operate in the Constituent Assembly on a majoritarian basis. They are cock-a-hoop that they have a big majority and that therefore if anyone mentions minority reports as happened on Tuesday for instance they get very angry about that day, they don't want to hear anything about minority reports and so on. But if this is how they are going to operate then really the future looks very grim to me. Unless they are just making the noises for now. But I mean if that is their attitude, if that spells their attitude then really there's much more to worry about.
POM I want to talk to you on a kind of a sticky issue and that is the relationship between yourself and King Goodwill Zwelithini. Now during the CODESA negotiations you took a principled stand that you personally would not attend the negotiations.
MB Yes, I did not attend.
POM Unless provision was made to give a seat to the King to represent the interests of the Zulu nation as distinct from the interests of the IFP.
MB Correct , and the government of KwaZulu.
POM And you took a good bit of flack for that.
MB Not a bit, a lot of flack.
POM But you had your position. Now recently one hears, or at least the media is playing up ...
MB I'm glad that you're saying they are playing up, yes.
POM - a rift between you and the King and that he no longer sees you as his Chief Minister even though in the Buthelezi family traditionally this is where the Chief Ministers have come from.
MB No even though, it is not the Buthelezi family, but even though I've been Prime Minister of his father himself. There's no dispute about that.
POM So what's the relationship?
MB Well I've not had any quarrel with the King but I just notice that the ANC for a long time of course, even before they returned from Lusaka they tried to invite him to Lusaka even before they returned from exile, even before Mr Mandela was released. It has been their big project because they are under an illusion that I get such support among the Zulus themselves because of my closeness to him, which of course is laughable because it's not the case. My political career is much older than himself and in fact he himself provided a very good opportunity to test that in September when he decided that he didn't want the Zulus to celebrate King Shaka's Day and the Premier and his Cabinet, Mdlalose and his Cabinet and myself said we will proceed notwithstanding and we had attendance which was unprecedented, which I thought the people themselves were making a statement about it. So even now the anger about the perceived rift that you mention is very worrying among the people down there, people are fuming.
POM It's very worrying?
MB Worrying. Because the people are very angry with the King and of course that should have demonstrated with the ANC who have tried to estrange him that in fact they are under an illusion if they think that if they took him away from me then the people would follow because the people were only directed to him. I'm the one who led the people to him you see just as they did with the former Regent. The former Regent was a member of parliament of the ANC here, he's here, and even with him, you know they took him as a big prize and they thought that he would come with his Zulus because of his status but they just got him alone, no-one followed him. The same is being repeated now about the King. So in fact the fact that the King came here and raised the matter of international mediation I was quite surprised by whoever is advising him because it was the IFP on the 12th February this year who passed a resolution asking for international mediation. It was the IFP who have fought the issue of the King all along, of all the political parties. So for him now to think he can take this on by himself really is pathetic to say the least.
POM I want to go back for a minute to the elections last April. Both Patricia and I were on observing teams going around different polling stations and everything we saw looked fair, we didn't see anything deliberately breaking the regulations. Yes, after the elections and lot of accusations were made that the results in KwaZulu/Natal had been rigged, that there had been a lot of fraud going on. Did your party find that the ANC was 'stealing' seats.
MB Of course it's a fact, it is so. And the only reason why we did not dispute the verdict of the IEC when they said that they were free and fair was to prevent bloodshed because at that point there could have been bloodshed. But we still made it very clear that we had our reservations. There is no question about the fact that they did steal a lot of our votes and in fact a map which I have here shows that there were even districts where our votes were not counted at all. So it's a fact that that happened. It is a fact. But you see now the ANC accused us of the same thing but in fact the report by Mr Greenberg who was sent by President Clinton here was published and it was reported to the ANC where he said that when these accusations about the IFP doing fraudulent things cropped up Mr Mandela was convinced that the ANC was losing in KwaZulu/Natal and Greenberg's own verdict is that in fact IFP definitely won in KwaZulu/Natal. There's no dispute about that. And he was brought by the ANC, he was not our monitor.
POM Looking at that in relation to the local elections which are scheduled for next October, number one, do you think the country will be ready for local elections at that point?
MB I wonder really. I ask that question too. I ask that question because if you now talk about, just now the issue that you brought up yourself, the issue that even the Premiers have no powers, because they are supposed to conduct those elections, they are supposed to demarcate the constituencies and so on, if you take into account that now it's less than even twelve months now, it's going to be October next year, I honestly doubt, myself, very much. While all of us as politicians, we tell our people that elections are in October but frankly I wonder if we will be able to do that. If you think, of course also the compilation of voters' rolls and so on. It's an enormous task.
POM It's a much different task than was for the national election?
MB Oh absolutely.
POM What role do you think traditional Chiefs should play either parallel with ...?
MB I think I would have to ask you to fax an article because I don't need to speculate about that. There is already a law passed by KwaZulu/Natal about that and I don't think that my views matter. There's a law which was passed last week which I think spells it out.
POM Could you just summarise what it said for me?
PAT The relationship to local government.
MB Yes I can fax it to you.
POM There's also the question of who will run the elections.
MB Yes there is a problem because they are supposed to be run by the provinces but reporting not to my department which has the traditional role of conducting elections but to Mr Meyer who is the Minister of Local and Provincial Affairs. There is actually a very unhappy relationship between me and him on that issue.
POM And there's other talk about there being an Independent Electoral permanent commission.
MB Yes, yes.
POM Is there much support for that idea?
MB Well I think that when people hear about that, after the disaster of the IEC really, people of all parties are not very enchanted with the idea. But at any rate I think one would have to have a body, some body whose role would be regulatory rather than be in charge as the IEC was.
POM Within the Cabinet, you mentioned that in the Constituent Assembly there was a tendency now for votes to be taken on a majoritarian basis which is disturbing. What's happened in the Cabinet? How does it work to reach consensus on any particular issue?
MB Well actually I think that the members of the IFP who are in Cabinet are not very happy and an example of that is the Truth Commission, for instance, for we are totally opposed to the Truth Commission. We don't think that will bring about reconciliation but nevertheless the ANC is determined to do so. Now when it came before the Cabinet we made this very clear but when the announcement was made by Mr Dullah Omar, the Minister of Justice, he gave the impression as if there was no problem between parties and I have just received his letter where he says I must make a statement because he received my comments late. And then the other example which makes us unhappy as IFP members of Cabinet was the issue of the Constitutional Court where the names of the people who were already nominated and appointed, suggested for appointment by Mr Omar and the President, were brought to us and I commented in the Cabinet and said that I don't know what we are expected to do because now if these names are brought in by the minister whose function is to deal with the matter and the President already has said that he wants to appoint them. To say therefore they are approved by Cabinet is not quite true as far as we are concerned because in fact at that point we don't know whether after consultation or in consultation there are nuances there which disturbed us. So they are good examples of how it is operating and the unhappiness of how it's operating.
POM What do you think in the last seven months, if you were just looking back for the last seven months, what do you think the government has done well? What have its strengths been and what have its weaknesses been?
MB Well I think it is too early myself. They brought in the American thing of 100 days which actually is nonsense here in this situation because I thought the 100 days was really purely an American habit which has been operating for 200 years. Now to use that here that was farcical when you have hardly set up provinces to talk about 100 days, when you have hardly assigned powers to proclaim provinces to talk like that. I would say that in terms of intent maybe the government has made some very good definitions about it, the Reconstruction and Development Programme, but even then there are murmurs on the ground, when will it take off? I don't say that is valid myself but nevertheless that's the reality that people are impatient to see it take off. Apart from that I would say that there are things the President announced for instance about feeding some of the pupils in our primary schools. It is a good thing. It has been implemented in some parts but quite clearly cannot operate smoothly everywhere overnight but I think that is very good and also the provision of medicine which also by way of intent is a good thing because the government intends providing free medicine for ante-natal clinics, in other words for women who are pregnant and so on, they have free medical services. That intent is also very good.
POM And how about the economy? Has it been improving?
MB Well the prospects are good but I don't think there is something to write home about as yet and of course the consumption by government has been enormous. And I would also say there is a culture which was created, I'm afraid, by our brothers in the ANC which is very destructive. This culture of strikes at the drop of a hat and so on and also the fact that a lot of our people expect the government to employ them whereas in fact even compared to the Nationalists or other countries we have 200,000 more civil servants than we should have already. There are about a million applicants for jobs here and the economy can never get right that way because the government consumption is already too high here. And of course there is international debt as well but the prospects for investments and so on and things that Mr Mandela did in America with President Clinton and so on and what Mr Mbeki and Mr de Klerk are supposed to do, all those things do make our prospects for investments good in the long term.
POM Again reading the newspapers, we spent the last four months back in Boston, you see the MK is walking out of the camps, strikes happening in the middle of downtown Johannesburg, crime is running high.
MB Yes even last night there was an announcement. We have been negotiating through our Minister of Public Administration, Zola Skweyiya, with our own civil servants who already want wages, we've tried to increase because the government cannot compare to industries and the private sector but already they are threatening to strike too. There has been disruption in hospitals and so on, I mean nurses neglecting patients. All that doesn't look good to me.
POM Is the situation in Natal still one of a considerable amount of violence or has the violence fallen away?
MB Well I'm afraid we're still losing a lot of people. I'll just show you a private letter, just when we finish, which I was reading just when I arrived here and you were already sitting here, which will indicate to you that the situation is not very good at all because our leaders are still being serially killed. Even some of the leaders that were trying to prepare for the elections, I mean there is a negotiation forum which they created and they were participated in this and they were serially killed and this was never resolved who is killing them, we don't know.
POM So if you were a businessman outside and you were looking at the situation in South Africa would you say, "Well it's not stable enough yet for me to make a decision, I'll wait awhile to do these things"?
MB I wouldn't recommend, but let me put it this way that if a businessman was hesitant in the light of what I have told you I would understand it perfectly.
POM This is a quote from The Sowetan newspaper, "The salaries that ministers and MPs are paying themselves are obscenely high when seen against what ordinary people are earning and is one of the reasons for a lot of the industrial unrest."
MB Utter rubbish, what utter rubbish. In the first place it's the Melamed Commission led by a judge long before anyone thought there was going to be this government which decided to fix the salaries and what I find as a minister is that all the perks of office which have been enjoyed by ministers who were removed. I, the black man, I think that because they think we're black we don't deserve perks. For instance for the government house that I'm using here I'm paying about R4000 a month.
POM You are personally?
MB Yes, and this house used to be free for a Cabinet minister, all these decades it was free. I pay for it. They say one house should be free, which means the one in Pretoria, but I've only spent time here, nine months here in parliament and that's as much as I pay. They used to have servants. Well I brought my own servants from home that I pay from my pocket and I can mention a number of other things which makes it nonsensical to say that we are on the gravy train and so on. I mean when people like Archbishop Tutu join in and talk like that when he lives in a palace here and he's already a millionaire, it really sickens you to the bottom of your stomach the hypocrisy of it. And to say that the strikes are caused by that is rubbish because what does the Editor of the Sowetan get a month? How much is he paid himself? It would be interesting. When I finish with you and other things I'm going to KwaZulu/Natal, I'm going to my home, because I have meetings tomorrow and Sunday so I must go. I'm shuttling to and fro and so on and you know I've got one of my grandchildren who stays with me and my servant and I have to pay for them every week, I have to pay nearly R2000 and so on. Where is the gravy train? I would like to have the gravy but I haven't tasted it yet.
POM We have spent some weeks going around the country asking some of the regional ministers how they were doing and some civil servants and other people and when it came to the RDP we found, number one, that ordinary people don't know what it is at all. You mention it to ordinary people and they give you a blank stare.
MB This is true.
POM When you talk to ministers about it, regional ministers, some of them give you a kind of a blank look.
MB I'm not surprised.
POM And third, that there are different interpretations in different departments of what the RDP is in the one government. Why has it been so slow to get off the ground and to bring the people into it where it becomes their process. It hasn't been sold.
MB No, but in fact Professor O'Malley, I think I was the one who said to you before we started this interview that it hasn't got off the ground, didn't I? I said so. So it remains a myth to people because they haven't seen it in action. Now for instance the IFP, my philosophy in the last almost 20 years when I founded the IFP, I always said to my people, "Yes, we have been unjustly treated, there needs to be reparation and so on but you see the idea that the other people owe us a living is nonsense", and the twin pillars of my philosophy are self help and self reliance. In fact a very interesting thing happened recently when the Minister of Public Works actually went up to our part of the country and he found that we are people who are far ahead in the things that they are talking about in the gardens they have, vegetable gardens, the things they do by hand and so on. They were just surprised because already we have been having that philosophy for a long time and every time - we had a Women's Conference in October, last month, it's very interesting the most important aspect of it is the exhibition of the women, how women, there are a few women, where you see the things they do, the things they need, the things they do out of material that is discarded, right up to wedding cakes and wedding dresses and so on. I mean right across. That is something that I feel good about as President of the IFP because I think in that respect when I praise my people they always say that they owe it to me because I have taught them. In all modestly I really feel good about it.
POM I'd like to go back to this question of jobs because I'm fascinated by it, where you can create new jobs. Derek Keys said last year when he was Minister of Finance that the best this economy could do in the next several years would be to increase employment by 1% a year. I saw him last week and I said, "You said this last year, would you still stand by the statement?" and his answer was, "Yes I will". Then you have the government coming out with a statement saying it will eliminate 200,000 jobs out of the civil service but you're also bringing in more people. Where do the jobs come from? Where can they come from?
MB I think people in line functions would have to answer that. I know for instance the officials in my own department they would have vacancies here and there. But the point is that there was over-employment in the past. In other words you might say that the main industry as far as the government was concerned was employment of people in the government and I think that has been the bane of Africa as a whole because throughout Africa, in many poor countries of Africa you find even worse than here, we are more developed than they are, that their only industry is civil service.
POM And then you have the situation of continuing withholding of rent.
MB That culture again is boomeranging because our brothers in the ANC have created that culture and now it's difficult to undo it because people are now used to having services for which they don't pay. Maybe heaven is like that, I've not heard of any country in the world where people don't pay for services and I always condemned it and I was very unpopular as far as political concerns. I suffered politically because I always opposed it, even in Soweto the IFP opposed the non-payment of rent and so on, non-payment for electricity and so on.
POM How do you think this whole situation with the MK has been handled? Was it something that should have been dealt with by the Minister of Defence and the Cabinet rather than giving in to their demand that Mr Mandela come and address them?
MB Well I suppose it was delicate because of the situation of these people, Mr Mandela was also Commander in Chief of MK. During the struggle he was Commander in Chief and when they demanded him I suppose they were within their rights. Whether it was correct is another matter because the line function, the minister who is the line function for them is Mr Modise. But the attitude of Mr Mandela when he handled it I thought was a good attitude because he actually said that they must stop the nonsense and so on. But apparently and especially in my part of the world thousands of them have not gone back. So what's going to happen there I really don't know.
POM When you look at this whole issue of land redistribution and it is looming there on the horizon, do you think a satisfactory establishment can be established?
MB To establish what?
POM To deal with the question of land redistribution, people whose land was taken from them.
MB Yes. The government's attitude is that if land was taken for reasons for apartheid as here in Cape Town District Six people were removed just for ideological reasons, that land will be restored to them. That is the attitude of the government.
POM Has the Conservative Party by not contesting elections marginalised itself?
MB Some of their own people say so. I've heard some members of the party saying so. Now and then I see Dr Hartzenberg but I think that there are some members of his party who in retrospect think it was a mistake.
POM Why despite the way in which the threat of the right was played up all of last year that the Afrikaner was going to fight for his homeland and Eugene Terre'Blanche was parading with several thousand of his members of the AWB and yet in the end it all collapsed like a whimper, that there was nothing there? Why do you think that was? Why do you think the right was so weak in the end?
MB Well it was fragmented. When General Viljoen decided to participate, surely, obviously, quite clearly that weakened it because when he decided to participate in the elections that increased the fragmentation and so on and I would say that that is the only thing, that they fragmented.
POM So when you review the last seven months, just in your own view, what do you think has been the biggest accomplishment of the new government?
MB I thought we had gone over that.
POM We have gone over strengths and weaknesses. But just one thing can you pick out?
MB I think the fact that up to now anyway, while there is no pretence on my part that the government of national unity is paradise but nevertheless up to now somehow it is still, fragile as it is, it is still operating. I think that is the only thing I can say.
POM There has been some talk about the length of time the Constitutional Assembly has to draw up the new constitution, that it should be increased.
MB Yes there is a strong feeling even amongst our members.
POM Do you see substantial changes being made to the new constitution or minor changes?
MB Well as far as we are concerned we think we should write a new constitution because that constitution was flawed as far as we are concerned and therefore our attitude as a party is that we should write together a new constitution but I think probably there may be some people who think that one only needs to amend this one here and there. There's nothing wrong with the Bill of Rights and there's nothing wrong with the constitutional principles and so on, but still we think that it should be rewritten, done over.
POM So as you look forward to next year do you think things will become more stable or do you think that if local elections do take place that the rivalry between the IFP and the ANC will again be conducive to that?
MB There is rivalry between us. There is a big problem between the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu/Natal. It's very serious indeed. This whole thing with the King, they are responsible for that. They are doing all that with the King. And that is not conducive to any reconciliation.
POM Thank you very much. Thank you and I appreciate that you take the time to do this.