No rest for bru­tal Buthelezi

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Some time ago, I de­cided to re­frain from writ­ing about Man­go­suthu Buthelezi un­til af­ter old age had dealt him the fate that he and his mur­der­ous bat­tal­ions pre­ma­turely dealt oth­ers. That was mainly be­cause so much has been said and writ­ten – in­clud­ing by this lowly news­pa­per­man – about the evil le­gacy of the head of the Inkatha Free­dom Party (IFP).

Even when he made his long over­due an­nounce­ment about his im­mi­nent re­tire­ment as IFP leader, I was de­ter­mined to re­sist the temp­ta­tion. But then came the disin­gen­u­ous trib­utes. ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe said Buthelezi had “run his race and played his role”.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane thanked him “for the role he played in KwaZulu-Natal in the early 1990s” – which hap­pens to be when the IFP’s blood­lust was at its peak. He ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion “for the 1994 de­ci­sion Buthelezi took to par­tic­i­pate in the first demo­cratic South African elec­tion af­ter he ini­tially re­fused”. Wow!

Af­ter the man and his friends in the loony rightwing and the se­cu­rity forces waged a ter­ror cam­paign against the peo­ple with their ma­chine guns, bombs and other weapons, we are sup­posed to be grate­ful.

But the one that took the cake was a trib­ute penned by United Demo­cratic Move­ment leader Bantu Holomisa. While ac­knowl­edg­ing Buthelezi’s role in the vi­o­lence of the 1980s and 1990s, Holomisa also praised him for call­ing off the dogs of war.

Holomisa wrote that “his as­tute lead­er­ship qual­i­ties be­came ev­i­dent as he helped re­solve the sit­u­a­tion”.

Help me here. Some­one starts a fire and then gets praised when he joins com­mu­nity ef­forts to douse the flames?

Holomisa con­tin­ued: “Shenge was very in­flu­en­tial at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble dur­ing Codesa [the Con­ven­tion for a Demo­cratic SA]. His vi­sion and com­mit­ment could not be ig­nored.”

True. He was in­deed in­flu­en­tial in de­mand­ing a semi-au­ton­o­mous Zulu king­dom and us­ing vi­o­lence to force his point across. Who could ig­nore such may­hem and de­struc­tion?

The gen­eral then lec­tured that Buthelezi’s po­lit­i­cal life “teaches us that, to be a for­mi­da­ble leader, you never shy away from your re­spon­si­bil­ity to the na­tion for empty pop­ulist slo­gans”.

Again, true. The peo­ple of KwaZulu-Natal and Gaut­eng know ex­actly what a for­mi­da­ble leader he is – not be­cause of empty pop­ulist slo­gans, but be­cause of the time they spent at fu­ner­als.

In his mes­sage, Man­tashe wished Buthelezi “a good re­tire­ment”. Maimane wished him “strength in re­tire­ment” and “many years of good health”. Holomisa wished him a “well-de­served rest”.

If only the dead, the or­phans, the wid­ows, wid­ow­ers and the count­less vic­tims of Buthelezi’s in­sa­tiable blood­lust could also have been wished such.

I know it is a hu­man in­stinct to be nice to the el­derly to the point of grossly mis­rep­re­sent­ing the truth. This seems to be the case with Buthelezi, who has sud­denly be­come ev­ery­one’s favourite grand­fa­ther fig­ure.

Buthelezi’s role in South Africa’s his­tory should never be sani­tised. Of all the Ban­tus­tan lead­ers who col­lab­o­rated with the apartheid regime, he was the worst. His fel­low trav­ellers, such as Lu­cas Man­gope, Len­nox Sebe, Pa­trick Mphe­phu and Kaiser Matanz­ima, were bru­tal in their col­lab­o­ra­tion and sup­pres­sion of anti-apartheid ac­tivism. They served the apartheid gov­ern­ment with the en­thu­si­asm of a strip-club jan­i­tor who loves his job be­cause it gives him ben­e­fits he would other­wise not have en­joyed.

But none of them was as ded­i­cated to up­hold­ing and de­fend­ing the apartheid sys­tem as Buthelezi. So much so that the Na­tional Party gov­ern­ment’s se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus armed and gave lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to the killers who pro­lif­er­ated in his party. Elite IFP killer squads and mili­tias were trained by the South African mil­i­tary in camps in­side and out­side South Africa.

If only Buthelezi’s praise singers could pause and re­peat these names: Boipa­tong, Shobashobane, KwaMakhutha, Se­bo­keng, Khu­malo Street, KwaThema, Mead­ow­lands, Trust Feed, Ham­mars­dale, Swanieville and Im­bali.

These are just a few of the places as­so­ci­ated with mas­sacres car­ried out by Buthelezi’s party in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the apartheid state.

These im­bongis should tell those in South Africa’s town­ships and vil­lages who were ter­rorised by IFP impis that this man truly de­serves a peace­ful re­tire­ment.

It is a trib­ute to the great spirit of South Africans that Buthelezi – like his sur­viv­ing masters in the erst­while Na­tional Party lead­er­ship – can en­joy the com­fort of the demo­cratic South Africa they fought so hard and blood­ily to stop.

We can be cer­tain that this pa­rade of trib­utes will be re­peated when Buthelezi sheds his mor­tal coil. The re­vi­sion­ism will be strong as peo­ple make the ex­cuse that cul­ture says this and tra­di­tion says that. We will only be told of his great­ness and not the evil that he per­pe­trated.

So it is im­por­tant that, while he lives, Buthelezi is re­minded of his egre­gious sins. His­tory be­hoves us to pa­rade be­fore him the im­ages of the corpses of those who died be­cause he com­mit­ted troops to the de­fence of apartheid. As he rocks in his re­tire­ment chair in Mahla­bathini, he has to be haunted by his deeds. No rest for this can­tan­ker­ous chief.

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