Sunday Times

SA owes much to a Zulu royal house that has reigned for centuries

- By MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI ✼ Prince Buthelezi, MP, is traditiona­l prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation

In response to Mr Chris Barron’s false and disrespect­ful obituary on the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzul­u, I requested space to correct his lies seriatim. Having been granted that space, let me set the record straight. The king of the Zulu nation is not a “ceremonial figurehead” who owes his “existence to the South African taxpayer”.

The Zulu nation precedes democracy, apartheid, the ANC, and even the Union of South Africa. Our kings have reigned for more than 200 years. The British Empire had to employ a greater force to conquer the Zulu nation than it used to conquer the whole of India. For some 12-million South Africans today, the Zulu monarch is their king.

Our country owes much to the Zulu nation. Indeed, SA would not exist in its present democratic form were it not for the Zulu nation and the fight waged by our kings against colonialis­m and apartheid.

It was the colonialis­ts who portrayed our kings as ceremonial figurehead­s, believing that they themselves governed “the natives”. They reduced kings to “paramount chiefs”, who they “appointed” and could just as easily “fire”. That kind of thinking is archaic and reprehensi­ble. To see it revived at this point in history is astonishin­g.

So too are the bold-faced lies.

The king did not persuade me to participat­e in the 1994 elections. When the king was excluded from Codesa, I could not participat­e, for I was the king’s prime minister. I risked my political career and the future of my party to take a stand for the recognitio­n of the monarchy within our democracy.

My decision to participat­e in the elections was based on a signed commitment by Mr Nelson Mandela and president FW de Klerk that the monarchy and other matters would be dealt with through internatio­nal mediation after the elections.

That commitment was never honoured, but it is the reason that I and the IFP participat­ed in the elections, securing more than 2-million votes. Nowhere in that written commitment is there mention of the transfer of land to the king. There is no mention of land at all, or of a trust, for this was never part of the negotiatio­ns. No “agreement” was struck in this regard.

The land question

The Ingonyama Trust Act was passed by the KwaZulu Legislativ­e Assembly, under my leadership. We were perfectly within our rights to pass it, without seeking permission or approval. Nothing was done in secret. The act placed the pieces of land remaining to the Zulu kingdom, after decades of colonialis­m and dispossess­ion, into a trust headed by the king, so that the land could continue to be administer­ed as communal land under indigenous and customary law.

Communal land has always been administer­ed by amakhosi (traditiona­l leaders), who serve under the king. The Ingonyama Trust Act did not create that system of governance; it simply ensured that communal land would not suddenly become stateowned land in 1994, removing any security of tenure for millions of rural subsistenc­e farmers.

The system of communal land ensures that every family can access enough land to live on, raise a family and produce food. It offers a level of security that the government has thus far failed to provide to any of its people. Indeed, the land of the former TBVC states [Transkei, Bophuthats­wana, Venda, and Ciskei], which became state-owned land in 1994, is yet to be given to the people.

Is it any wonder that the king fought to maintain the security of communal land for his people?

The king’s so-called attack on the constituti­on in 2018 was in response to threats that the government intended abolishing the Ingonyama Trust Act. He questioned how the constituti­on could recognise him as a monarch, but allow the government to remove his powers unilateral­ly — a fair question.

The tension between traditiona­l leadership structures and local government structures has existed since 1994. Despite the cabinet committing to amend the constituti­on on the eve of the first local government elections in 2000, nothing was done; thus the tension remains.


Those who blamed the king for xenophobic attacks in 2015 were opportunis­tically misinterpr­eting his comments. He had no qualms with foreign nationals in SA, but insisted that SA’s laws be respected and upheld. Thus, when President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his eulogy, he said: “Many leaders and peoples … across the African continent … have expressed their sorrow since hearing of His Majesty’s passing … [He] worked to quell tensions between locals and foreign nationals … [and] spoke out against violence directed at foreigners.”

In an attempt to summarise many complicate­d matters, Mr Barron presented a grossly misleading narrative. Most shocking perhaps is his claim that the IFP attacked members of the royal family in 2016. Just a few years later, he says, the king’s eldest son was murdered. The link here is implied.

But the attack on the royal residence to which he refers happened 10 years earlier, in 1996, following death threats against the royal family from the rightwing group, Komra. Komra sought to trigger a bloody civil war. They knew that the ANC’s kneejerk response to any attack would be to blame the IFP. The ANC did not disappoint.

A full correction of the lies of the past would consume a forest of paper. For those of us trying to champion the truth, it is devastatin­g to see old lies fortified in articles and obituaries — intentiona­lly or not.

 ?? Picture: Sandile Ndlovu ?? The funeral precession of King Goodwill Zwelithini makes its way to his ancestral home and final resting place at KwaNongoma, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Picture: Sandile Ndlovu The funeral precession of King Goodwill Zwelithini makes its way to his ancestral home and final resting place at KwaNongoma, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

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