Ralph Mathekga

Buthelezi's delusions of a corruption-free homeland system a product of the ANC

2019-03-12 08:23
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the launch of the party's 2019 election manifesto.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the launch of the party's 2019 election manifesto.

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We should blame the ANC government for getting us to a point where Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has become so daring that he wants us to find the silver lining of the corrupt homeland system, writes Ralph Mathekga.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has opened a can of worms in a series of speeches about why South Africans should consider voting for his political party. 

During the launch of the IFP manifesto over the weekend, Buthelezi pleaded with South Africans to trust the party to deliver an effective, accountable government. The veteran politician insisted that the ANC's insatiable appetite for corruption is responsible for the collapse of trust in our politics. I agree with Buthelezi that indeed corruption is responsible for the decline of trust in our society.  

Even the denialists within the governing ANC would find it difficult to dismiss Buthelezi's diagnosis that our policy discourse is characterised by a lack of trust. The message delivered by the IFP in this regard is that if South Africans are interested in rebuilding trust in politics, they should look no further than the IFP. 

READ: Mangosuthu Buthelezi on his legacy - 'I believe in the goodwill of people'

Just when I was salivating on what Prince Buthelezi was about to dish out on how to rebuild that trust, the Great One went on an uncontrollable rumble about how he used to roll during the time when South Africa adopted the 'homeland system' during the apartheid years. 

For younger readers who do not know that cellphones only used to come with hard buttons and didn't have the currently dominant touch screen, the homeland system refers to an arrangement whereby the apartheid government allowed 'self-government' in designated areas, where black people were under some form of traditional leadership authorities. 

This aberration or self-government pretence designed by the apartheid system in the '70s was essentially aimed at ensuring that blacks did not flood urban centres where they could compete with whites for jobs that existed in those industrial centres.  

The homelands effectively served as labour reserves to which the majority of blacks were confined; only allowed to be in economically active urban centres when the apartheid government deemed it necessary to provide cheap labour. 

Among the geographical areas that were designated as homelands were KwaZulu-Natal (then referred to as Natal), Limpopo Province (then referred to as Lebowa) and North West Province (then referred to as Bophuthatswana), for example. Most of those areas were governed by traditional authorities, some of which were stooges for the apartheid government. 

The homeland system was not created with the intention to extend democracy or self-determination for blacks. The system was merely there to provide influx control of black people in urban areas; a strategy by the apartheid government aimed at avoiding urbanisation of the majority of black people because they would then demand meaningful democracy. Prince Buthelezi led the Natal chapter of this arrangement. In his speech about why his party should be trusted with South Africans' votes in the upcoming elections, Prince Buthelezi said that he did a great job and led a corruption-free government under the homeland system. I was shocked to hear that Buthelezi believes that the idea of the homeland system fits nicely in the same sentence with the idea of a corruption-free government. 

The homeland administrators – whatever titles they conferred upon themselves—were utterly corrupt and non-democratic. 

I remember growing up in Lebowa (currently Limpopo Province) and hearing that the Lebowa government bought a rainmaking machine. The then government told the people that it had invested in the device. Can someone please help me with this question? Did the Lebowa authority indeed spend money on the rainmaking machine, or was the story just a hoax by a government too lazy to explain the missing public funds?

For Buthelezi to come out and claim that he presided over a clean government in a system that was morally compromised is beyond strange. I blame the ANC-led government for getting us to a point where the likes of Buthelezi become so daring that they want us to find the silver lining of the corrupt homeland system. The level of corruption under the ANC has made it acceptable for him to try to sell the homeland success story; a story that should make anyone run from the IFP.  

The only homeland authority that demonstrated an ability to deliver some form of development for the people was Bophuthatswana (currently North West) where schools and other development infrastructure were seen. Yet, the case of Bophuthatswana is not really a success story; it is rather about an area that is so endowed with mineral resources that even after looting by the authorities, there were still resources left to invest in the people. 

I understand that South Africans are currently frustrated with corruption. However, this does not justify the idea that the homelands were an ideal form of government. 

- Ralph Mathekga is a senior researcher at UWC's Centre for Humanities Research, and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    mangosutho buthelezi  |  apartheid  |  inkatha freedom party
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