Response to criticism of Mangosuthu Buthelezi: Mondli Makhanya just refuses to see it

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Former IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: Lerato Maduna
Former IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: Lerato Maduna


He has shockingly little interest in the truth but it’s time for him to answer some questions because he cannot continue to peddle untruths about the founder of the IFP, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, writes Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

Does Mondli Makhanya have the courage to face the truth?

Repeatedly, just like in his column last Sunday, he has called Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi an apartheid collaborator and a sellout. How then does he explain the following?

Read: Mondli Makhanya | Buthelezi must be reminded over and over again about his crimes

During apartheid, when foreign intelligence agencies keenly watched South Africa and knew who was who, heads of state received Buthelezi with warmth and lauded his credentials as a freedom fighter.

Liberia’s President William Tolbert conferred on him the Knight Commander of the Star of Africa, and France’s President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the National Order of Merit.

He was received by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Netherlands’ Prime Minister Joop den Uyl and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher even visited him in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal. He was invited to Paris by Mayor Jacques Chirac, was honoured by Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, and was received in the Vatican by three popes.

US presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush received Buthelezi with warmth, while America’s largest trade union conferred on him the George Meaney Human Rights Award. Dr Martin Luther King’s alma mater, the University of Boston Massachusetts, bestowed on him an honorary doctorate, giving Buthelezi one of King’s personal journals.

The truth has long displaced the propaganda of a bygone era. Makhanya just refuses to see it.

Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda, Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo and Lesotho’s Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan welcomed Buthelezi with open arms. Kaunda has since described how the leaders of the Frontline States and the ANC agreed to urge Buthelezi to form a membership-based organisation to reignite political mobilisation.

Both Albert Luthuli and OR Tambo urged Buthelezi not to refuse leading KwaZulu, knowing that he opposed the homelands system, but believing he could undermine it from within. He accomplished this mission by refusing nominal independence, safeguarding the citizenship of millions of black South Africans.

When Luthuli died, his family and the ANC asked Buthelezi to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. When the Organisation of African Unity bestowed a posthumous award on Luthuli, Mama Nokhukanya asked Buthelezi to accompany her to Maseru, to speak on her behalf.

Read: Buthelezi responds to opinion piece

How did any of this happen, Makhanya, if Buthelezi is who you say he is? Do you really think that all these people got it wrong and somehow only you got it right?

Helen Suzman, Alan Paton and Dr Frederick van Zyl Slabbert – were they all wrong? Was Nelson Mandela wrong when he told a packed stadium that Buthelezi had campaigned for his release? Was Mandela confused when he appointed Buthelezi acting president again and again? Was Thabo Mbeki confused when he offered Buthelezi the country’s deputy presidency, or when he retained him as a minister despite nothing compelling him to do so?

The truth has long displaced the propaganda of a bygone era. Makhanya just refuses to see it. In April 2002, Mandela admitted: “We have used every ammunition to destroy Buthelezi, but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor.” The word ‘ammunition’ is not figurative. Buthelezi and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were on the receiving end of the black on black violence of the ANC’s people’s war.

To me he was not a human being – he was an enemy who deserved what he got.
Mondli Makhanya

Unlike the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe, Inkatha never had an armed wing, rejecting violence as a tool of liberation. KwaZulu never had its own military and was not allowed to issue firearm licences.

Inkatha’s supporters faced violence, not only from apartheid’s security forces, but from the AK47s and hand grenades of Umkhonto weSizwe’s trained guerrilla soldiers. We defended ourselves with sticks and prayers.

When our people were provoked into acts of revenge, Buthelezi was quick to apologise and call for peace. He did this even while the SA Congress of Trade Unions called for his assassination, saying “no effort must be spared to ensure that Buthelezi is dealt the death blow he so richly deserves”.

At the same time, John Nkadimeng said on Radio Freedom: “Gatsha … the snake that is poisoning the people of South Africa needs to be hit on the head.”

READ: Mondli Makhanya | From Mugabe to Buthelezi, why do we tell glowing lies about brutal legacies?

Makhanya himself was part of this people’s war. He became a self-proclaimed warrior against Inkatha, saying: “I was proud to be a part of it … I enjoyed the excitement of battle: the sight of a sea of burning shacks and desperate men running for dear life.”

Watching an injured Inkatha member being set alight, Makhanya gleefully wrote: “To me he was not a human being – he was an enemy who deserved what he got.” These are the words of a damaged and dangerous man. In his head, the war continues. But that does not make any of the propaganda true.

Makhanya needs to face the truth.

Hlengwa is the national spokesperson of the IFP


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