In his online opinion piece titled “The EFF’s selective memory baffles the mind” (City Press, March 3 2020), 23-year old “self-proclaimed socio-political analyst” Mr Lehumo Sejaphala makes a number of exceedingly defamatory claims about me.
Ironically, under the present national disaster, had Mr Sejaphala simply said “Buthelezi has Covid-19”, he would have been arrested and sentenced to prison.
But according to the City Press, he is quite free to claim that Buthelezi is a criminal and has committed crimes against humanity (i.e. murder, enslavement, torture, rape etc). That, say the City Press, “constitutes the expression of a protected opinion”.
Protected by whom? Does the right to freedom of speech confer the right to make false and damaging public claims about anyone’s character? If that is the case, the floodgates are open to willful defamation.
But I suspect that Mr Sejaphala’s “opinion” (deliberately portrayed as fact) is “protected” somewhere other than in law. It is likely protected by the editor-in-chief, Mondli Makhanya, who has spouted the same defamatory claims against me for years, abusing the privilege of his position.
City Press has refused to countenance that there is a problem in their publishing lies. They have simply offered a right of reply. The longer this defamatory article remains without readers having the benefit of the truth, the greater the damage. I will therefore respond to Mr Sejaphala’s claims, but I reserve my right to legal recourse.
During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the ANC president and many in his Cabinet filed amnesty applications in which they admitted to having committed “grave violations of human rights”.
The law defines this as involving murder, torture or mayhem. They all received blanket amnesty, without ever having to disclose what they actually did. But I refused to apply for amnesty, for I had never committed any crime nor any violation of human rights. Instead, I publicly stated that if I was guilty of any crime or had orchestrated any criminal act, the State should charge me.
That never happened.
It is never been found in any court of law, in any inquiry, or even though the TRC, that I was responsible for murders, death squads or brutality. In the same vein, I have never been tried for crimes against humanity and have never committed crimes against humanity.
It is simply a lie to claim that any record exists to the contrary. There is likewise no record of my having “orchestrated” even one, never mind “many” killings. Because I never have. There is no record of my having orchestrated the tragedy in Boipatong, because I did not.Nor did I instruct any mobs to mete out violence against students.
Indeed, the incident Mr Sejaphala refers to happened in my absence. But let me first deal with Boipatong, because Mr Sejaphala’s abbreviated summary is radically misguided. Days before what is now called the Boipatong Massacre, 40 IFP supporters were killed in one murderous rampage.
This was one among endless attacks by ANC members armed with guns, knives and pangas. The KwaMadlala Hostel had become a refuge for those who were driven from their homes or who fled the violence. But the sanctuary became like a prison, for they dared not venture out. One young man went to meet his mother in Boipatong and was shot. Another ventured out and was stoned to death. A third was abducted and burnt alive.
This is not hearsay.
These atrocities were reported in the Sunday Star. A woman from Boipatong was necklaced for a romantic involvement with a hostel dweller. Homes in Boipatong were torched and people were burned alive.
Then, in two night-time attacks on the sleeping settlements of Crossroads and Zonkizizwe, 30 IFP supporters were slaughtered. It is a simple fact of psychology and human nature that victims may, eventually, retaliate. And that is what happened at Boipatong.
People reached a tipping point, having endured too much, and spontaneous violence suddenly erupted, born out of anger, fear and continual victimisation. Boipatong was a painful moment for all of us. Inkatha never called the perpetrators heroes. I did not hail them, as the ANC liked to hail thugs as “young lions with iron in their souls”. No; we mourned and I called again for peace.
Mr Sejaphala claims that there is a record of Boipatong having been committed “in collaboration with right-wing elements and members of the security forces”. The record of history in fact shows the opposite. The Goldstone Commission found “no evidence… which in any way justifies allegations” of third-force involvement.
Moreover, the TRC Amnesty Committee found that the perpetrators had been telling the truth when they said they had acted on their own, without police help. The 1983 incident at Ongoye, now the University of Zululand, to which Mr Sejaphala refers, was investigated by the Middleton Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission found that a group of students had taunted and attacked Inkatha supporters visiting the campus for a commemoration ceremony. The students of Ongoye had invited His Majesty the King and I, as his prime minister, to commemorate King Cetshwayo’s return from exile in 1883.
They had also invited Amakhosi, ordinary members of the Zulu regiments and members of the public. This was not just an Inkatha function. But members of the Inkatha Youth Brigade were present. Before the King and I even arrived, students began pelting them with stones from upper storeys and taunting them, calling me a “dog” and insulting the King.
This was all confirmed by the Middleton Commission. The previous day, anti-Inkatha students had tried to burn down the office of a member of the Inkatha Central Committee, Professor JS Maphalala. Thus tensions were running high. Tragically, the visitors to Ongoye retaliated; a fierce battle ensued in the men’s hostel, and three students were killed.
Later that day students, in apparent revenge, killed an Inkatha supporter who had arrived late and had taken no part in the earlier conflict. In the aftermath, I publicly said: “We all deeply regret the violence which occurred on Saturday.
Our youth were faced with violence and would have been maimed and perhaps even killed, if they could not fend for themselves.” I have been vilified for pointing out that in jurisprudence a man is entitled to protect himself when he is attacked.
But my firm message, again and again, was against violence of any kind. Inkatha never had a military wing, because we rejected violence as a political tool. Indeed, even at the height of the ANC’s people’s war which had been turned against Inkatha, I consistently called for peace, non-violence and no retaliation.
With gross ignorance, Mr Sejaphala finally claims that I have never been held to account for committing crimes against humanity. When I never committed such crimes, how can I be held to account? It is worrying to see a young South African making such wildly uninformed accusations, and putting them forward as indisputable fact.
The brash confidence with which Mr Sejaphala commits defamation should give us all pause to ponder. Where does freedom of speech become licence to wilfully harm another human being?
- Buthelezi is the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party
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