Christopher Merrett, specialist writer, wrote an opinion piece that I came across recently. This was after the IFP and ANC agreed to work together in a set-up that is described as a “principled agreement” in which the IFP will support the ANC to lead municipalities where it has won more seats and the ANC will do the same in municipalities where the IFP has won more seats.
I will not discuss my reservations about this decision. I’m thinking about what led to this agreement, and why I think it was a good thing for the IFP to do.
It has since been revealed that one of the demands made by the IFP in reaching the agreement was that the ANC apologise for naming Zululand after Mzala Nxumalo, the man who harmed IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s character and legacy through a propagandist book he wrote titled Chief With a Double Agenda. I am compelled to believe that these talks went beyond just asking the ANC to apologise but also for the ANC to set the record straight.
In his opinion piece, Merrett affirms his confusion as to why the “IFP is so concerned about a writer who died 30 years ago and whose book is not easily accessible”. What he doesn’t realise is that despite the fact that this book was published over 30 years ago, the impact it has had on Buthelezi’s reputation is still felt keenly.
To begin with, there is no intellectual value to this book; it is a piece of text written by an adversary, not even a critic, but an old enemy, detailing his enemy’s life.
An adversary will never give an unbiased account of his opponent. Nxumalo was a well-known foe of Buthelezi, He disagreed with him on many issues, including ideology.
There are also lies perpetuated by this book and those who rely on it, about accounts of Buthelezi’s role during the apartheid era. KwaZulu, for example, was never a “bantustan state”. It may have been described as a self-governing territory, but it was never a bantustan.
Buthelezi rejected the nominal independence that four other homelands: Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei accepted, but despite these facts, people chose to ignore him and place him in the same league as bantustan leaders of the time, which he was not.
In 1984, in the ANC’s New Year’s message, the president of the ANC called on all black South Africans to render South Africa ungovernable, and to make the apartheid institutions unworkable, and anyone who had a different strategy or felt that this was out of line, was rendered an enemy of the ANC. Of course, Buthelezi has maintained a different perspective on the strategies and tactics in the fight against the apartheid ever since.
He was known to have rejected the ANC’s request to join the armed struggle in 1979, and suggested alternative tactics, making him an ANC foe.
Buthelezi was opposed to the ANC’s disinvestment campaign at the time, believing that it would “result in tens of thousands of people going hungry, permanently hungry”, and that it would not cause the white minority government to make any significant policy changes.
On the armed struggle, he believed that we were never ready to take on the government of the day because we lacked weapons and a trained army, and that going to war with apartheid soldiers would imply that we were using our people as weapons.
Instead, he said, let us continue with the strategies and tactics used by the ANC’s founding leaders of 1912, of non-violent struggle.
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Buthelezi’s stance earned him the moniker “sell out”, and he was subjected to a barrage of propaganda. The ANC’s “exiled” broadcasting platform, Radio Freedom, started this campaign by declaring that “everyone who does not agree with us is our enemy”.
Every political party that disagreed with the ANC on strategies and tactics was an enemy to the ANC, and the ANC was to encourage its supporters, most of them black youths in townships, to regard those as enemies and despise them.
During those years, many black movements felt the ANC’s wrath. The BCM, Azapo, and even the PAC felt the ANC’s wrath for opposing their tactics; it’s history and it’s out there.
The ANC wanted to achieve hegemony and be seen as the sole leader of the black people at the time, which is how the phrase “ANC is the leader of the society” came about.
Any black leader who attempted to rise above their rank was the enemy, and propaganda had to be used against them.
Anthea Jeffery’s book, People’s War, goes into great detail about this conflict and can be used to gain a better understanding of it.
Nxumalo, on the other hand, went into exile at the age of 19 and became a member of the ANC’s propaganda content creation team after receiving “advanced ideological training” in exile.
It was expected of him to confront Buthelezi, the only black leader who stood in the way of the ANC goal of being seen as the sole voice of black people.
He wrote the book with one goal in mind: to discredit Buthelezi and persuade people that he lacked legitimacy to represent black people, despite the fact that he was more popular among black people than the ANC leaders at the time.
Every young person who did not have the opportunity to learn about Buthelezi relied on Nxumalo’s propaganda diatribes, which were disguised as a book while being nothing more than a propagandistic rant.
Even ANC leaders recognise that what was encapsulated in this book was propaganda designed to portray their opponent as a villain and them as real heroes of black people.
What irritated the ANC the most was that, despite the fact that the war against apartheid was ongoing, Buthelezi was constantly improving the lives of black people in KwaZulu by constructing Mangosuthu Technikon, teachers’ colleges, sports grounds and other infrastructure.
This was undermining the ANC’s plan to make the country ungoverned, and because he was seen as someone who was gaining favour with the people over the ANC, he had to be tainted.
Buthelezi has debunked numerous lies in this book, but those who prefer lies and propaganda to the truth refuse to accept what is true.
This is not to say he was an innocent man, but by allowing lies to continue unabated, they risk being accepted as the truth. The problem in South Africa is that our history has been distorted, and since the ANC emerged victorious, having managed to side-line all other black movements and claim to be the sole liberator of black people — which is also a lie — it has written history in its favour.
Buthelezi, on the other hand, has every right to defend himself and force the ANC to tell the truth.
This book has done much damage to Buthelezi, and many people have defined him through the lens of this book. He is correct to be concerned and to pursue this to the end if necessary.
Buthelezi has every right to be concerned about this distorted history, and judging by how it has harmed his character and his role in the South African apartheid struggle, he has every right to be concerned about this book written more than 30 years ago by Nxumalo.
“Until lions start writing down their own stories, hunters will always be the heroes,” says an African proverb.