Dr. Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi (born 1928), played a leading role in South Africa's political history. Founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and heir to the Chieftainship of the Buzelezi tribe, Buthelezi was elected Chief Executive Officer of the KwaZulu Territory in 1970, Chief Executive Councillor of the KwaZulu Legistative Assembly in 1972, and Chief Minister of KwaZulu in 1976. He is also Chancellor of the University of Zululand and was appointed Minister of Home Affairs (1994) in Nelson Mandela's coalition government.
Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, great-grandson of King Dinizulu and direct descendent of warrior-king Shaka, was born August 27, 1928, at Mahlabatini, near the traditional Zulu capital of Ulundi. (Dinizulu was banished and died in exile after the 1906 Zulu rebellion against British rule.) As heir to the Chieftainship of the Buzelezi tribe, Buthelezi's ancestry is as important to his current political standing as are his own political skills. He married to Irene Mzila, a nurse from Johannesburg, and has three sons and four daughters.
In 1948, Buthelezi enrolled at Fort Hare University and majored in History and Bantu Administration. While at the University Buthelezi joined the predominantly Xhosa African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and participated in anti-discrimination protests. After leaving the University Buthelezi took a position with the Department of Native Affairs.
Apartheid became firmly established in South Africa during the 1950s and racial segration was strictly enforced. Then in the 1960s the government declared that native Africans would be franchised in one of ten homelands corresponding to their ethnic affiliation. Buthelezi strongly opposed the government's homeland plan. He contended, as did other critics, that the economic bases of the homelands were inadequate and that the homeland plan was simply another way of enforcing apartheid.
Approximately six million Zulu (1/4 of the country's native population) were declared citizens of KwaZulu, now known as KwaZulu-Natal. In 1970, Dr. Buthelezi was elected Chief Executive Officer of the newly established KwaZulu Territorial Authority. He became Chief Executive Councillor of the KwaZulu Legistative Assembly in 1972, and Chief Minister of KwaZulu, which he continues to hold, in 1976.
Buthelezi was in an ambiguous political position. Although he was a strong critic of apartheid, and thus the government, he also was a government-approved homeland leader, a role that many saw as an integral part of apartheid. Buthelezi found himself at odds with the government-banned ANC, of which he had once been a member. In 1975 Buthelezi revived Inkatha we Sizwe, a cultural organization originally founded in the 1920s, and transformed Inkatha, as it was commonly known, into the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). By continuing to identify itself as a cultural organization rather than a political organization the IFP avoided being banned by the government. Membership in the IFP was almost entirely Zulu.
Political differences as well as tribal differences made the IFP and the ANC bitter rivals. During the years 1987-91, as the two groups competed for control over the KwaZulu-Natal province, there were more than 18,000 deaths.
The ANC was unbanned after leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February, 1990. Many of the ANC's previous socialist economic policies and strictures against freedom of speech and freedom of religion were revised. However, the ANC also gained control of the media; anyone not belonging to the ANC was "retrenched." Bloodshed continued as clandestine support for the IFP came from security police and military intelligence and the ANC continued deadly raids on IFP supporters.
In information provided by several witness affadavits, it was shown that in 1993 the IFP, which was controlled by Buthelezi, used taxpayer money to train and arm an 8,000 member paramilitary force. The KwaZulu Police (KZP) commissioner, Roy During, was ordered to merge trainees into the KZP as special constables. The merger effectively bypassed government restrictions forbidding territories from establishing their own armies. Then, just days before the April 1994 election, the IFP joined the elections and withdrew the paramilitary from the police force. (The KZP itself was later disbanded.)
Although IFP legislator Senator Philip Powell claimed that the special force was meant to increase the KZP's ability to handle any large-scale civil unrest due to the election, testimony in 1996 by Col. Eugene de Kock at his mitigation hearing suggests that the underlying purpose of the paramilitary organization was to provide a readily-mobilized warrior network that would prevent KwaZulu-Natal from being absorbed into an ANC-ruled South Africa.
The first democratic, multi-racial election was held in South Africa in April, 1994. The ANC won the majority and Mandela was elected President of South Africa. As required by the Interim Constitution, Mandela formed a coalition government, the Government of National Unity (GNU). The coalition included the ANC, the IFP, and the National Party (NP). Buthelezi was appointed Minister of Home Affairs.
Documents submitted during the 1996 trial of NP's Defence Minister Gen. Magnus Malan confirmed Buthelezi's knowledge of the IFP's plans to establish a paramilitary force. However, documents showing the paramilitary's operations for October 1986 through February 1988 disappeared. Malan was acquitted and no legal action was taken against Buthelezi.
In a move designed to position the IFP for a 1999 electoral victory, Buthelezi nominated moderate Ben Ngubane as KwaZulu-Natal's premier. Ngubane, who is viewed as a skilled negotiator well-versed in the IFP's constitutional demands, was described by Betheluzi as "his right hand man." In late 1996 at an IFP youth rally, Buthelezi reminded participants of his earlier warning that with the destruction of apartheid, the real struggle for economic empowerment of black South Africans would begin.
Violence in the KwaZulu-Natal province had been diminishing for months as IFP Premier Ngubane and ANC provincial leader Jacob Zume met in secret to discuss a peace pact. According to IFP parliamentarian Powell, a way to provide amnesty for people involved on both sides of the violence was a key element of the talks. ANC leaders were unwilling to discuss the peace talks. In mid-1997, Buthelezi appeared to endorse a possible merger of the IFP with the ANC and other nationalist movements. He was quoted as saying in the Sunday Times, that "Unity [between the rival nationalist movements in KwaZulu-Natal] would be an ideal thing. I do not see why it should not happen."
In addition to being leader of the IFP, Dr. Buthelezi currently holds the position of Minister of Home Affairs in Mandela's coalition government (GNU), and is Chief Minister of KwaZulu-Natal. He is Chancellor of the University of Zululand and has served on the standing committee of the Zululand Anglican Diocese, of the council of St. Peter's Seminary, of the council of the Inanda Seminary, and of the KwaZulu Conservation Trust. Buthelezi has received several awards and honorary doctorate degrees including Knight Commander of the Star of Africa for outstanding leadership (1975), Honorary doctorate of law, University of Zululand (1976), and the George Meaney Human Rights Award from the United States American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL/CIO) (1983).
Biographies of Buthelezi are generally polemical. Ben Temkin, Gatsha Buthelezi, Zulu Statesman (1976) is laudatory. Gerhard Mare and Georgina Hamilton, An Appetite for Power: Buthelezi's Inkatha and South Africa (Johannesburg: 1987) is critical. Michael Massing, "The Chief," New York Review of Books (February 12, 1987), is sober and critical. Jeff Guy, The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom (London: 1979), presents an important aspect of Zulu history, as does J. D. Omer-Cooper, The Zulu Aftermath (1969). □