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Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi

in conversation with Prof. Daniel Plaatjies

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Mangosuthu man

 1928 Born

1934 Mpumalanga Primary School

1944–1947 Adams College

1948–1950 University of Fort Hare: (BA degree completed at University of Natal)

1949 Joined ANC Youth League at the University of Fort Hare 1953 Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan to date

1968 Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation to date

1970-1972 Chief Executive Officer of the Zulu Territorial Authority

1972-1976 Chief Executive Councillor of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly

1975 Founded Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe, the national cultural liberation organisation (which later became the Inkatha Freedom Party) till date

Widely perceived as ANC’s most prominent and outspoken critic and opposer, Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi’s story is inextricably linked to the inception and history of the longest-ruling democratic party in South Africa, the ANC. Born in 1928 to a royal Zulu dynasty, Mangosuthu went on to be educated at the elite and prestigious Black African Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It was there that he found his political voice, joining the African National Congress Youth League and mingling with political big names like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and prominent South African political dissident and founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Sobukwe. His political activities and activism soon led to his expulsion from the university, but Mangosuthu carried on strengthening his political voice working hand in hand with and getting closer to ANC leaders like Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, and Walter Sisulu, until the early 1950s when on their advice, he went back home to assume his chieftaincy role as it was agreed that it would be in the best interest of the liberation struggle if he took up his traditional position.


The close ties between him and the ANC however soon waned as the pressures of the hostile political climate under the apartheid regime soon took their toll. In 1974, he founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) with the blessings of the leaders of the ANC. This was in the hope that it would be a branch of the ANC rooted in more traditional and cultural matters. Differences and conflicts soon erupted, resulting in bloody internal wars which begun in the 1980s in KwaZulu-Natal, spreading to other provinces in the 1990s and culminating in the Shell House massacre, where about 20,000 IFP supporters marched to Shell House in Johannesburg, to protest against the 1994 elections which the IFP intended to boycott. The ANC security guards opened fire, killing nineteen people.


Buthelezi played a very crucial role in the history of the nation of South Africa, from being the most visible and vocal tribal and black leader when many opposition figures were either imprisoned or in exile, to fighting for their release and calling for the negotiations which ushered in a new democratic state. These accomplishments are often doused in clouds of criticism and condemnation over unpopular political positions he has taken in times past and continues to take even to this day. Positions which he says he has got no regrets about. This is because he has placed the interests of the people he is serving far above being politically favorable. He says his desire has always been that his people remember him as someone who tried to do his utmost best, to serve them.

Mangosuthu leader

Know it's a privilege to be a servant of the people

Key Quality of a Servant Leader

Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi

South African

Public Servant

1976 -1994 Chief Minister of KwaZulu

1994 Entered the first democratic Parliament as President of the Inkatha Freedom Party


1994-1999 Minister of Home Affairs in President Mandela’s Cabinet under the Government of National Unity


1999-2004 Minister of Home Affair

Awards for his roles as Public Servant

1989 City University of Los Angeles, Honorary Doctorate, Humane Letters

1976 University of Zululand, Doctor of Law, honorary degree

1978 University of Cape Town, Doctor of Law, honorary degree

1985 Tampa University, Florida, USA, Doctor of Law, honorary degree

1986 University of Boston, Mass, USA, Doctor of Law, honorary degree

Mangosuthu interview

Things You May Not Know About Mangosuthu

These are drawn from the full interview, which for Daniel was from "OneComradeToAnother'. Watch the full interview, here.

BUTHELEZI copy.jpg



His uncle and mentor founded the ANC

“... One of my very first mentors was Pixley ka Isaka Seme, who was married to my aunt… During matric at Adams, during the holidays, I did some errands for him. I learned a lot from him because he was the founder of the ANC, he's the one who asked our leaders to go to Bloemfontein in 1912 to found the ANC, and then of course after my rustication from the University of Fort Hare when I was expelled in September 1950, my uncle Dr. Seme tried to intervene by writing letters to my Professor, Professor ZK Matthews and others. So I always say that my first mentors are those people, such as him... a legend to me, whom I knew closely…”


since  1970s

Homelands affiliation stained his legacy

"... So the relationship with Tambo was very strange because you know I wanted to publish a publication in a newspaper, and I went to Sweden to look for some money in Sweden, and in Sweden, they told me that they don't deal with any other organisation except the ANC unless the ANC agreed, they wouldn't. So the relationship between me and Tambo was so close, that I got Tambo to come to Stockholm to nod so they gave me the money. But there's a very interesting incident that took place there, while I was there I was told that another friend of mine Reverend Andrew Young, who was the envoy of the United State at the United Nations was there, and when he heard of course that I was there he wanted to see me and I wanted to see him. But you know the leader of (Sida* name to be checked) the organisation that was to give money… told Andrew Young that Mr. Tambo would be there too, but Tambo did not want that to be known. That relationship was a secret between us, so what was gonna be done? So a lie was told that Andrew Young came and had lunch with me in the dining room, and Tambo was in the bedroom, he's lying quietly in the bedroom and Young was told that he never came. Just to show you what a relationship it was because the first eight members of the ANC, which was led by Ambrose Makiwane, who broke away from the ANC among the reasons they gave for breaking away was that they resented Mr. Tambo's closeness to me as Chief Minister not knowing that in the first place it was Tambo himself and Inkosi Luthuli who had said that I must take up that position. It was really skating on eggs, doing some egg dancing if I may put it… There was a big lead story in the Sunday Times saying Buthelezi and Tambo meet… It was splashed in South Africa. Then Mr. Tambo was forced to issue a statement saying the meeting never took place. Which of course I was very sad about myself, but I realised that in our relationship, he could not because he was afraid of the anger of some people in the ANC who say they should have nothing to do with leaders of the Homelands…They wanted to tar me with the same brush in order for the black people in South Africa to take me as a traitor too because they regarded as treachery the people who participated in Homelands… “



The prisoner he never knew from a bar of soap

“... At that time Inkosi Luthuli was banned, he couldn't get out of the District so I went to his house and my cousin was telling me that of course, the Government was aware that I usually go there. So I said to the King: “Your Majesty I would like to know if it's illegal to see the Inkosi Luthuli. If it is then I will stop”. And I said that: “The representative of the government in the district is the magistrate or the native commissioner, why doesn't he tell me to stop?” So I was harassed quite a lot at that time. At one time I remember a group of policemen arrived, parked their van in front of my house, not a word to me, crossed the fence surrounding my place, and went outside that fence. I saw them digging, they had a prisoner there, I didn't know they were digging. I went there and looked and they said not a word to me. Only for me to learn later that they assumed I had ANC armory there, that I had taken some arms from the ANC, in some mysterious shape and buried them there. They were led off course by that prisoner, who I didn't even know from a bar of soap…”


No regrets, he got to be president for a week

“... If I'd walked that path I would do exactly what I did and take up the position of being the leader of Homelands that was the instruction from Inkosi Luthuli and Tambo. Why should I regret that? If they will deny what they did it's up to them. At the unveiling of Mr Tambo’s tombstone I was present, Madiba was present, and all our leaders, and even people like Governor Mpewe, he was still alive, they were all there and when it was my turn to speak… mentioned how I became leader of KwaZulu-Natal.They know the truth so, I mean so it's them who can account…I became a minister, and as I said about my friendship with Mandela, he did something that infuriated them when, for the first time he was out of the country and his deputy Mbeki was out, he left the country to me. I acted as President of South Africa and they were furious. I mean there is no indication better than that of how Madiba felt about me... He was out of the country, you see, at that time there was a big conflict in Lesotho, you remember? and during that conflict, we sat in his hotel until after midnight because he had to talk to other leaders of SADC countries about what should be done. And there's the thing which of course was almost a joke, that he looked at his watch and at 12 o’clock he said to me, he didn't want to talk to Mr Mugabe because their relationship was very frosty then, so he said you talk to Mugabe you're now acting President…"



Born to be a leader

“... It was also thrust upon me… I’m a traditional leader of the clan Buthelezi clan. I was the heir to my father’s position, who was the traditional leader of the Buthelezi clan, on the one hand … I had no choice … I was trying to abandon it because of the way in which Inkosi Albert Luthuli, one of my mentors, had been treated by the regime, and I thought there is no reason why they wouldn’t treat me like him if I took up that position. In fact at one time, in the ‘50s, after completing my degree, I wanted to serve articles to qualify as an attorney and it was the leaders of the ANC who said that it will be more in the interest of our struggle because I was a member of the ANC Youth League, it will be in the interest of our struggle if I went and served people in that capacity..."



The circumstances that led to the formation of the IFP

“... So the Americans arranged various colloquiums, various seminars in the neighbouring African states, and one of these was arranged in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, and Mr Tambo and I were invited. We decided to meet with Mrs Tambo in Nairobi. We spent the whole night talking about it because it was actually the instruction of the ANC that entrepreneurs and investors shouldn't come to South Africa and that they should disinvest, they should pull out of South Africa So Mr Tambo said to me: “You know, it will be bad if both of us go to Addis, and disagree in the forum as leaders, you know, from South Africa.” So he suggested that I should go ahead to Ethiopia but he stayed behind in Nairobi. When I returned he was still at Nairobi, then I took advantage of being out of the country because I wanted to visit his excellency Kenneth Kaunda and his excellency President Julius Nyerere to thank them for the sanctuary they gave to our exiles. So I went and did that. While I was in Zambia, President Kaunda actually made arrangements for me to go to their office, the office of the party, UNIP. He gave me their constitution and he said that after I had seen my office they should bring me back to the statehouse, where he also brought some of his senior political leaders like Mainza Chona who was the Prime Minister, and others, and he said to me that they as leaders really admired what I was doing in South Africa after the regime had closed down and either imprisoned our leaders or forced them to go into exile. But he said he felt that in order for us to thrive, in order that we should be a cohesive force, to use his exact expression, I should found a membership based-organisation. Now of course being ANC myself I couldn't do that without consulting Mr Tambo. So I consulted Mr Tambo, I sent someone, Mr Tambo said I can go ahead… That was in 1974. So then when I came back, when I consulted some of the leaders in Inkatha, like the late Alpheus Zulu, he was the Bishop of Zululand of the Anglican Church. And then we founded Inkatha as a national council liberation movement. That’s what it’s called in English a national council liberation movement. The Bishop advised me, because he believed very much in what Christ said about being as wise as serpents and being meek as doves. He said that I should emphasise the cultural thing because certainly, the regime if I launch it as just a party, they'll close it down. Which he was right about because, when we founded it, we said Inkatha was structured on the ideals of the ANC, as propounded by the founding fathers in 1912…”



Buthelezi and the ANC breakup

“... You know that on the issue of liberation they said they will negotiate and start the liberation, but by that time the ANC had brought in the armed struggle as a second-string on their bow… I always stressed that we were founded from the ANC, do you remember even the colours, our colours have gotten all the colours of the ANC, but then when the rupture took place when they abandoned me, then we added red for the bloodshed for martyrs and white for our commitment to peace… We added the red colour to the same colours of the ANC and white, the red for the blood of martyrs and the white for the fact that we were continuing to wage a peaceful struggle, a non-violent struggle you see… I was called by Jimmy Kruger, the Minister of Justice, the one who said that Steve Biko dying it made him feel cold, ("It leaves me cold.") He was there with the commissioner of police. I was there with Mr Gibson Thula, who was my representative in Gauteng, and also Reverend Celani Mthethwa, who actually was one of my ministers in the Kwa-Zulu cabinet. When I arrived he said to me: “I hope you don’t mind, Chief, if I use a tape recorder”, so said I: “Of course I don't mind”. So I said to my secretary who was with me, Eric Ngubane, I said: “Go and fetch our tape recorder in the car”, so by the time I put it there he could do nothing. So I recorded the whole conversation verbatim, you know, where he was saying that Inkatha should not accept Africans who are not Zulu-speaking and threatened to take action against me if I continue to do so. We had a long interesting conversation arguing about this and it's available even now, verbatim. I hope that I can make it available to you (daniel would have wanted this). … I said that other Africans are our brothers, even the National Party has got white people of all different ethnicities or cultural groups. He tried to say but you know about us, we're all of a teutonic background, so I said: “And the Jews too?” So he didn't know what to say… “


Please note this is a word-for-word transcript from Daniel and Mangosuthu's conversation. 



The Jesus parallel

“... My Christian faith was a great inspiration for me, you know because Christ, a servant leader, Son of God, served people and he was also hated by powerful people and that inspired me too, as a Christian. And I think that my faith was a pillar of strength for me going through all sorts of problems. As you say, Professor, I’ve gone through lots of problems because it's very strange, when I've told you that the founder of the ANC was my uncle, and I was a member of the ANC... When Inkosi Albert Luthuli sent Mr. Tambo abroad… I was a servant in my church, I used to be elected as a lay delegate to synods and there was a very important meeting of the Anglican Church of the World. The World Congress of the Anglican Church in 1963. So I traveled with one African priest Canon Philip Mbatha, and our Bishop, Bishop Thomas Savage. And when I stopped in London, I could not go and see Adelaide Tambo, Mrs. Tambo, because of our relationship and friendship… Mrs. Tambo actually phoned Mr. Oliver Tambo, to come over from Lusaka to meet with me which he did. But Mr. Tambo was very unhappy about one thing but very happy of course about our meeting, but very worried about whether the Government would know that I met with him. Of course being a younger man, inexperienced, I thought he was worrying too much. I dismissed it. But it actually dawned on me that he was a more experienced leader than myself, because, in fact, when I returned to South Africa the government confiscated my passport for nine years. They refused me permission to go out of the country and I think it was because of that meeting…”


The ANC he didn't like

“... The ANC mission in exile decided to urge countries to impose economic sanctions and disinvestments on South Africa. Now on that issue, I did not agree because I used to come here in Cape Town, I remember addressing a big meeting in Langa. I used to go to Mangawung at that time, at that time of course the regime had arrested most of our leaders in the ANC and the PAC and others, and it was quiet and I was the only voice and I used to address big rallies, big huge rallies in Johannesburg, and then I put this question about sanctions, our people everywhere said they will starve to death if that was done, so I couldn't support it…So in 1979 then I went to London… about 17 people having been invited by Mr. Tambo. For two and a half days we talked about these issues. Quite clearly I said I found it difficult to support sanctions because I've actually talked to people in their thousands and in a chorus they said we will starve, and I cannot do that, and in fact as far as the armed struggle is concerned I said: “You know how well armed the Boers are, you know. And we are in South Africa. I don't know how one can actually be part of an armed struggle of the people’s war. We didn't quarrel, it was not an acrimonious (discussion) Professor, we talked just as I am talking to you and Mr. Tambo said he was gonna come back to me. This was November ‘79 he said that in December the NEC of the ANC in exile was going to meet and he will come back to me. But certainly of course he never came back to me. After that in June 1980, in London the Secretary-General of the ANC, Mr. Alfred Nzo, launched a scathing attack on me... the ANC had gone to Vietnam, and they got the idea of a people's war from Vietnam… unfortunately this warfare was not directed now at the oppressors but ourselves, because it was not only Inkatha members that were killed, even members of the PAC, AZAPO and others were killed. The ANC openly said that they were waging a people's war and the pattern of that they had copied from Vietnam where they used that during this big conflict in Vietnam, it is they who called it the people's war. … The ANC itself said they were waging what they call a people's war… “




He has faced multiple rejections

“... In 1983 the UDF was formed here in Cape Town, and in their very first statement, they stated that they will welcome any organisation against apartheid except Inkatha. I hadn't even approached them but in fact, I had issued a statement welcoming their emergence, saying that it's a good thing to have an umbrella organisation under which all anti-apartheid organisations could be, but I was immediately elbowed out…So Madiba visited Transkei… and some of the Amakhosi, The traditional leaders, and they said: “You and Buthelezi haven't met so many months after, because it's an open secret that we are very close friends, how did that come about?” You know what Madiba said, he said: “The leader of the UDF and the ANC leaders almost tortured me, forbidding me from seeing him.” So we were not able to meet with Madiba until the 29th of January 1991, almost a year…"


A pacesetter in fighting the HIV/AIDS Stigma

“... Because there was a lot of stigmas. I think that even one young woman had been killed in Kwamashu in Durban merely because she had Aids. So I thought that as a leader it was responsible of me to announce it, to remove the stigma, that Aids was a sickness like any other sickness, and therefore people should not look at, or regard it as a stigma to suffer from it, and of course, Madiba did the same after me when his son died… because of that experience and the loss of my children, because it's still one of the big challenges that we as a nation are facing. You know although antiretrovirals are available, in particular in KwaZulu-Natal, the incidence has not gone down…“


Mangosuthu Full Interview

Full Interview 

Mangosuthu lesson

Servant Leaders must know it's a privilege to be a servant of the people

BUTHELEZI copy.jpg

"Well I  say to young people of course they must realise that you know to be a leader is not a bed of roses at all and that leadership, personally, I don't regard leadership as a status thing. And that in fact if one is a leader one must understand clearly and accept that one is a servant of the people. That you are serving and that you are privileged to serve people. I would say that if there any pleasure I've heard, or delight or content is having had this opportunity to serve South African people for the length of time that I've served them....  Well, I will like my people to remember me as someone who tried to do his best to serve them."

Daniel in conversation with

Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi




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