Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha 1928–

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Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi 1928

South African government official

At a Glance

Elected to ZTA

Marched With Inkatha

Competed With ANC

The Ingwavuma Affair


Fought Back

Selected writings


Alan Rake, author of Whos Who in Africa: Leaders for the 1990s, describes Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi as a moderate and talented leader who believes in the politics of the possible rather than the win-all approach of orthodox African nationalists. Buthelezi has stood steadfastly at the head of the Zulu nation since he became acting chief during the 1950s. An implacable man, his main achievement has been the establishment of a constitutional monarchy for the Zulus in the Republic of South Africa, on land conquered long ago by the legendary and brutal King Shaka.

A Zulu prince, Buthelezi was born on August 27, 1928, into a family accustomed to political power and its accompanying personal prominence. To fit him for his predestined role as a Zulu leader, his mother kept a vigilant eye on his education, making sure he spent his high school years at Adams College, one of the best black high schools that segregated South Africa could offer. Buthelezi also had a cordial relationship with the countrys most highly respected black politicians. Dr. Pixley ka Isaka Seme, founder of the African National Congress (ANC), was his uncle; a longtime family friend was Chief Albert Luthuli, who would head the ANC from 1952 and win the Nobel Prize in 1960.

Buthelezis first personal brush with racial discrimination came in 1950, while he was a student at Fort Hare University. The impending visit of Dr. G. Brand van Zyl, the countrys governor-generalwho had earlier commented to the international press that Every time a native child is born in South Africa it means a new problem for us Europeanswas the spark that touched off the young mans fiery political conscience. He and several other students organized a boycott on the day of van Zyls visit, and the governor-general was greeted by an almost-deserted campus. For their actions, Buthelezi and his fellow-rebels were expelled from the campus for one year.

In 1951 Buthelezi graduated into a South Africa that was changing to accommodate the victorious National Partys promise of white power as given three years earlier. The Native Representatives Council, with its 12 elected blacks and four nominated whites, was abolished in a new government mandate known as the Bantu Authorities Act. Instead black territorial authorities with regional, executive, administrative, and judicial powerseach headed by a docile, government-friendly chiefwere instated.

At a Glance

Born August 27, 1928, in Mhlabatini, South Africa; son of Chief Mathole Buthelezi and Princess Constance Magogo Zulu; married Audrey Thandekile Mzila, 1952; children: three sons, four daughters. Education: Adams College, Natal, 194447; University of Fort Hare, B.A., 1950. Religion: Anglican.

Bantu Administration, Durban, Natal, clerk, 195152; Buthelezi tribe, Mhlabatini, acting chief, 195357; assisted King Cyprian in administrating the Zulu tribe, 195368; Zululand Territorial Authority, Nongoma, chief executive councillor, 197072; chief minister of KwaZulu, 1976; Black Unity Front, founder and leader, 1976; Inkatha, president, 1976; S.A. Black Alliance, founder and leader, 1978.

Awards: Voted Newsmaker of the Year, South African Society of Journalists, 1973; Knight Commander of the Star of Africa, 1974; French National Order of Merit, 1981; George Meany Human Rights Award, Council of Industrial Organization of the American Federation of Labor, 1982; Apostle of Peace Award, Pandit Satyapal sharma of India, 1985; named Man of the Year, Financial Mail, 1985. Awarded honorary Doctor of Law degrees from University of Zululand, University of Cape Town, and Boston University.

Addressess: Office Private Bag X01, Ulundi 3838, KwaZulu, South Africa.

The Bantu Authorities Act caused such fury among South Africas black population that open protests spread swiftly throughout the country. The ANC launched a defiant campaign: protestors addressed meetings despite government bans, refused to carry the identification documents known as passbooks, and made a point of entering and leaving public buildings by entrances designated for whites only. Their actions brought them attention from the overseas press, but also led to 8,000 arrests by the end of 1952.

This turmoil prevented Buthelezis peaceful ascension to his fathers chieftainship. The act made it clear that his appointment as chief rested at the pleasure of the Native Affairs Department, rather than at the destiny of his heritage, and the political incident at Fort Hare, though long past, made him a favorite target of the sinister security police.

To show that he could now be trusted to obey the law, Buthelezi took a job as a clerk in the Durban branch of the Bantu Affairs Department, where he stayed, safely ensconced under the eye of the government, until 1953, when he was grudgingly granted an acting chieftainship. In October 1955, Buthelezi was one of 300 chiefs invited to meet the Minister of Native Affairs, who had come to Zululand to campaign for obedience to his Bantu Authorities Act. As the inventor of the separate development policy, Dr. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was received with suitable pomp, but he did not find the automatic agreement he had expected. Instead he met a wrathful Buthelezi and found himself listening to a masterly speech refuting the false independence offered by the white government.

Buthelezis confrontational speech earned him the support of his people, but it also established his reputation as a firm opponent of the government and branded him as a troublemaker. Despite the opposition of he and other black leaders, the government instituted the Promotion of Bantu Self Government Act in 1959. Now there were eight black national units, each with limited authority, but black representation in Parliament was a right no longer granted.

Elected to ZTA

The first Zulu regional authority appeared two years later at Eshowe, the white capital of Zululand. Buthelezi soon stepped into the chairmanship of the Mhlabatini Regional Authority, but this was not the end of the matter. The Zulus King Cyprian was summoned to the state capital, Pretoria; he returned with news that a body called the Zululand Territorial Authority (ZTA) was forming, designed specifically to lead the Zulu nation into self-government.

In June of 1970, nearly 200 tribal chiefs and the heads of the 26 tribal authorities assembled at Nongoma to elect the new organizations cabinet. Now well-recognized as Cyprians principal advisor, Buthelezi was elected unopposed as the ZTAs chief executive officer. At the inauguration ceremony Buthelezi kept his remarks noncommittal to avoid attracting the attention of the security police. However, on a later trip to Sweden, where he felt he could speak more openly, he explained his apparent compliance with the government.

Noting that he had felt it best to avoid vehement opposition to the establishment of the Territorial Authority, Buthelezi pointed out that strong protest against government policy had caused a ban on South Africas two leading black political organizations, the ANC and its offshoot, the Pan African Congress. South African blacks had been left without any possible political activity as a result. Wishing to avoid this fate for his people, Buthelezi kept his opposition to government policy within prudent limits.

Buthelezis moderation did not help him much in Zululand, where he found strong resentment from white farmers unwilling to accept his influential position. Abusive letters and death threats emphasized the tenuousness of his authority. A second source of opposition came, surprisingly, from Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who led his tribe in feeble support of the governments homelands policy.

Buthelezi swiftly removed this incipient source of divided loyalty. When the KwaZulu Territorial Authority came into official being on March 31, 1972, the Zulus learned of two immediate changes: Goodwill, having proved himself a docile supporter of apartheid, would have only ceremonial duties in the future. Second, though it had formerly been ZTA policy, further oath of allegiance to the South African government was annulled.

Marched With Inkatha

In 1976 Buthelezi revitalized Inkatha, a cultural organization that had foundered soon after its organization in 1928. Exclusively political, Inkatha had clear-cut public missions of black unity; encouragement for black spiritual and educational economic development; public disclosure in legislative matters; and an end to all discrimination. Just as significant was its unspoken aimto consolidate Buthelezis political power. By filling the void left by the banned ANC and other black political organizations, Inkatha achieved phenomenal growth. In its first year the group drew 30,000 recruits, approximately 60 percent of them Zulus; this figure leapt to 300,000 within five years, and swelled to 1.5 million by 1987. Inkathas success was not lost on the Minister of Justice, who summoned Buthelezi to Pretoria in 1977.

Justice Jimmy Kruger was concerned that ANC infiltrators might penetrate Inkatha and cause more violence. If Buthelezi would confine his membership to Zulus and ensure that no violent elements were being fostered, the government would not be a problem to Inkatha. But this was not the first clash between the two men. Kruger had watched uneasily as a crowd of 15,000 welcomed Buthelezi to Soweto in March of 1976, and had ignored the Inkatha leaders warning that Soweto was a powder-keg boiling with the fury of schoolchildren determined to improve their education despite government repression. The riots Buthelezi had predicted began in June. When Buthelezi was asked by local community leaders to help quell the masses, Kruger informed him that the South African police could manage very well without his meddling.

Furthering the problems in laying down rules for Inkatha, Kruger now threatened to take action against Buthelezi. Both men understood that this was empty posturing; Buthelezi boasted a huge following who were not likely to take such treatment without protest. Such followers, notably, did not include the ANC, which was now operating as a Mission in Exile. The ANC viewed Inkatha as an upstart rival and accused Buthelezi of collaborating with the government in his objections to their campaign of armed attacks on South African targets.

Competed With ANC

Buthelezi felt that violence would never succeed against the well-trained and well-equipped South African Defense Force, and that resistance of a less brutal kind would be more effective. As the 1980s began, the rift between Buthelezi and the ANC widened. Written assaults against him appeared in the ANCs magazine, Sechaba, as well as in the international press and on Ethiopia-based Radio Freedom, which accused him of being a government puppet.

Buthelezi did not turn the other cheek. Instead, he continued holding his rivals responsible for South Africas violent discord, informing the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in January 1986, that the ANCs Mission in Exile was causing the violence in South Africa to escalate out of control. In Buthelezi: The Biography, Jack Shepherd quoted the black leader as saying that our youths are being exhorted to attack their elders, blacks are stoning blacks, burning them alive and the ANC Mission in Exile regards this as a great surge forward in the struggle.

Yet rivalry was not Buthelezis primary concern. Noting that KwaZulu had an abundance of black labor on which the neighboring province of Natal depended, he suggested an experiment in interracial power-sharing as an alternative to the abhorred homelands plan, which, he said, was not a solution for hungry blacks. He organized a 40-member commission to discuss a possible merger between the governments of Natal and KwaZulu that would be autonomous but not independent of South Africa. Although the recommendations were strongly supported by prominent businessmen when they appeared in 1982, they were roundly rejected by the government.

The Ingwavuma Affair

This was not Buthelezis only clash with Pretoria that year. Fireworks began in June, when Dr. Piet Koornhof, the Minister of Cooperation and Development, announced to the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly that along with a part of the Eastern Transvaal, the entire Ingwavuma areasome 3,000 square miles, involving nearly 90,000 Zuluswas to be given to the kingdom of Swaziland. In exchange, KwaZulu was to receive a dam originally intended for a now-obsolete irrigation project, plus two Game Park areas of Natal.

The assembly was apprised that this munificence had arisen because Swaziland was in need of a port and also because friendly relations between the two countries needed some impetus. Outraged, Buthelezi went straight to the courts and had the Natal Supreme Court overrule the governments decision. In August of 1982, just one month after the Supreme Court decision, a special session of Parliament convened and passed legislation giving the government the power to hand over the land. Goodwill countered this move by calling a meeting. 20,000 Zulus responded immediately, rallying behind Buthelezis determination to resist the loss of tribal lands. Their persistence paid a handsome dividend: In September the Appeals Court upheld the Natal Supreme Court finding. The South African government quietly conceded defeat.


In 1985, as South Africa reeled under wave after wave of violence, Buthelezi faced one of his toughest challenges. A radical new labor federation was raising its head. Representing one half million black workers, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, (COSATU) was strongly supported by the ANC. Buthelezi launched the rival United Workers Union of South Africa (UWUSA) the following spring at a rally that attracted 80,000 supporters. In response, COSATU organized a rival rally on the same day, but attracted only 10,000 supporters.

The UWUSA nettled the ANC, who were further antagonized by Buthelezis stand on economic sanctions against South Africa. Yet the sanctions issue found him an unexpected supporter in the recognized South African government. Details of this new alliance came to light in July of 1991, when the Daily Mail unveiled an uncomfortable secret: The successful launch of UWUSA had been government-funded and the Inkatha party had received monies totaling $526,000 over the past five years from the same secret slush fund. These revelations scarred Buthelezis reputation, which suffered more damage as a result of the Inkatha vs. ANC inspired violence exploding across South Africa. International newswires reverberated with tales of murders via gasoline-soaked tires, stabbings, and decapitations, which had now claimed more than 5,000 lives nationwide.

Alarmed, the South African government appointed a commission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone to investigate. Through evidence supplied by a former confidential Buthelezi aide, the commission found that 191 Inkatha supporters had been trained in subversive activity at a secret camp in Namibia, and that checks for their salaries had been signed by Buthelezi himself. Though he denied all knowledge of the affair, Buthelezi could not halt the inevitable speculation about his motives; his self-interest soon came to light. Buthelezi had a great deal to lose if the ANC won the fast-approaching election: The homelands were due for abolition as soon as the new constitution took effect, and he could lose his job, without which he would have no base of support.

Fought Back

To protect his position, Buthelezi initiated a campaign of obstruction. He formed an impromptu alliance with ANC opponents such as Afrikaner Nationalists, white intellectuals, and passionate anti-Communists, and he declared that his Inkatha Party would not take part in South Africas elections in April of 1994 unless stringent conditions were met. Goodwill was to be made constitutional monarch, with his own police force and a budget supplied by the KwaZulu Natal Administration. Buthelezi himself was to be guaranteed his present position as the head of the Zulu Government. The 300 square miles of the former KwaZulu were to be ceded to the Zulu Nation, and a bloody civil war was threatened if Inkathas position was ignored. Both ANC head Nelson Mandela and South Africas President de Klerk tried to budge him before the election; five days before the voters went to the polls Buthelezi consented to organize a last-minute election campaign.

The reason for Buthelezis uncharacteristic surrender rested with one of de Klerks last unilateral actions as president. As Buthelezi had insisted, the lands had been ceded and Goodwills power assured. A landslide victory brought the ANC to power on April 27, 1994. A few days later, when the new cabinet was named, Buthelezi became President Mandelas Minister of Home Affairs. Just as Alan Rake had suggested a few years earlier, Buthelezi remains a political and intellectual force to be reckoned with in the future of his country.

Selected writings

Power Is Ours, Books in Focus, 1979.

South Africa : My Vision of the Future, St. Martins Press, 1990.



Rake, Alan, Whos Who in Africa: Leaders for the 1990s, The Scarecrow Press, 1992, pp. 30405.

Riley, Eileen, Major Political Events in South Africa, 19481990, Facts on File, 1991.

Smith, Jack Shepherd, Buthelezi: The Biography, Hans Strydom, 1988.


Africa Report, January/February 1991, p. 50.

Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 1994.

Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1991, p. M3; April 10, 1994, p. M2.

New York Times, February 17, 1991, p. 22; November 7, 1993, p. 4; November 26, 1993, p. 1; December 19, 1993, p. 23; March 31, 1994, p. A10; May 12, 1994, p. A8; May 24, 1994, p. A3.

Washington Post, July 22, 1991, p. A13; March 1,1992, p. A23; April 21, 1994, p. A25; May 1,1994, p. A32.

Gillian Wolf

Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi

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Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi

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).

Further Reading

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). □

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha

views updated May 18 2018

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha (1928– ) Zulu chief and politician. Buthelezi was installed as chief of the Buthelezi tribe in 1953 and became chief minister of KwaZulu, a ‘bantustan’ within apartheid South Africa in 1970. In 1975, he founded Inkatha. Accusations of complicity in apartheid led to violence between Inkatha and the rival African National Congress (ANC) in the early 1990s. Buthelezi acted as minister for home affairs (1994– ) in the ANC government.

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