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Response and Reflections by Hon. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and Nation
Former Minister of Home Affairs (1994 – 2004) and
Former Acting President of the Republic of South Africa

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His Excellency Dr Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini;

His Excellency General Panji Kaunda, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia to the Republic of Malawi;

His Excellency Ambassador George Zulu;

Ministers and Deputy Ministers;

Our hosts, the Chairperson and the Board of the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation;

Representatives of Government, Members of Parliament and Members of the Provincial Legislatures;

Members of the Zulu Royal Family;

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and our international guests, including Mr Augustine Maurice;

Leaders of all parties present;

Distinguished guests and friends.

What can one say in response to such an eloquent and thought-provoking lecture delivered by such an illustrious son of Africa? I can only thank Your Excellency Dr Obasanjo for travelling to be with us, and for giving us the gift of your profound insight into the realities of our continent, both past and present. Above all, however, we appreciate your vision for the future, for it is hope, more than anything else, that will sustain us in our pursuit of Africa’s highest aspirations.

In being the servant of us, as the people of Africa, for so many decades, His Excellency has hardly any peers. It is humbling indeed to have such an eminent and respected African leader accept the invitation to deliver this inaugural lecture. More so because the invitation did not come from me. I would have been very shy to approach His Excellency to speak about our friendship, about the work I have done to secure liberty, democracy, and justice, and about so much that he has done to serve all of us, as people of Africa.

However, the Board of the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation invited His Excellency to speak, and received his kind confirmation, before they informed me of this wonderful news! Of course, I was delighted, not only by the prospect of hearing His Excellency’s wisdom, but by the opportunity to see him again.

We were last in one another’s company at His Excellency’s 82nd birthday, in Ogun State, Nigeria, in March 2019, when he invited me to deliver a lecture hosted by the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library. The theme I was given for that lecture was: “Colonialism, Apartheid, Freedom and South Africa Rising”.

Even with a broad theme like that, I know how difficult it is to condense everything that could be said, into the few things that must be said. I therefore applaud His Excellency for giving us pearls of wisdom. What he said here today is exactly what needs to be said and what we need to hear. Let us take heed and consider how South Africa might benefit from the renewed perspective we have been offered.

I have been tremendously blessed in these twilight years of my life to spend time with several of the great men and women with whom I engaged Africa’s liberation struggle. In the very year that His Excellency Dr Obasanjo invited me to Nigeria again, I was invited by His Royal Highness Inkosi Yama Nkosi Mpezeni IV of Zambia to attend the 2019 Nc’wala Traditional Ceremony.

During that visit, arrangements were made for me to meet again with His Excellency former President Kenneth Kaunda, in Lusaka. Looking back now, I thank the Almighty for His intervention, for not only would the Covid-19 pandemic shut down international travel just months after these trips, but there would sadly not be another opportunity for me to see the late Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

President Kaunda is revered by all of us here for the risks and sacrifices that he and the people of Zambia made for our liberation. It is wonderful to know that we have in our presence today the son of former President Kaunda, His Excellency Ambassador Panji Kaunda.

Four years ago, at my 90th birthday celebrations, Ambassador Kaunda brought a beautiful message of congratulations from his father. We are pleased to have him with us again, together with His Excellency Ambassador George Zulu, who did so much to arrange my last meeting with my old friend, the first President of the Republic of Zambia.

Those two visits, to His Excellency Dr Obasanjo and His Excellency Dr Kaunda, were a balm to my soul. After decades of enduring an intense campaign of vilification for accepting to lead the erstwhile KwaZulu Government and for founding Inkatha, my pain was finally lifted by Dr Kaunda’s frank account of history, on that occasion.

He declared that the Frontline States and the ANC’s mission-in-exile had agreed in 1974 that I should be asked to found a membership-based organisation within South Africa to reignite political mobilisation towards freedom. There was, they said, no one better suited to this task.

They knew that I had accepted the leadership of KwaZulu on instruction of my leader and mentor, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, who, together with Mr Oliver Tambo, urged me not to refuse – even through our movement, the ANC, rejected the homelands system. They believed that I could undermine the system of apartheid from within, as part of a multi-strategy approach to our liberation struggle. That is a mission I am proud to have accomplished, protecting the citizenship not only of the people of this Province, but that of all black South Africans. This was the genius of our leader, Inkosi Albert Luthuli.

President Kaunda and the Frontline States knew that I was a loyal cadre, ready to take instruction. And I did take instruction, just as they anticipated. When I visited President Kaunda in 1974 to thank him for giving sanctuary to all our exiles, he spoke on behalf of the Frontline States, advising me to found a liberation organisation within our country, so that the struggle could continue on our own soil, while it was waged from outside by the banned ANC. Upon my return to South Africa, with Mr Oliver Tambo’s approval, I founded Inkatha.

Despite all that has been said against me, that is the measure of my loyalty. Even when gross propaganda was turned against me, I remained loyal. (When my grand-nephew, His Majesty, spoke just now, I was almost moved to tears, thinking of the vilification I have suffered.) My loyalty was to the cause of liberation through non-violent means. It was the cause that my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, laid at the foundation of Africa’s oldest liberation movement. It was the cause that Inkosi Luthuli and Bishop Alphaeus Zulu impressed upon me. And it was the cause that I followed, regardless of personal cost.

It is truly a blessing at this stage in my life to recall the Heads of State in Africa and throughout the world who warmly welcomed me during our liberation struggle, because they knew my credentials and my commitment to the cause. Regardless of what I suffered because of unjust lies from within the movement I grew up in, the truth could not be hidden from Africa’s greatest leaders.

When I consider the awards, I have received, and the friendships I have enjoyed, I am reminded that truth always conquers. It always emerges, one way or another, and it cannot be suppressed forever. I want to thank His Excellency Dr Obasanjo, for telling us the truth today. It is only when we work with facts and truth, that we are able to overcome obstacles, solve problems and achieve our full potential.

That is my hope, not only for South Africa, but for the whole of this continent. More than a hundred years ago, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme delivered a speech in London that has been studied and quoted by scholars and leaders again and again. It was titled, “The Regeneration of Africa”. In part, he said –

“The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia, and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities. Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce, her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons employed in advancing the victories of peace – greater and more abiding than the spoils of war…”

I feel that Dr Obasanjo’s words today have picked up on the theme of Dr Seme’s words. There is still a brighter day that will rise upon Africa.

I am humbled to know that we – Dr Obasanjo, Dr Kaunda, and I – have done our part to push back the darkness and see that sun rise.

I shall never forget, for whatever is left of my life, what His Excellency Dr Obasanjo did for me in 1976. He arranged for me to be in Lagos on the very day that Transkei celebrated its bogus independence, by inviting me to speak at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs. In fact, he sent plane tickets for me, for my wife Princess Irene, for my Private Secretary Mr Eric Ngubane and for Mr Gibson Thula.

Today, he has blessed me again.

I have been honoured by Dr Obasanjo’s lecture today, and I was honoured by Dr Kaunda’s words in 2019. There is no way for me to repay them. But I would like to honour them.

I have asked therefore that the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation institute an annual award to be bestowed upon exceptional individuals whose life and work is dedicated to the advancement of humanity, peace, development, freedom, and democracy. There is no one better to receive the first Awards of the Foundation than His

Excellency Dr Olusegun Obasanjo and, posthumously, His Excellency Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

Before we present these Awards, allow me in closing to express my deepest gratitude to the Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa and the full Board of the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation, not only for making this wonderful occasion possible, but for accepting the enormous task of continuing my life’s work even beyond my own lifetime.

I must also express my joy at the presence of His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. It is quite fitting that His Majesty is with us during this visit by one of the great sons of Africa; not because I am the King’s traditional Prime Minister, nor because he is my grand-nephew, but because the King himself is descended from the founder of Africa’s oldest liberation movement. Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme married the eldest daughter of King Dinuzulu, Princess Harriet Phikisile. Princess Phikisile was the first grandchild of King Cetshwayo, whose regiments engaged the Anglo-Zulu War and were victorious against the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. The Princess is the great grand-aunt of His Majesty our King.

I am pleased that His Excellency Dr Obasanjo spoke about King Cetshwayo today. When I visited the Castle in Cape Town where my great-grandfather, King Cetshwayo, was imprisoned, they gave me a picture of King Cetshwayo taken on the day that he left for London to visit Her Majesty Queen Victoria. I would like to present that historic picture to His Excellency Dr Obasanjo, because I feel that today our history has come together.

Your Majesty, please know that I have heard your commands to me today, as your servant. It shall be done according to your commands.

It would be remiss of me not to thank the Hon. Inkosi Patekile Holomisa and Inkosi Mandela for being with us today. In this province we have one King, but as Africans we are one people. Their presence today emphasises this.

We are cognisant of how special this moment is, having His Majesty, His Excellency Dr Obasanjo, and Ambassador Kaunda in one room. I am pleased that some of Dr Seme’s family members are also with us.

Looking back at my life’s journey, I am truly blessed by the people who have walked it with me. All I can say is, “Thank you.”

This speech was given at the Inaugural Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation Lecture on 21 March 2023 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban and published on on 21 March 2023.