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Statement By

Hon. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and Nation

on current rumours and speculations.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for joining me on short notice for this briefing.

It has been prompted by rumours and speculation that I have relinquished my position as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation; that His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelithini has asked me to do so; or that I have requested permission to do so. None of this speculation has any basis in truth.

It is premised, from what I can understand, on discussions between the King and I on Sunday the 14th of May.

I must point out that when His Majesty the King meets with his Prime Minister, or writes to his Prime Minister, the content of discussions is not intended for public consumption and is by its very nature private and confidential. Yet this has not stopped anyone from pretending to know what His Majesty and I discuss, or from publishing rumours claiming to be reports on our private discussions.

For the sake of setting the record straight on this latest rumour, I am compelled to divulge what took place in my meeting with His Majesty on 14 May as relates to the position of traditional Prime Minister.

In that meeting, I mentioned to His Majesty that I had received information that Mr Jacob Mnisi, the businessman who was previously tipped to become the Chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board, had suggested to the King that he should appoint His Royal Highness Prince Vanana of the KwaMinya Royal House as his traditional Prime Minister.

I said this in the presence of HRH Prince Vanana. His Majesty’s Legal Advisor was present as well. But there was no reaction to what I said. His Majesty neither confirmed nor denied this information.

I felt it important to raise this matter with the King specifically because it involves the man who previously was said to become the Chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

You will recall that in February Mr Mnisi issued a statement saying that he had declined his nomination to this position, citing tribalism and the fact that he would not be able to do business with the Trust if he were its Chairperson, as that would be a conflict of interest. He claimed that the Zulu Kingdom is poor because, effectively, the Board lacks business skills, opting instead for a Zulu Chairperson.

One can understand why there are concerns over the role that Mr Mnisi is playing in matters of the Zulu Nation.

But let me speak to the matter of the position of the traditional Prime Minister.

There is nothing new in attempts to drive a wedge between the King and his Prime Minister. I have seen these attempts many times over almost 70 years in service. Greed for power and money has always been at the centre of it.

I have endured unjust attacks and hateful experiences for the greater part of my life because of the position I hold as the King’s Prime Minister. I have tolerated it because I am committed to serving and protecting my King and my nation.

There is no personal benefit to holding this position. There is no salary attached to it, and there never has been. Not a single cent comes my way for being the Prime Minister.

In fact, I am not even afforded an office, staff, or any resources with which to perform my responsibilities as traditional Prime Minister. I am obliged to fund these myself, from my own pocket. This has always been the case. It is why I also rely on the voluntary services of individuals, whom I trust, to assist with administration and media liaison.

I have never clung to this position. In fact, years ago, in the presence of the Royal Family, I suggested to His Majesty King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu that he release me. I was appointed by his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon. King Zwelithini, however, never withdrew me as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation and never appointed anyone else to this position. Thus I served him in this capacity for almost fifty years.

I have accepted my responsibility, onerous as it has been, because I know that my mother, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, was instructed by her brother, King Solomon kaDinuzulu, to marry my father, who was King Solomon’s Prime Minister. Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi had helped the King resolve a very complicated matter between his principal Induna and Prince Mnyayiza, which led the King to offer him the hand of the King’s only full sister in marriage. Prince Mnyayiza, incidentally, is the grandfather of Prince Vanana.

In a sense, I am haunted by King Solomon’s instruction to my mother that she marry his Prime Minister. It is the reason I have tolerated all the tribulations that come with serving in this position.

I must also point out that the position of traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation is not recognised in our Constitution because the ruling Party did not want it there. The whole issue of the recognition of the Zulu monarchy was a difficult one during constitutional negotiations, for I was the only one advocating for the recognition of our King and our Kingdom. It is only because of my insistence, that the King himself is recognised in the Constitution. President FW de Klerk actually had to reconvene Parliament for one day just to include this in the Constitution, at my insistence.

I was told that everything relating to the position of the King would be dealt with in the Constitution of KwaZulu-Natal. When we tabled that draft Constitution in the Legislature, it was accepted by all parties, including the ANC. That Constitution indeed covered everything relating to the position of the King and contained the role of the traditional Prime Minister.

However, at the eleventh hour, when the Constitutional Court was set to certify the Constitution of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Jacob Zuma went behind our backs and prevented certification. Thus the ANC stopped any recognition of this position in law.

There had also been an agreement during negotiations that there would be international mediation to resolve the issue of the recognition of our King and the autonomy of our Kingdom. The then President de Klerk, Mr Mandela and I had agreed to this at the Skukuza Summit. However international mediation was then torpedoed by the Spokesperson of the ANC, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Spokesperson of the National Party, Mr Roelf Meyer, who said it should not be done because it would mean the rewriting of the Constitution.

On the 19th of April, eight days before the 1994 elections, Mr Mandela, President de Klerk and I signed a solemn agreement that international mediation would resume as soon as elections were over. But that promise was dishonoured. Whenever I asked Deputy President de Klerk about it, he said that whenever he raised it with President Mandela, the President got angry. So, to this day, our agreement has not been honoured.

I felt it necessary for me to provide you with this background so that the idea may be put to rest once and for all that I am clinging to the position of traditional Prime Minister, as though I receive some personal benefit from holding it. There would be no humiliation to me to relinquish it now, having served loyally for almost 70 years. I would have no regrets.

But the simple fact is that I have not asked His Majesty to release me from this position, because I told His Majesty from the beginning that I would serve at his pleasure, for as long as he requires and for as long as I am able, for the sake of our Kingdom and our nation. The King has not asked me to relinquish this position and I remain in service.

I realise that the current speculation, baseless as it is, has been bolstered by the publication of an article that purports to convey the contents of a private letter written to me by His Majesty the King on the 17th of May.

I am disgusted by the action by the journalist on question, for he himself has compromised the court case of His Majesty the King by publishing confidential correspondence between the King and his Prime Minister relating to the case.

The matter is sub judice and will be heard in court in the next few days. I have no intention of speaking about this case in the media.

But I must point out that the contents of the King’s letter to me were not quoted verbatim. Certain words were changed and others omitted, which materially effect the meaning of the letter. Moreover, despite claims by the journalist, no mention is made in the letter of my ever having expressed a preference or a demand with regards to who His Majesty should appoint as Chairperson of the Board. That remains the King’s prerogative. Beyond advising that the Chairperson to the Board should have legal expertise, as former Board Members have also advised, I have not told the King who he should appoint.

These matters, relating to the Ingonyama Trust Board, will be fully aired in my meeting with Amakhosi on Friday the 26th of May in Empangeni. I shall therefore not discuss them any further here. Regarding that meeting, however, I wish to provide an update.

As you are aware, I extended an invitation to Amakhosi of the Zulu Kingdom to attend a meeting next Friday in which I, as the founder of the Ingonyama Trust and the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, will brief Amakhosi on recent developments regarding the Ingonyama Trust Board.

Since that invitation was issued, there have been several misrepresentations of the meeting as being an “Imbizo”. I wish to make it clear that I have not called an Imbizo of the Zulu Nation, but a meeting of Amakhosi, as the stakeholders of the Ingonyama Trust land.

The meeting is thus not open to everyone, and the venue cannot accommodate everyone. It is a meeting of Amakhosi.

I have, however, taken the decision to invite Mayors of municipalities which administer governance within Trust land, as it is clearly important for these Mayors to have a clear understanding of the situation.

To ensure that those attending are invited participants, I request that Amakhosi and Mayors register in advance and receive accreditation. Very sensitive matters will be discussed and the collective wisdom of Amakhosi will be sought.

On that note, I wish to advise members of the media in advance that while you are welcome to join us during my briefing, we as Amakhosi will require privacy thereafter to hold discussions on the matters I raise. The meeting will be reopened to the media when decisions are announced.

Moreover, due to the sensitive nature of the matters I will raise in my briefing, it is necessary that there be an upfront agreement with all media present that wherever it is stated that a matter is off the record, it be strictly treated as such. While the public interest and the right to information are respected and upheld, it is necessary for the security of individuals to be protected, as an overriding priority.

The media are therefore also kindly requested to register for accreditation in advance, with registration being an indication that you accept the conditions we have, of necessity, had to set.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your time.

This statement was delivered at a Press Conference of the Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and Nation on 20 May 2023 via Zoom and published on on 20 May 2023.