(1972) M. Gatsha Buthelezi, “My Role Within Separate Development Politics”

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Schiphol, North Holland, June 10, 1983
Photo by Rob Bogaerts, Courtesy Netherlands National Archives (

In a speech before the Scandinavian Institute for African Affairs, Uppsala, Sweden, in December, 1972, Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, then the Chief Executive Officer of the KwaZulu Territorial Authority, describes his cooperation with South African leaders despite his opposition to the country’s apartheid system.  The speech appears below.

I assume that most people are curious to know what separate development looks like through the eyes of one like myself, who is participating in the implementation of this policy. It is probably one of the most controversial policies pursued by a country in our time. Because of the mass media many people know of South Africa and her policy of apartheid, although that word now tends to be substituted by separate development, particularly within South Africa. I have great reservations about the philosophy of apartheid which is behind the policies in whose implementation I am participating. I am not saying this because I am in Sweden, it is something I made quite clear from the moment I was elected by my people to lead them and this was embodied in my inaugural address at Nongoma, Kwazulu. I have since then repeated this, not only before the Prime Minister of South Africa, Mr. B.J. Vorster, but on ever possible occasion.

This policy is not one of options and to pretend that the question of accepting or not accepting it ever arises at all, is grossly misleading. What is worse, such pretence gives the South African white minority who rule us undue credit by giving the impression that we have any latitude in this matter at all. In my opinion, to say that we have ‘accepted’ apartheid, by serving our people within the framework of the South African government’s policy, would be as nonsensical as to say that when great African leaders like the late Chief Albert Lutuli, Dr. Z.K. Matthews and others, served their people within the framework of the United Party government’s policy of segregation as members of the Native Representative Council, they did so because they ‘accepted’ the segregationist policies of that government. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is also a well-known fact that when African political organizations like the tanned African National Congress and the Pan-African Congress were militant in the early sixties they were clamped down on for the very reason that the authorities in South Africa could not tolerate the militant way in which they articulated the wishes and aspirations of their people, despite the fact they were leading an unarmed people. There was a void which lasted for almost ten years n the African political scene as no politics were allowed except within the framework of separate development.

Operating as I do with my reservations clearly spelled out, I therefore do not believe that I have in any way sold my soul like Dr. Faust, to the devil, if I may use the expression. On the occasion of the inauguration of the Zulu Assembly I also defined what I considered to be the implications of this policy, of its propounders intend to carry it out with any degree of honesty. Foremost among these was the question of land. As the ‘homelands’ stand at present, it is a crude joke that anyone can seriously consider them to be countries in the making. They all need to be consolidated if this is a serious experiment and this is the only point on which all homeland leaders agree. I further made it clear at my inauguration that I expected us to have full human dignity and freedom. This leaves the ball in the Republican government’s court, which is where it is as far as I am concerned. I also wish to place on record that these so-called ‘homelands’ are areas into which we were pushed after conflicts and wars with the ancestors of the present whites. It is nonsense to call them our traditional homes. They have not been set up by the Nationalist Party government alone. All that they have done is to romanticize the old reserves by giving them a new Christmas wrapping as ‘homelands.

When my people asked me to lead these despite my well-known views, I felt that I just could not dare to refuse. It was one of those moments in history where I felt caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is therefore one of those events where I think history will be the best judge of my actions in agreeing when I was called in to serve. I did so because no other chance of serving my people in politics was allowed. I did so also because I felt that when there is as much suffering as exists in that situation, it is a moral obligation to alleviate the suffering of human beings in however small a degree. For the moment I have scope for articulating the wishes and aspirations of my people for the first time since Sharpeville. I think this is important even at the risk of these instruments ending up as ‘talking shops’ in the same way in which the Native Representative Council was ultimately looked on by its members.

At present we find that the challenge is to do the utmost one can do towards the development of our people. The ‘homelands’ are the only machinery through which one can legally make this attempt in South Africa. It might rightly be said that the most we can achieve in this direction would be to nibble at the edges. This I consider much better than folding arms and crying about it. We are drawing the attention of white South Africa to the cruelty of denying us our share of the wealth which we help to produce.

More than seventy per cent of our people receive wages below the poverty datum line. We are at present engaged in warning South Africa about the dangers of the kind of polarization of wealth and poverty which exists at present. At the moment the ratio of black to white wages is 1:4. The dangers in the perpetuation of this situation are obvious if one takes the history of the human race as a guide. We feel that it is our duty at this time for our people to look at themselves as black workers instead of on an ethnic basis. Once this solidarity becomes a reality we have enough faith to know that our voice will be heard. We do not underestimate the reaction of the powerful should this moment be reached.

We are also concerned about disparities in white and black educational opportunities. Whites have free and compulsory education with all the wealth they command. No such facilities are anywhere in sight for blacks. In 1968 about R14,48 per head was spent on black children. In the same year expenditure per head for white children in the four provinces of the Republic of South Africa was as follows: R191 in the Transvaal, R244 in the Orange Free State, R266 in the Cape and R288 in Natal. According to Hansard, (February 1970) this represents R228 per white child, if we take the number of white pupils in each province into account. Or in simple terms it means that fifteen times more is spent on a white child than on an African child.
When we look at the health of the people we also see a grim picture. There is a doctor for every 44 400 Africans, one colored doctor for every 6 200 colored, one Indian doctor for every 900 Indians and one white doctor for every 400 whites. Fewer than 12 African doctors a year are trained for a population of 15 million. I have been approached by a number of black doctors with the request that we should launch a fund to establish a private school with a science bias, in order to get as many candidates for the medical school as possible. According to an editorial of the latest edition of the ‘Bantu Education Journal’, the sum of R500 million is estimated as being required to eliminate the numerous inequalities and evils we suffer under Bantu Education. We are trying to impose taxes on ourselves to do as much as we can. But this will certainly not go very far.

There is a group of white South Africans who are getting concerned about the situation and have launched funds known as the Teach Fund in Cape Town, the Learn Fund in Durban and the Rand Bursary Fund in Johannesburg. This will not solve the problem. But we feel that there is scope for friends within South Africa and all the countries that have diplomatic relations with South Africa to help us to relieve the situation. It is of no use to be over—righteous about apartheid, if we get no concrete assistance while apartheid lasts.

In other words we feel it is not enough to condemn apartheid, as it will not crumble like the walls of Jericho merely by people shouting, without doing something concrete to alleviate our plight. While the problems of South Africa remain unresolved we feel we should be helped as blacks to help ourselves. The ritual of resolution after resolution at the United Nations condemning apartheid has not the same euphoric effect as it had on blacks say twenty years ago. We realize that like the Afrikaners we must also attempt to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. The difference with us is that we do not even have the bootstraps, which they had after the Anglo-Boer war.

Those of us who have qualms of conscience about apartheid and yet are working within the framework of the policy do so only because it gives us the only opportunity of awakening our people to help themselves. We can only judge who are our friends, not by any torrents of crocodile tears, but by concrete contributions towards our campaign as blacks to try and stand on our own feet despite the situation in which we find ourselves. There is a lame excuse which has become thread-bare in our eyes and that is the excuse that if we are helped, those who do so are strengthening apartheid. We are living within apartheid not out of choice and anyone interested in us will help us where we are. We will sink deeper into the apartheid seas if we are to look at the situation from that angle, unless we are helped right where we are to keep our heads above water. Many people say South Africa is rich and can do these things for us. What a specious argument! After all there is both white and black South Africa, and people should know who are wallowing in wealth and who are wallowing in poverty.

There is also the argument that the situation should be allowed to deteriorate and thus bring about a revolution soon. Some of us are not committed to a violent confrontation. I belong to this group. We do not pretend that this might not overtake us if we do not make a serious effort to solve our problems in South Africa. We find it rather strange for anyone outside South Africa to prescribe this for us. It seems to us that in the final analysis the South African problems will be solved, whether peacefully or violently (may God forbid this), within South Africa by those within the country. The question of whether it will be a peaceful denouement or a violent confrontation can be dictated by the extent to which we are or are not assisted right now to stand on our own feet as blacks.

We have not given up the concept of blacks as an entity. That is why, although we are the so-called homeland leaders, Chief Minister Matanzima and I have pledged ourselves to work towards a federation of the Transkei and Kwazulu and with whoever wishes to join us. It must be mere definition of such a goal, however remote it might be in the opinions of others, particularly our critics, that keeps the concept of black unity alive as something we must strive for. I mention this to show that we have not abandoned anything which was precious to patriots who have passed on the African political scene before us.

It must always be remembered that there is no situation in any country where politics cannot be defined as the art of the possible. Also in a situation like ours, even more so it remains the art of the possible. We are doing what is possible, no more and no less. This I venture to say is what politics is about anywhere and I any situation.