(1974) M. Gatsha Buthelezi, “Towards Black Fulfillment”

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

Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi emerged in the 1970s as one of the moderate black leaders in South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaign.  In 1970 he was appointed leader of the KwaZulu Territorial Authority and in 1975 he created the Inkatha Freedom Party which drew its support primarily from the Zulu people.  On August 30, 1974, Buthelezi gave a speech at University of Zululand outlining his views.  That speech appears below.

It has been common until recently to say that the native must be kept in his place. That is why the United Party government under General Hertzog attempted to set up political structures which did not go far enough in affording blacks fulfillment. I refer here to the Native Representative Council and parliamentary representation of blacks by whites in the Senate and in the House of Assembly. It does not surprise us that these structures did not go far enough because in the words of General Smuts:

‘There are certain things about which all South Africans are agreed, all parties and all sections except those quite mad. The first is that it is a fixed policy to maintain white supremacy in South Africa.’

Little wonder that after ten years, in 1946, African leaders decided to arrest the machinery of the Native Representative Council by passing a resolution which made it defunct. The present regime, as you know, had viewed the Native Representative Council as a forum for agitation and in which there was incitement of ‘good natives’, against the government, and they undertook to abolish it completely when they came into power. This they ultimately did.

The younger people in South Africa and particularly at the University of Fort Hare were also against these structures which were now described as ‘dummy bodies’. Africans throughout the continent of Africa were at this time clamoring for fulfillment in their countries and for freedom or uhuru.

When Africans realized that whites had no intention of including them at their table, they founded the African National Congress in 1912. At the risk of incurring for myself the wrath of some of you, this to me was the beginning of the first phase of Black Consciousness in South Africa.

The first Pan—Africanist movement in South Africa was founded by Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. This was the second phase of Black Consciousness as one of the things the founders objected to was the influence of white Marxists in the affairs of the African National Congress. The resentment was against the ideological colonization of the black man.

Both these national movements, the African National Congress and the Pan—African Congress, were banned after the 1960 Sharpeville episode. You are all familiar with the incarceration of the leaders of these movements and the banning orders imposed on them.

The Nationalist government as a result of pressures at the United Nations and by black states at every international conference table, started talking of ‘separate freedoms’ and of separate self-determination. Clearly this was an old Roman Empire technique of ‘divide et impera’. This brings us to the consideration of the question whether the black man can ever reach fulfillment through apartheid structures such as the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, The Nationalist Party ploy is to set up, once again, the Zulu nation, the Xhosa nation, the Tswana nation, etc.

Whilst I also abhor apartheid or separate development, I would like to say that it is a fallacy and the height of arrogance to say that those of us who are serving our people within separate development perimeters with no other options open to us, are doing so out of a betrayal of the African cause. I say so because one of the symbols of the present phase of Black Consciousness was the emergence of the South African Students’ organization, and the break-away of SASO from the National Union of South African Students. Before I go any further, shall we all stand up and have a prayerful meditation for the banned leaders of SASO such as Steve Biko, Nyameko Pityana and others and for the souls of Abram Tiro and Nicodimus Mthuli Shezi.

The emergence of the present phase of Black Consciousness coincided with a phase of Black Consciousness in the United States. It is not solely a product of American Black Consciousness, but it would be a lie to say that it had nothing to do with it. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this linkage between the movement in the States and the movement in South Africa, at the same time, as there have always been links between these two similar political situations.

The Nationalists have been in power for 26 years, yet we hear it is envisaged that only in 1976 our brothers in the Transkei will achieve fulfillment separately from the rest of the black people. This is not out of benevolence at all, but a product of pressure both from within the ranks of the Nationalist Party and from without. When we met as black leaders at Umtata in November 1973, it was to continue the ideal of one African nation in which most of us fully believe. When the federal idea was mooted, it was because we did not want anyone to separate us into fragments for his own ends. When we requested an interview with the Prime Minister, Mr. Vorster, in March 1974 and discussed with him ‘black problems’, not ethnic ones, it was because we fully believe in Black Consciousness and in black unity without which we can never find real fulfillment. If there was sincerity on the part of the government in making all the so-called black areas compact countries not in terms of the 1936 Land and Trust Act but on the basis of a new map, then there might even be a hope that blacks might reach fulfillment even through the structures of a philosophy we all abhor.

I am at present not convinced of any sincerity, if for instance Richards Bay is going to remain white, and if KwaZulu is going to remain as 29 separate pieces. Then I should be forgiven if I see this policy as showing the makings of a political fraud. Through a federation we could have remained together as one country and as citizens of the whole of South Africa which is our country. That may be the reason why the Prime Minister has rejected my proposals on federation. In doing so, the Prime Minister also did me the favor of stating that he respected my honesty as I did not regard the federation I proposed as a solution to last forever. How could I? And in any case my proposals were motivated by our being together as we move through this dark abyss of an uncertain political future. It is nonsense to say that I have ever, in my federal formula, given up any part of South Africa. Americans in Texas are as much citizens of the United States as Americans in New York State. They have one passport and one economy.

As far as I am concerned, we cannot afford to quarrel amongst ourselves at this point in history. My own history is a guide here because when I was a university student, we disagreed with our Professor Matthews’s stand in not resigning from the Native Representative Council. Our technique was to get into Congress affairs and effect changes from within. We never used denigration methods.

The future leaders of this land will come from amongst you. But it does seem to me that the first condition of real leadership is humility. No one who lacks it can ever hope to be a true leader. I do not think that humility is something in—born but the least any true leader can do is to aspire to attain it.

The danger I see as we move in this dark tunnel, is lack of identification with the masses. One must never despise them and one can only influence them as one of them. The problem and danger we can get into is to think that our university education makes us little saints whose sole work must be pontification for the hoi polloi. It is a wrong assumption to conclude that God never endowed anyone who has not been through university doors with any wisdom. Book-learning without wisdom cannot take us very far in our battle.

Intellectuals have a great role to play as leaders of the community, but there is a great danger we have to guard against. The danger is intellectual arrogance. A sociologist-theologian I know and for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration, warns in these words:

‘Intellectuals also play an important part in almost all revolutions, particularly in the pre-revolutionary phase, through their critique of the socio-political system, their leadership and their contribution to setting up a new regime. Sociologically, it is they who are best placed to challenge a political regime, since they are not usually directly involved in political action and yet they are sensitive to innovation. This is also true of students today. It must be added, however, that the “scholarly” role of the intellectual often allows him to play a “clean” part, leaving others to “dirty” their hands.’

Yes, some of us know that we have dirtied our hands by participating in separate development politics. Our people or the majority of them live within the confines of what are termed ‘black areas’. If we seek them we find them there struggling in poverty, struggling in ignorance and struggling with diseases of want. The choice is between ‘clean hands’ and ‘dirtying’ our hands as we have done, in the interests of our people.

This does not mean that one must not have respect for those who would rather have no part in it. People must be respected for their stands, however much one disagrees with what motivates them. On the other hand one more or less expects people, particularly intellectuals, not to dismiss one’s bona fides merely in order to maintain a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, or merely to maintain intellectual snobbery, regardless of how such a stance affects the day-to-day lives of one’s people.

As I travel abroad I am often intrigued by criticism from Marxist quarters directed at those of us who are active in the Black Consciousness campaign or in the struggle for the black man to reach fulfillment. I am certain that some of the members of SASO would be surprised that one finds oneself tarred with the same brush as SASO. I remember reading an article in which both Mr. Nengwenkulu and myself were severely dealt with.

They further warn against the advancement of privileged strata while leaving the masses behind; and they warn against the possibility of submerging the African nation with its own languages, culture and traditions into an amorphous movement whose identity is based mainly on skin color. These are views of critics of those of us who are in the Black Consciousness movement. One does not necessarily agree with every word they say, but one cannot ignore every word they say.

It is most unfortunate that we should quarrel amongst ourselves. It serves the interests only of those who wish us to remain an ineffectual, amorphous mass. That the interests of the powers-that-be are served by divisions and petty quarrels amongst ourselves, is proved by the involvement of Pretoria in the artificial manufacture of pseudo-opposition parties even within separate development politics. There is so much at stake and with unity we can go far. Heribert Adam, in his book Modernizing Racial Domination, puts this problem of divisions serving Pretoria’s interests well, when he says:

‘Less important political decisions and bureaucratic functions are delegated to various non—white local and regional self—governing bodies, whose members work under white supervision. Apart from the propaganda effect, these institutions prove useful to the central authority in at least three respects: first, upwardly mobile and politically ambitious individuals are absorbed into this administration; second, immediate discontent of non—whites is directed towards members of their own groups, since they represent the overall system; and third, the real authorities are freed from burdensome and tedious spade work and confine themselves to advisory functions without losing control’.

The apparent appearance that we represent the system is more illusory than real. We do not hate the system any less than you hate it. We are not part of the system, any more than you are products of the system, because of having been educated under Bantu Education and having had both Bantu junior and secondary education before enrolling at Bantu universities. At least most of you have done so. I could not boast that I am a better product merely because I have a University Junior Certificate, a Joint Matriculation Board Certificate and a degree from the University of South Africa. In what way are you responsible for having received a ‘separate development’ education, any more than I can escape black politics within the perimeters of separate development? The mud—slinging sessions between us and our youth can only serve the interests of those who wish to see us remain unliberated.

I respect and love the leadership of your organization. But owing to the persecution campaign against SASO, it is obvious that some of your best talent is no longer available.

One is only too aware of the derogatory manner in which some lecturers at some of the black universities speak of KwaZulu, of me in particular, and of other black leaders. Students forget that we are spoken of in terms of derogation for daring to challenge the status quo and the whole apartheid bluff. And what comes out at Hainmanskraal? Students from African homes do not end up in criticizing us, which is good enough, but go on to swear at us as ‘Bantustan Boys’, and ‘Cultural Clowns’. Is it necessary to molest some of the KwaZulu employees who come to this university by calling them ‘Gatsha’s Stooges’? In what way does it enhance Black Consciousness and our image as blacks to forgo our code of etiquette on the pretext that we are abiding by SASO’s ideals? Black Consciousness can only exist within the context of our culture.

I do not for a moment think the measure of our youth’s political maturity and self-awareness is going to be determined by the extent to which they can outshine each other in a competition as to who can fling the foulest expletives at us. The cause of this conduct is frustration or boredom. While there is a lot that is frustrating in our South African life if one is born black, let us not treat each other as objects on which to vent our own particular frustrations. It does not advance our black cause one iota.

I know that it is difficult if one is young and sensitive not to be upset about the situation in South Africa. I think however that there can be no doubt that we shall attain our liberation in the end. But it will be tragic if we were to reach that point in a state of unpreparedness. Those of us who are educated owe the illiterate masses of our people a big debt. It is not true that there is nothing one can contribute in the struggle for our liberation within the limits of separate development. If we change our attitudes we have more than enough opportunities to make such a contribution. I think the educated blacks need to cultivate a meaningful identification with the masses of our people.

There are various methods by which this can be done, The Afrikaners who wield power in South Africa have fresh memories of the battle for their own liberation. They, more than any other racial group, understand the clamor for freedom, as they have struggled and attained their freedom within this century. The Afrikaners may not like the language I speak here, but deep down in their hearts will have great sympathy for such a clarion call as I sound for black freedom or black fulfillment.

As the black man’s struggle for freedom spreads more and more towards the south, we are virtually becoming the last post of white colonialism. With labor unrest so rife in our land, I think students can make a meaningful contribution in that battle if they humble themselves and identify with us. We are wielding some influence amongst millions of people and whether we are right or wrong in your opinions, we are wielding this power. As we move towards the dawn of our liberation we have an obligation to find each other, hold each other by the hand and move as one man step by step. We have labor bureau offices in all tribal offices. I wish to propose coordination of efforts whereby some of you can visit these offices, meet those who are about to go to work and explain their rights as workers and some of the difficulties they are likely to encounter. If either as tribal chiefs or leaders we are lost, as some of you think we are, this is the time to get close to us and possibly ‘save us from ourselves’.

There are several other things we need to do and can do together as we move forwards. Sitting down and crying will get us nowhere. Tears of self-pity could drown us! Drinking and swearing about it does not help either. I have come to invite you to play the role God has given you, the opportunity to play in the liberation of your people. I have always maintained that teaching even one or two people to read and write, without any remuneration is a worthwhile contribution towards freedom.

I have come to appeal to you now that frontiers of freedom and liberation are coming so close to us. This is a time to be collected and calm so that whatever we do should not precipitate disaster that will make us miss the sun now about to rise on the eastern horizon. In this great darkness we find in the tunnel, let us remember that this is the final darkness before dawn when a mistake can be so fatal. We need to join hands and feel the palpitations made by each other’s hearts as we move in one direction as one man.

Children of Mother Africa, today I appeal to you, as someone whose area will soon border on the two independent black countries of Swaziland and Mozambique, to realize that we are passing from the era of theoretical politics to practical politics. Let us at this great moment of truth have more light rather than too much heat.