Celebrate the end of violent conflict in SA - Buthelezi

IFP leader says we've walked a long way towards reconciliation, but aren't there yet

Dear friends and fellow South Africans,

The 16th of December became known as the Day of Reconciliation in 1995, when our Government sought to recognize the significance of this date for both the liberation movement and the Afrikaner community.

For the liberation movement, 16 December was the day on which Umkhonto weSizwe, the ANC's military wing, was launched. That was in 1961, which makes this the 50th anniversary of ?The Spear of the Nation?. This anniversary takes place on the threshold of the ANC's centennial, which accounts for the multi-million Rand celebration being held at Orlando Stadium tomorrow.

I have no doubt that some will complain that the Day of Reconciliation is being hijacked by a celebration of the armed struggle, particularly because Government has committed R5 million to this event, whereas a government-sponsored event to commemorate the Day of the Vow is unlikely.

Having suffered so much for my uncompromising commitment to non-violence and passive resistance, I too would be hesitant to celebrate the armed struggle. But that is not the purpose of tomorrow's event.

I was invited by the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association to attend the 50th anniversary event in Soweto, and was pleased to note that the venue of Orlando Stadium was intentionally chosen because this is where the Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto weSizwe and President of the ANC announced the disbanding of "The Spear of the Nation" in 1993.

Thus we are remembering its birth, but we are also celebrating the end of violent conflict in South Africa. I hope that this message is clearly portrayed by all those attending tomorrow's event. Unfortunately, the demands of my schedule prevent me from being there.

I was recently invited by the MK Military Veterans' Association to attend a celebration of the life of Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, at Lilieslief in Rivonia. It was almost surprising to receive that invitation, for although I worked closely with Mr Tambo for many years and met with him often during his exile, it is well known that Inkatha and the ANC's mission-in-exile parted ways in a less than amicable way in 1979.

I led a delegation of Inkatha to London in October 1979, to meet with a delegation of the ANC's mission-in-exile, led by Mr Oliver Tambo. We held discussions for two and a half days on the issues of an armed struggle and the call for international sanctions and disinvestment. In the end, we could not agree.

I could not diverge from the path of non-violence and passive resistance upon which the African National Native Congress was founded in 1912. I could not discard all that Inkosi Albert Luthuli had taught me. I also foresaw how sanctions would force a restructuring of South Africa's economy that would harm the poorest of the poor far more than anyone else.

The ANC undertook to discuss these issues in the upcoming meeting of its National Executive, and then respond to my concerns. But they never did so. Instead, Dr Alfred Nzo launched a scathing attack on me and Mr Tambo feigned ignorance of my motives, even though he himself had asked me to take up leadership in the government of the day so as to undermine it from within.

The campaign of vilification against me and Inkatha was long and painful to bear. But it was only part of the conflict between Inkatha and the ANC, which eventually claimed 20,000 black lives in a low intensity civil war. That conflict opened the need for reconciliation between our parties and our people. We have walked a long road towards this reconciliation, but we have not yet reached the final destination.

I therefore grasp the importance of every utterance, every gesture and every impression created along the road to reconciliation. I understand why singing Dubul'iBhunu divides our people. I understand the call for a sunset clause on affirmative action. And I understand why the Day of Reconciliation must be about both Umkhonto weSizwe and the Day of the Vow.

As a Zulu, the Battle of Blood River of course has greater significance to me. I am proud to be descended from King Cetshwayo, who was my maternal great grandfather, and from Mnyamana Buthelezi, who was the King's Prime Minister. Mnyamana was popular in the King's court, largely because he often saved people whom Dingane had ordered to be killed.

On 16 December we commemorate two different conflicts between the various people groups of our nation. But just as the Day of the Vow speaks of an end to bloodshed, so too should the focus of MK's 50th anniversary celebrate the fact that armed conflict is part of our past, not our future.

That would be a fitting commemoration of December 16th.

Yours in the service of our nation,

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Issued by the IFP, December 16 2011

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