Historical Background

King Solomon's Inkatha (1920's)

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement founded by Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi in 1975 had some of its roots in the cultural organisation, "Inkatha", established by King Solomon in the 1920's.

King Solomon's Inkatha was a sincere effort to warn his people of the dangers of the cultural domination and arrogance of, first, the British Imperialists and then the Afrikaners. It also served to acknowledge and to remind the people that African political institutions of the time were not necessarily undemocratic.

The philosophy of Ubuntu-Botho played a crucial role then as it does now in the struggle for the promotion of African patterns of thought and value systems. It has consistently underpinned all political developments and strategies undertaken by Inkatha in its various evolutionary stages.

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement (1975)

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement was founded on the 21st March 1975 at KwaNzimela, in Northern KwaZulu. Inkatha emerged, along with the Black Consciousness Movement, to fill the vacuum in black politics caused by the banning of the ANC and PAC. Most of the founders of Inkatha had been either ANC office-bearers or activists. The most prominent example is that of Dr. M.G. Buthelezi, formerly a member of the ANC Youth League, who became the President of the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement. Other prominent founding members of Inkatha were the late Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. A.H. Zulu and Dr. Frank .T. Mdlalose, among others.

Unlike King Solomon's Inkatha, the National Cultural Liberation Movement launched itself as an all-embracing national movement with its sights set on the liberation of all South Africans. Although established in KwaZulu, its membership was made open to all blacks - men, women and youth - and branches opened in KwaZulu, Natal, the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and the Western Cape.

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement did not claim to be the sole and authentic representative of the Black peoples of South Africa. Its aim was to work in a multi-strategy approach for the freedom of the people and for a united non-racial democratic country. Its emergence was a result of a desperate need at that time for black democratic forces to come to the fore and pick up the gauntlet of the black liberation struggle which had been left tragically destitute by so many others.

From the 1960's there had been no significant organised black political activity. The African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) had been banned and their leaders were either in jail, in exile or had "disappeared" into the underground movement. Wave after wave of repression by the South African Government had, by 1975, left black politics in disarray.

At the time of Inkatha's launch in 1975 the names of ANC leaders Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Goven Mbeki, Moses Mabhida and others including PAC leader Robert Sobukwe were being whispered in quiet corners. Dr. Buthelezi, from the beginning, spoke of them in his speeches and even quoted them, which was a punishable offence. He raised questions of their release and made their release conditional to any dialogue with the white racist Nationalist Party regime.

Inkatha and the ANC

When asked why he established Inkatha, Dr. Buthelezi said:

"I wanted democratic forces emerging in South Africa to accept a multi-strategy approach and offer to work in harmony with the ANC Mission in Exile. In 1974 when I set about gathering leaders together to establish Inkatha in 1975, I set about doing so with the clear intention NOT of subverting the ANC Mission in Exile - but of proving to them that democratic opposition to apartheid and non-violent tactics and strategies were still possible."

His attitude was that if the ANC Mission in Exile had (understandably) opted for violence, then it was incumbent on black South Africans to prove that democratic opposition could be productive. Dr. Buthelezi added:

"I rallied black South Africans under the national colours of black South Africa - black, green and gold. I brought together a very considerable constituency, which had provided the old ANC with grass-root support while it was in the country. We sang old freedom songs and in every way identified with the ANC Mission in Exile. I told my people that they were our brothers and sisters and we should wage a struggle in harmony with them."

Dr. Buthelezi kept in contact with the ANC Mission in Exile and liaised with their offices in Swaziland. His emissaries had frequent meetings with the ANC Mission in Exile personnel. "I sent emissaries abroad charging them to argue the merits of a multi- strategy approach with them, and to offer co-operation in those projects where Inkatha's aims and objectives coincided with the ANC Mission in Exile aims and objectives - and where tactics and strategies were not mutually hostile…." said Buthelezi.

There was one issue about which Dr. Buthelezi made his views abundantly clear. He and Inkatha had never accepted the unilateral decision, which the ANC Mission in Exile had made, to commit black South Africa to the armed struggle as the primary means of bringing about change. He said: "I established Inkatha as a black liberation movement in the sincere hope that the dangerous divisions in black politics could be bridged. I could not side with the Black Consciousness Movement's rejection of the ANC Mission in Exile. I understood the grave difficulties, which the ANC Mission in Exile had been facing in the outside world. Both in South Africa and abroad I argued in public that the ANC had been driven underground by South African police brutality and that it was understandable that in an exiled position, where they were rejected by the West, the Mission in Exile should seek recourse in violence."

"I accepted that the ANC Mission in Exile having being rejected by the West, would naturally seek alliances elsewhere. It was for me understandable that they should start thinking in terms of the application of force against apartheid. I, however, never accepted the unilateral decision, which the ANC Mission in Exile made to commit black South Africa to the armed struggle as the primary means of bringing about change once they were in exile. They never consulted black South Africa about this very fundamental step. They made the decision unilaterally only after they had been in exile for some years".

In response to Dr. Buthelezi's and others questioning whether the armed struggle had a mandate from black South Africa, Mr. Joe Slovo, a member of the ANC Mission in Exile and the head of Umkhonto weSizwe, its military wing acknowledged: "The attempts, particularly in the West, to question this policy and to influence the ANC to consider the adoption of a "peaceful road to change" is nothing less than a recipe for submission and surrender of national liberation aims. We must bear in mind that the ANC was declared illegal long before it adopted a policy of armed struggle".

The decision of Dr. Buthelezi and the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement, and later the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) not to support and adopt the ANC Mission in Exile's armed struggle would later be one the greatest points of conflict between the ANC and Inkatha. This conflict would result in the tragic loss of lives on both sides 

Inkatha under the leadership of Dr. M.G. Buthelezi, however, remained firm in their rejection of the armed struggle.

The London Meeting

After four years of sending emissaries abroad the time seemed ripe for a top-level meeting between Inkatha and the ANC. The first such meeting took place in Stockholm in the early part of 1979. That meeting was used as a consultative meeting to establish a summit conference between Inkatha and the ANC Mission in Exile, which took place in October 1979. Mr Oliver Tambo attended the meeting (which was chaired by Dr. A.H. Zulu, the Speaker of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly).

Dr. Buthelezi later reflected: " I went to London determined to seek reconciliation and determined to bring about a working relationship between the ANC Mission in Exile and Inkatha. I was aware of the fact that Mr. Oliver Tambo was having difficulties with some elements of his organisation. Those with a firm commitment to violence did not want any evidence that non-violent strategies were viable in South Africa. " In all his discussions with the ANC Mission in Exile Dr. Buthelezi was adamant that Inkatha should remain Inkatha and that it should remain committed to the Black popular will which expressed itself in Inkatha's massive membership, which had doubled in 1977 and again doubled in 1978. Inkatha rightly interpreted this massive increase of membership as a rejection by Black South Africans of the armed struggle.

Dr. Buthelezi later noted: " It was Inkatha's growing prominence, even in the early years of its existence, and the evidence of its mass support which was frightening to the militants in the ANC Mission in Exile. They wanted Inkatha crushed if it could not be subdued into being subservient to the Mission in Exile."

By the time the 1979 London meeting between Inkatha and the ANC Mission in Exile took place the militant elements in the ANC could no longer be controlled by Mr. Oliver Tambo. After the London meeting, for the first time in his career Mr. Tambo began criticising Buthelezi and Inkatha publicly. He had sided with those in his ranks who saw Inkatha as a threat and who wanted no evidence that black democratic opposition and black non-violent tactics and strategies were powerful forces for bringing about change.

The 1979 London meeting would prove to be a pivotal point in the relationship between the two organisations. It became the basis for ANC anti-Inkatha propaganda, until a meeting between both the organisations in Durban in 1991 where the IFP was vindicated of ANC allegations that Inkatha and Dr. Buthelezi had leaked confidential information to the press. At that meeting the ANC informant was named.

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement had well-articulated aims and objectives and from its very inception instilled within its supporters the need for self-reliance and self-help. Towards the end of the 70's Inkatha had made the realisation that the constitutional problems of South Africa would be best served by a federal, democratic form of government. This is still the view of the IFP today.

Inkatha and the KwaZulu Government

Inkatha and Dr. Buthelezi became the targets of a campaign of vilification waged by people who often did not know enough about the strategies underpinning Inkatha's liberation struggle. Many of those detractors, both in South Africa and abroad, did not know of the close relationship between Dr. Buthelezi and the ANC leadership, who had in 1953 urged Buthelezi to take up his traditional leadership as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan. In order to so do Buthelezi had to abandon his plans to do his law articles under Rowley Arenstein, a member of the South African Communist Party and the longest banned person in South Africa.

It was with the agreement of the ANC leadership at that time that Dr. Buthelezi assumed office in the government-created Territorial Authority in 1970 because it was believed to be in the best interests of the liberation struggle. So too, with counsel and agreement of the ANC leadership did Buthelezi accept the Chieftancy of the KwaZulu Government. He, however, refused to lead the KwaZulu Government into nominal independence because he realised that acceptance of the independence of KwaZulu would lead to the completion of the South African Government's institutional scheme of apartheid. His refusal is now recognised as a major cause of the failure of apartheid. Former President F.W. de Klerk later admitted that Buthelezi's refusal to accept independence of KwaZulu made them change their minds about apartheid.

Inkatha and the disinvestment campaign

The disinvestment campaign, which fast gathered momentum in the West, would prove to be yet another strategy on which Inkatha and the ANC Mission in Exile would take divergent views. Inkatha argued that it could not accept as its own a strategy that had been determined with no or very little consultation with Black South Africans living in the country at the time. It argued that the disinvestment campaign did not serve the best short or long-term interests of the Blacks as it would simply add to the already heavy burden that Black people in South Africa were already carrying and completely destroy the economy, which Black South Africa hoped to inherit.

Inkatha prophesied that the disinvestment campaign would leave millions of black South Africans without work, food and would lead to a militancy that would severely strain and test the quality of any future democracy in South Africa, as it would render the future economy of South Africa unproductive. Inkatha believed strongly that other peaceful options needed to be sought to bring about change in the country.

By 1994 a "lost generation" of about 4 million Black South Africans, which can be directly attributed to the South African Government apartheid policy and indirectly to the disinvestment campaign, had evolved. While the disinvestment campaign did manage to play its role in putting pressure on the South African apartheid government at the time, it must also accept responsibility for the role it played in robbing many Black South African children of homes, food and an education. As a consequence the South African economy and work force have been rendered uncompetitive and major steps have now (2000) to be taken to redress the economic imbalances of apartheid, which were exacerbated by the disinvestment campaign.

The Inkatha approach to Trade Unionism

From its very inception in 1975 Inkatha was a supporter of the need for a strong Trade Union Movement in South Africa and recognised the right of workers to organise their labour. Inkatha, however, believed very strongly in the existence of a "natural" tension between the government of the day and the Trade Union Movement.

Inkatha noted that the then apartheid government had adopted the wrong approach because its Trade Unions served only the best interests of the small white minority. Inkatha also noted, though, the danger in the approach of the ANC in submerging itself totally within the Trade Union Movement because it knew that this relationship could not be sustained over a long period of time, in the best interests of the whole of South Africa, as the interests of government and of the trade union movement were not always compatible.

Aims and objectives of the Inkatha Cultural Liberation Movement

  • To foster the spirit of unity among black people throughout South Africa and to keep alive the traditions of the people;
  • To help promote and encourage the development of the Black people spiritually, economically, educationally and politically;
  • To establish contact and liaise with cultural groups in Southern Africa with a view to the establishment of a common society;
  • To stamp out all forms of corruption, exploitation and intimidation;
  • To ensure acceptance of the principles of equal opportunity and equality opportunity for all peoples in all walks of life;
  • To co-operate with any movement or organisation for the improvement of the conditions of the people and to secure the most efficient production and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation in the best interests of the people;
  • To abolish all forms of discrimination and segregation based on tribe, clan, sex, colour or creed;
  • To promote and support worthy indigenous customs and cultures;
  • To protect, encourage and promote trade, commerce, and industry. Agriculture and conservation of natural resources by all means in the interests of the people and encourage all citizens to participate in all sectors of the economy;
  • To give effect to the principles approved from time to time by the appropriate organs of the Movement;
  • To ensure observance of the fundamental freedoms and human rights;
  • To inculcate and foster a vigorous consciousness of patriotism and a strong sense of national unity based on a common and individual loyalty and devotion to our land;
  • To co-operate locally and internationally with all progressive African and other nationalist movements and political parties which work for the complete eradication of all forms of colonialism, racialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and discrimination and to strive for the attainment of African Unity; and
  • To carry on any other activities which in the opinion of the Movement are conducive to the attainment of the aims and objectives of the national Movement and to do such things as are incidental to the attainment of the above objectives.

Statement of beliefs of the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement

  1. We believe that respect for individuals and the value placed on cultural and large groups is synonymous with progress towards a politically stable society.
  2. We believe that political rights of all national groups should be protected within constitutional framework, which outlaws discrimination, based on colour, sex or creed.
  3. We believe in individual equality before the law, equality of opportunity and equality of benefits from the institutions of the State.
  4. We believe that the identity of an individual within a particular cultural mile is essential to his identity as a South African, but we believe also that culture belongs to all and that no social, economic or political impediments which hinder the free movement of individuals from one cultural milieu to another are in any respect justified.
  5. We recognise that there are privileged communities and under-privileged communities and we believe that it is the very social duty of the State to provide the opportunities and back those opportunities with resources to enable every individual who is under-privileged to develop to the maximum of his/her ability.
  6. We believe that the resources of the country and the wealth which has already been created which is controlled by the State, belongs to all the people of South Africa, and we believe that the resources and the wealth of the country should be utilised for the greatest good of the greatest number.
  7. We believe that we are facing a grave crisis in which the poor are threatened with greater poverty and we believe that it is essential that all people join hands and enter into a partnership
  8. We believe that fiscal control is essential to regulate the quantity and flow of money and near money, and we also believe that State control by equivalents of the Reserve Bank are essential for the utilisation of land, water and power in the interests of the economy and in the interests of developing underprivileged areas and populations.
  9. We believe in the elimination of secrecy in public administration and we believe individuals should have rights of appeals to the courts to protect his or her privacy in the pursuit of that which is lawful.
  10. We believe that practices acceptable in civilised nations should characterise the methods and the procedures used by the police in the enforcement of law.
  11. We believe that the enforcement of law is devoid of meaning outside of the rule of law, and we believe that there should be both a criminal code and a justice code in which rights to appeal to the highest courts of the land are the rights of all persons, and we believe that upon pronouncement of an impartial law society, that the state should bear the costs of appeal where the appellant pursues a course of action to protect his individual rights.
  12. We believe that in living the good life in a just society an individual should be free to attend any educational institution in which he has entry qualifications, reside where he wishes, own ground where he wishes, become qualified in any trade or profession for which he has the required degree of competence.
  13. We believe that the development of trade unions, guilds and associations should be encouraged by the enactment of enabling legislation and courts of arbitration.
  14. We believe that the accumulated injustices of the past and the injustice now present the institutions of our country have created bitterness and anger among the underprivileged sections of our populations, and we believe that growing fears of this anger and bitterness makes the privileged sections of our population intransigent in the face of the need for change.
  15. We believe therefore that the transition from an unjust society to a just society will be difficult.
  16. We believe that in this eleventh hour of South Africa, responsible leadership must publicly declare its commitment to bring about a just society within the foreseeable future, and we believe that leadership must meet the demands of responsibility by taking whatever steps remain from time to time to avoid a race war.
  17. We believe that the mobilisation of constituency protest and a refusal to act within the restrictive confines of race exclusivity holds a promise we dare not abandon.

The birth of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

On the 14th July 1990 at a special conference in Ulundi the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) came into being. Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi was unanimously elected President of the IFP.

The guiding philosophy of the IFP remained Ubuthu-botho. The IFP's vision to solving the economic disenfranchisement of the majority of South Africans was that of a free market economy with a heavy influence on the social responsibility of the state in the light of the serious political, social and economic injustices of apartheid.

The IFP became the champion of federalism in South Africa. It argued that real power needed to be given to people to make decisions that affect their lives. Apartheid, argued the IFP, had proved to South Africa how a small minority of people could oppress the majority through the centralisation of power and that a fundamental and profound constitutional revolution needed occur to truly empower Black South Africans. The IFP remains convinced and committed to ensuring that federalism is implemented in South Africa.

The IFP was successful in its endeavor in 1994 to ensure that a double ballot system became part of the political culture of South Africa. The IFP however remains concerned that unless more real power is given to the provinces and local governments in South Africa, national government will not be successful in its attempts to redress the injustices of the past and empower the majority of South Africans to reach their full potential.

Self-help and self-reliance remain the key in the IFP's understanding of development.

At the July 1990 meeting at which Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement was transformed into the Inkatha Freedom Party it set itself the following tasks:

Task 1: To establish an open, free, non-racial, equal opportunity, reconciled society with democratic safeguards for all people.

Task 2: To harness the great resources of the country to fight the real enemies of the people, namely; poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease, ignorance, insecurity, homelessness and moral decay.

Task 3: To re-distribute the wealth of the country for the benefit of all people, and to establish political and economic structures that encourage enterprise and create the wealth all governments of the future will need.

Task 4: To ensure the maintenance if a stable, peaceful society in which all people can pursue their happiness, and realise their potential without fear or favour.

The meaning of "Inkatha"

The name "Inkatha has a deeply symbolic as well as practical meaning. In essence an "Inkatha" is a plaited coil or circle made of straws of grass, placed on the head to carry and alleviate the weight of a heavy burden. It is so powerfully woven together that it does not crumble and break. Neither does it slip and dislodge its burden.

Symbolically, therefore, the IFP feels a keen responsibility towards maintaining political balance and of assisting and protecting people from the heavy social and political burdens that they bear. As the circular shape of an Inkatha represents unity the IFP is committed to ensuring that no matter the diversity of the peoples South Africa becomes one nation.

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