Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

A Voice of Sanity in South Africa

January 1, 1987 -

When Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi spoke at a recent luncheon meeting attended by some 700 people in Toronto, he was greeted by demonstrators who described him as a traitor and murderer. One chanting protestor wore a mask of Buthelezi and a rubber tire around his neck. It was a chilling reminder of the deadly reality of politics in South Africa.

Buthelezi's speech contrasted sharply with the revolutionary sloganeering of the protestors outside the Hilton hotel. No friend of apartheid, Buthelezi has steadfastly opposed the South African government and has refused to settle for anything less than full recognition of the citizenship of all people in South Africa.

There is good reason to believe that Buthelezi is indispensable to a peaceful settlement of the tensions in South Africa. Buthelezi has advocated a merger of Natal province and the Kwalulu homeland, and the establishment of a bicameral legislature. The first chamber would be elected on the basis of one person, one vote, which would amount to black majority. The second chamber, however, would consist of representatives of the various minorities, who would have veto power over laws affecting language, religion and culture. It seems that some such compromise is preferable to any other alternative.

In his Toronto speech, Chief Buthelezi stressed that the elimination of apartheid is not enough. The struggle is more than a struggle against unjust laws, he said, it is one to establish a legislature which can make just laws. For this reason, he rejects the revolutionary option of the African National Congress, claiming that its members do not aspire to establish a multi-party democracy but to establish their own brand of tyranny. The African National Congress, warned Buthelezi, "wants to establish a one-party state and it wants to establish a socialist-controlled economy."

The current strategy of the ANC revolutionaries is to create as much political and economic havoc as possible in order to destabilize the present order and clear the way for them to take power. They therefore support the destruction of the South African economy through, for example, sanctions and disinvestment. According to Buthelezi, "sanctions may be a very effective way for the West to make moral statements, but moral statements in the West will not suffice to balance the scales of revolution versus negotiation in South Africa." He explained: "Sanctions will radicalize what is already a very volatile South African situation. Sanctions will work to radicalize Black politics and this is precisely why the more revolutionary a Black South African, the more fervently he calls for sanctions. For revolutionaries, the application of sanctions is not the last step in non-violent action. It is a first step towards violent action. Deepening poverty suits the revolutionaries. It undermines non-violent, democratic opposition to apartheid."

If the West neglects to heed the moderate and sensible advice from this spokesman of the largest single black race in South Africa, it will be coresponsible for the bloodshed sure to follow the ANC's alternative.

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This article originally appeared in Comment magazine, a journal founded by Harry Antonides. Find all of Harry’s pieces, and thousands more, at www.cardus.ca/comment