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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 172

Paragraph Numbers 56 to 72

Volume 3

Chapter 3

Subsection 9

■ 1976–1982

Historical overview of the period

56 The political life of the province during this period was marked by attempts by Inkatha to consolidate its regional power base. By the late 1970s, Inkatha’s membership had swelled substantially. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi described Inkatha as the “largest and best organised Black constituency”6 ever seen in South Africa.

57 At a national level, the 1970s were shaped by the events and consequences of Soweto 1976. While it took some time for the full impact to be felt in Natal, the focus of opposition shifted decisively to a new generation and brought about an age divide that was to have far-reaching consequences for traditional relationships between old and young.

58 The 1976 Soweto uprising produced a wave of popular protest in the province and generated the beginnings of youth and student polarisation. Student organisations such as the South African Students’ Movement (SASM) and the junior wing of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) confirmed their policy of rejecting all government-created institutions and foreign investment, bringing them into conflict with Inkatha policy. The opposition of Inkatha and the KwaZulu government to the school-based protests deepened existing tensions between political groups and organisations in the province.

59 By April 1980, the national campaign of students against overcrowding in schools, lack of equipment and books and lack of student representation had spread to KwaMashu, north of Durban. Boycotting pupils in KwaMashu defied Chief Buthelezi’s calls to return to school, resulting in clashes between pupils and Inkatha supporters. Altogether thirty-six KwaZulu and Natal schools were affected by the school boycotts of 1980 and 1981. These boycotts allegedly led to an increased exodus of youth from the country to join the ANC.

60 In the first few years after the revival of Inkatha in 1975, the ANC regarded Chief Buthelezi as an important ally inside the country.7 Buthelezi himself stated repeatedly that Inkatha was based on the ideals proposed by the ANC’s founding fathers in 1912. In these early years, the external mission of the ANC maintained contact with him and encouraged their supporters back home to join Inkatha.

61 However, emerging differences of opinion and strategy between Chief Buthelezi and the ANC leadership in exile began to cause tensions between the two organisations. While the ANC called for sanctions and disinvestment and advocated an armed struggle and protest politics, Chief Buthelezi opposed these methods, arguing that the demise of apartheid was best brought about through constituency-based politics, focusing on evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) change. Opposition to apartheid, he believed, was best located within the structures of the state. The ANC failed to mobilise its supporters to give effect to Chief Buthelezi’s strategy. According to Oliver Tambo, this was due to “the understandable antipathy of many of our comrades towards what they considered as working within the bantustan system”.8

62 Matters came to a head at a London meeting between Chief Buthelezi and the ANC leadership in exile in October 1979. Chief Buthelezi expressed his disagreement with the ANC’s strategy of the armed struggle and its belief in revolutionary change. He claimed that the ANC in exile no longer had a mandate from the masses. The masses, he said, had given up on waiting for the exiled ANC to liberate them militarily and were now seeking liberation through constituency politics. Chief Buthelezi accused the ANC’s external mission of being hypocritical and of having deserted black South Africans.9

63 Chief Buthelezi interpreted the ANC’s motives for the meeting as a desire to make Inkatha an internal wing or surrogate (and therefore an inferior subsidiary) of the ANC. He, for his part, went to the meeting to make a claim for political independence:

Inkatha is a political phenomenon of considerable magnitude and the ANC will be faced with having clearly to endorse the Inkatha position.10

64 The meeting resulted in the severing of ties between the ANC and Inkatha. The ANC described the meeting as a failure. Former IFP national council member Walter Felgate, on the other hand, described it as ‘good news’. In his view, Chief Buthelezi had shown the ANC that he had the necessary support and could go it alone.11 Following the meeting, relations between the ANC and Inkatha deteriorated rapidly. In its submission to the Commission12, the IFP said, “from then onwards Inkatha was singled out as an enemy”.

65 Inkatha moved to consolidate its position in the province by relying increasingly on ‘traditional’ authority for control. Additional powers granted by the state consolidated its power base and control over the population. The ‘Inkatha syllabus’ entered the educational system; rents and transport became sources of revenue for the KwaZulu government and townships came under the control of KwaZulu. Townships earmarked for incorporation became centres of conflict. The KZP came into being, initially to serve as a state guard to protect KwaZulu government officials and property. Chief Buthelezi, as both chief minister and minister of police, soon called for greater powers and more resources for the KZP.

66 In the meanwhile ANC youth, now in the front lines of resistance to the government and in a situation of increasing political rivalry with members and supporters of Inkatha, were making more militant demands of their own leaders.

67 A war of words erupted between the two movements. The ANC, having failed to make Inkatha the vehicle for its organisational inroads into the important rural constituencies, now embarked on a propaganda onslaught against Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha. As the battle lines were drawn, Chief Buthelezi turned to and received support from the state security apparatus and Inkatha found itself part of the state’s strategic response to ‘the total onslaught’ by the liberation and resistance movements.

68 During this period, the security forces adopted a more proactive strategy in dealing with the liberation movements. Reports and allegations of the torture of political detainees increased steadily and became more widespread. Abductions and political assassinations were also reported.

69 Following the national outcry over deaths in police custody, the security forces began to consider other ways – such as assassination – to silence their opponents. Military combatants of the banned ANC and PAC were often the ‘faceless victims’ of assassination by the security forces, their identity frequently unknown by their killers or their own units. The Commission had the task of matching the names of those who disappeared against names submitted by amnesty applicants who knew only the travelling names or noms-de-guerre of those they had killed. Former members of fragmented MK units, who had operated on a need-to-know basis with few written records, could not always assist the Commission in this task.

70 Combatants were not the only victims, however. Human rights activists, academics and ideological leaders engaged in legitimate opposition to the state’s policy of apartheid were also targeted for attack. Assassination became a way of silencing and removing those who could not be charged with criminal offences, even within the broad parameters of the security legislation at the time.

71 Deaths in custody during this period were characterised by a marked discrepancy between official police explanations and independent forensic evidence. In the main, the police claimed that deaths in detention were caused by suicide, by accidental events or in the course of attempted escape. The Commission heard that, in some cases, inquest rulings appeared to support the police version of events, clearly at odds with the other available evidence.

72 More treason trials were held in this period. In 1976, Mr Harry Gwala and nine others were charged under the Terrorism Act. Two of the accused said that they had been kidnapped in Swaziland and tortured. In several other treason trials held in the province in the late 1970s, activists were charged with planning to undergo military training and encouraging others to do so. Mr Isaac Zimu and three others, tried in 1977, and Mr Timothy Nxumalo, Nqutu teacher Vusumuzi Lucas Mbatha and others, tried in 1978, all claimed that they had been tortured in various ways while in detention.

6 Chief Buthelezi’s address to the 1978 Inkatha National Conference. 7 ANC: Documents of the Second National Consultative Conference of the ANC, Zambia, 16–23 June 1985, Lusaka, 1985, pp. 20–21. 8 ANC (1985). 9 Chief Buthelezi, ‘Emerging Political Reality in South Africa’ (address). London meeting of the ANC 10 Chief Buthelezi: ‘The Question of the Recognition of the role of Inkatha in the Struggle for Liberation’ (address). London meeting of the ANC leadership, October 1979. 10 Buthelezi’s address to the ANC leadership at the October 1979 London meeting intitled “The Question of the Recognition of the Role of Inkatha in the Struggle for Liberation”. 11 Walter Felgate, Section 29 hearing. 12 IFP: Inkatha Submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 1996.
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