Home | About Us | News Feeds RSS | Subscribe | Support Us | User Login | Search

Southern Africa Report Archive

Gerry Mare illuminates some of the sinister doings that continue to unfold in KwaZulu-Natal. He concludes by saying: "What remains to be seen is whether the ANC, and the government of national unity, can find proactive strategies that can both incorporate legitimate demands for democratic decentralisation and for recognition of difference, and also deny the political mobilisation of ethnicity and confrontational politics as practised by Buthelezi and the IFP. There are few signs that this will happen."

vol 10 no 5

The sad saga of KwaZulu-Natal
Gerhard Mare

Printable Version
Southern Africa Report

SAR, Vol 10, No 5, July 1995
Page 11
"South Africa"



Gerhard Maré, a sociologist teaching at the University of Natal, Durban, is author of Brothers Born of Warrior Blood: Politics and Ethnicity in South Africa and is co-author of An Appetite For Power: Buthelezi's Inkatha and the Politics of "Loyal Resistance".

The outline of the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), as constituted within a democratic South Africa, is shaped in part by geographical features (the Indian ocean on the east and the Drakensberg mountains in the west and south-west), and partly by historically and presently contested political boundaries (those in the north with Mozambique, established through British colonial annexation in the 1890s; and those in the south by British colonial needs during the nineteenth century and then by the apartheid state). The greatest threats to the territorial integrity of this region came through apartheid bantustan fragmentation and attempts in the early-1980s by the National Party government to hand over a part of the territory to Swaziland.

But space, as we are frequently theoretically and practically reminded, is socially created and filled - and fought over (the nineteenth century history of the region is graphic proof of that contest). The central issue at present, as it was throughout the 1980s and early-1990s, relates to who will control this space, now the province of KZN, previously (since 1970) the Kwazulu bantustan and the province of Natal. From that flows more questions: what relations of control will determine who does what to whom within it; on what basis will decisions as to the future of the region be made; what will internal contestations be about; what are the relationships between identities, the basis of control (`race', class, gender, ethnicity) and space here?

On one level there has been little change in KZN. The manner in which political power relations have been contested has to a considerable extent for the past fifteen years been through violence. That has not changed. The violence continues unabated. For example, a terror campaign in and around the Isithebe/Sundumbili area, an industrial growth point north of Durban, during May, left ten dead, bringing the death toll this year to 60 in that area alone. It was at the funeral of some of these people that President Mandela repeated his threat to cut funds to the province. Attacks on train commuters happened again in June, while sporadic violent incidents continue through much of the province.

It is difficult to see how violence can be contained, never mind removed. On all levels, a conflictual style of engaging in political activity continues. Threats fly back and forth, while no constructive suggestions seem to be on the cards. Control over the security forces and the weeding out of apartheid criminals would seem to offer some hope, but the new locus of control (whether it be provincial or central) is contested. On the ground the legacy of `no-go areas', and the removal of opponents from such space, has caused social disruption, anger and suffering that will take many years to heal, even under conditions of calm and reconstruction. But the conflict between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC remains.

What are the most important issues in the unfolding saga in which Buthelezi and the IFP occupy centre stage?

First, although the issue of geographical space is largely uncontested, the southern border with the Eastern Cape is contentious. While there has been extreme tension around this divide, with boycotts, marches and threats, the sides reflect largely provincial rather than party political lines of division. The ANC in KZN, the provincial opposition, supports the IFP in its call to maintain pre-election boundaries. be maintained. This issue is to be resolved through a judicial commission.

Second, the extent of and responsibility for violence remains as a terrible reminder of the failure of the elections to solve all problems. There have been several allegations of IFP complicity in violent incidents (such as the murder of 13 people in one incident in 1987) and close collaboration with state agents, both from the security police and military intelligence. Arrests have been made, including Zakhele `MZ' Nxumalo who featured in the `Inkathagate' revelations a few years ago (see Southern Africa Report v.7, n.2, November 1991).

However, unless the Investigation Task Unit (ITU), appointed by safety and security minister Sidney Mufamadi, can show that it has not been created simply to harass and prosecute the IFP for sins of the past, but also uncovers ANC assassination squads and murderers dating back to the same period, it promises to add to the tension rather than reduce it. Prosecuting IFP members for crimes committed eight years ago, and exposing the details of state-IFP collaboration, which many knew was the case at the time, while essential to establishing trust in the police and the justice system, will not in itself bring violence to an end. The ITU has promised to act with impartiality, and to bring ANC members and supporters to court as well if evidence should be found. However, Mandela used the opportunity of a visit to Tanzania (at the end of May) to accuse his minister of home affairs, Buthelezi, of being responsible for the conflict in KZN, adding fuel to the fire of accusations of bias in the government's approach.

The latest on the on-going issue of the `Shell House massacre' is of relevance. During the first week of June, President Mandela announced in parliament that he had given the order to defend Shell House, the ANC head office in Johannesburg, during an IFP march just before the elections, even if it should require killing people. The important questions being asked now, with few answers, are why Mandela waited more than a year before revealing this fact; how it relates to his immediate and direct prevention of police to enter Shell House and to remove weapons and question people; why it has taken more than a year to collect some of the weapons employed by ANC guards. Extreme threats have been made by people speaking in the name of the IFP, denied by the leadership, of the consequences unless Mandela is charged with the murder of those killed by Shell House guards.

It appears, from the number of calls upon, and also threats from Mandela, that some ANC and COSATU officials and parliamentarians believe that a state of emergency in the province is essential to resolve the issue of violence. It is doubtful that what failed for the NP will succeed for the ANC.

Third, the issue of `traditional authority', including the position of the Zulu king, drags on. Here, once more, no constructive progress seems to be possible. Until the ANC clearly spells out its position on the powers it intends for chiefs and `traditional authority' generally, and not only in Natal, the contradictions with other commitments remain (such as to equal status for women; to equality for people in rural areas; to democracy through decision-making powers for all anywhere in the country). In addition, the source of payment for the salaries of `traditional authority' has now come to a head.

The central government has tabled a bill to remove payment of chiefs and other `traditional' leaders from the provinces. This does not solve either the wider question of the status of `traditional authority', or that of the obvious similarities of this move with colonial and apartheid control over chiefs. On this question it appears that the IFP government of KZN has the constitution on its side in that such payments should be a provincial concern. It has been speculated that the ANC may meet with opposition from within the alliance with the SA Communist Party and the trade union federation COSATU at least questioning the lack of legitimacy that many such chiefs have, as previous agents of apartheid.

Whoever pays them, it remains a very large expense to incur for an authority whose standing has not been clarified, whose roles contradict several aspects of the Bill of Rights, and who will remain contentious wherever they operate in areas also contested by democratic authority. It was estimated in a recent article that there were `some 20 kings and paramount chiefs, 800 chiefs and about 1,000 headmen'. Of these King Zwelithini of the Zulus is the highest paid, receiving R305,000 per annum, but it is claimed that another R20 million goes to maintaining him, his wives, farms and palaces. If they were paid the exorbitant salaries and perks proposed by Mandela, equal to those of MPs, one calculation has it that they will cost somewhere between R300 million and R490 million per annum.

Why the position of the chiefs is so important is that in KZN they are essential to the ability of the IFP to hold on to political power. There is little doubt that without the support of the chiefs, and a large majority still support the IFP and Buthelezi, the party would not have gained the votes they did during the election. The very intensity with which the battle over payment is fought and the ironic glee from ANC spokespeople who would otherwise deny any ulterior motive to these moves who claim that chiefs will now abandon the IFP, is sad proof of their real or perceived power, and the unprincipled power play that is at work from all sides.

King Goodwill Zwelithini's role remains contentious. It still seems that the ANC does not know what to do with him, now that he has joined `their side'. Statements continue to be issued from his council rather than directly from him, and it appears that as a realistic acknowledgement of his lack of power he has not been called upon to get chiefs to rally to his cause. Meanwhile, the IFP remains committed to the institution of the monarchy, if not to the person, and has proposed that the name of the province be changed to the `Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal'.

Fourth, to go to the central issue, the powers of the province against the central authority remain and will continue to be a constant issue. Two IFP documents that relate to this issue have been leaked or revealed recently: first, a discussion document, which comes close to calling for secession and is at least a confederal proposal; second, sittings have started on the process of writing a constitution for the province, where details of the IFP proposal have been reported on. Inkatha, now the IFP, has had considerable experience in presenting constitutions. In 1986 the `Indaba' negotiations, initiated and dominated by Inkatha, produced a constitution for the region that would have made it the first state within a future federal South Africa. In 1991 another federal constitution was released by the KwaZulu government. Both the discussion document and the present constitutional proposals demand a large amount of autonomy for the province, including, as in previous documents, control over `security and protection services'.

The IFP withdrew from the Constitutional Assembly (parliament and senate operating jointly to draw up a constitution under which the country will be governed after 1999), because negotiation did not take place. Mediation was contained in the agreement that brought the IFP into the elections a week before the event. One inference that can be drawn from the ANC's failure to implement the apparently clear clause is that it relates to the issue of regional power, and that it does not want further restrictions placed on the type of constitution that is being drawn up. It seems from statements already made that the ANC wishes to step back from the degree of regional power that it agreed to under the interim constitution.

In a TV interview, a few weeks ago Buthelezi, repeated that he doubted the ANC's commitment to the agreement. He mentioned that the transfer of the issue from Deputy President Mbeki to Constitutional Assembly Chair Cyril Ramaphosa was a clear indication that Mandela was not serious, a reference to the IFP perception that Ramaphosa sank mediation moves just before the elections. That this issue has long-term implications is clear from Buthelezi's threat that `if they don't take us seriously we will not accept the [new] constitution'.

Because the ANC still functions as a movement and as an alliance, and not as a political party, more issues than would otherwise be the case are located in central power, and are thus `politicised'. In addition, COSATU's direct involvement in government (as a member of the alliance) `politicises' every action it takes. In response, as it did in 1986, shortly after the formation of COSATU, the IFP has again said that it would form a new union federation to oppose COSATU. Previously Inkatha's UWUSA, despite security police funding, did not have much success. It remains to be seen whether it will be any different now, but the issues of the unemployed (excluded from COSATU's protection of employed workers) and job threats from `illegal aliens' do offer a degree of populist mobilisation that Buthelezi has manipulated in the past.

In conclusion, the conflict in the province will continue - over regional power in relation to the central government; and over the degree and type of recognition given to ethnically-distinct political demands. The range of issues, some of which have been mentioned above, that will provide sparks for this conflict will no doubt expand over time. What remains to be seen is whether the ANC, and the government of national unity, can find proactive strategies that can both incorporate legitimate demands for democratic decentralisation and for recognition of difference, and also deny the political mobilisation of ethnicity and confrontational politics as practised by Buthelezi and the IFP. There are few signs that this will happen.

- 30 -

Printable Version

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

     top of page