As Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s adviser, Mario Ambrosini, is employed by the government, but he has been accused of planning to tear it apart, writes Ann Eveleth
MARIO AMBROSINI, the American lawyer suspected of masterminding Inkatha’s “secession” strategy leaked last week, is on the government payroll earning more than the country’s Chief Justice.
The African National Congress this week lashed out at the “divisive” role played by Ambrosini, who is employed by Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s as a special adviser,
Ambrosini, the controversial constitutional lawyer who advised the IFP during Codesa and the World Trade Centre talks, was appointed last year as a constitutional, institutional and legislative advisor to Buthelezi in his ministerial capacity.
The Italian-born American now earns an annual state salary of R336 000, more than that of the Chief
Buthelezi confirmed this in answer to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Party.
He said he had employed Ambrosini to advise him on “any matter which may be related to my functions, tasks and responsibilities”. Ambrosini was employed for the period from July 1 1994 to June 30 1995, Buthelezi
ANC MP Blade Nzimande said this week his party was “very concerned” about Ambrosini’s “role in this country and the kind of documents he is authoring ... (which are) aimed at perpetuating conflict between the ANC and IFP”.
Nzimande said it was “clear” Ambrosini’s salary included payment for “both his role as adviser to home affairs and as adviser to the IFP”.
Ambrosini declined to comment, saying he was barred from speaking to the media. IFP secretary general Ziba Jiyane, however, said Ambrosini was not employed in any IFP position.
Yet Ambrosini frequently attends IFP national council meetings and the party’s general conferences.
While Buthelezi rejected as “racist” reports that Ambrosini had drafted the strategy document, the IFP’s 20-point plan bears the unmistakable legal hallmarks of an Ambrosini proposal.
Ambrosini, together with United States lawyer Albert Blaustein, chairman of Human Rights Advocates International Inc. for whom Ambrosini worked, and adviser to the IFP since the 1980s, drafted the KwaZulu Constitution in 1992. The IFP called for the constitution to be presented to the province in an autonomous referendum, and later wanted it presented as an alternative to the interim Constitution.
Forced to leave the World Trade Centre after a special rule—apparently aimed at Ambrosini—barred foreigners from the constitutional negotiations, he continued in his post as constitutional adviser to hardline IFP negotiator Walter Felgate.
Ambrosini also acted as adviser to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini at the failed Skukuza summit following his decision to call for the sovereignty of the Zulu Kingdom in terms of King Shaka’s 1838 boundaries.
While some IFP sources admit to an intense dislike for Ambrosini, who they blame for the IFP’s most confrontational positions, even his most ardent critics describe him as a “brilliant constitutional lawyer”, but add that “he is not politically astute”.
While IFP leaders sought to deflect attention from Ambrosini’s role in drafting the strategy proposal, saying it was produced by “someone” on a 16-member IFP “strategy committee” formed by the national council in April, immediate reaction to the leak from provincial IFP sources who called the proposals “crazy” revealed a number of schisms in the party’s leadership on the
Sources this week said the fact that the party’s provincial caucus had not been informed about the document, or been forewarned of Mdlalose’s withdrawal from the Intergovernmental Forum, had irritated provincial leaders who felt that “something must be done about Cape Town’s interference in KwaZulu/Natal”.
Other sources said they were concerned the hardline course of action the party was now embarked on could endanger the future of party newcomers as the “old guard” took the reins.
ANC leaders this week blamed this strategy largely on Ambrosini and Buthelezi. ANC provincial minister S’bu Ndebele alluded to this when he told the provincial parliament that although IFP supporters had elected 43 IFP members to the National Assembly to participate in the writing of laws and in the writing of the constitution, the IFP’s Constitutional Assembly boycott meant that “When it is constitution time, (IFP MPs) go around in the beaches of Cape Town and hold seminars with Ambrosini of Italy who tells them stories of Mussolini and how the IFP can call back the past,”
In addition to Human Rights International—which has claimed advisory involvement in 27 constitutions, including advice to Russia’s Boris Yeltsin, Fiji, Rumania and Macedonia—Ambrosini has worked for the Washington-based Centre for the Protection of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity in Africa.
He holds two LIM degrees in international, comparative and common law and a doctorate in constitutional