/ 5 June 2020

Right of Reply: M&G chose ‘good story’ over truth — Buthelezi

Nelson Mandela
Storyteller: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (left), Nelson Mandela (centre) and the former National Party’s foreign minister Pik Botha (left). Buthelezi, a member of the Zulu royal family and former leader of the IFP, says the ANC knew about the Ingonyama Trust Act. (Johan Kuus/Gallo Images/Getty Images/Avusa)

‘Ingonyama Trust: The Full Story Revealed at Last”. Thus read the Mail & Guardian’s front page headline on August 8 last year, accompanied by an image of me and His Majesty the King. 

Yet the article made no reference to the king’s viewpoint, which had never been sought. My own viewpoint had been sought just hours before publication. But what I revealed was ignored, despite it casting serious doubt on the veracity of the information in the article.

So this “full story” was not the full story at all. In fact, it was not even the true story. The M&G failed its readers. 

Worse, it did so knowingly, because, despite having good reason to believe that what it was about to publish was incorrect and despite being explicitly warned that this was the case, it went ahead and published anyway.

For the past eight months we have been in mediation, asking the M&G to correct this unethical action. The result is the piece you are reading right now.

The August 8 article damagingly claimed that the Ingonyama Trust Act was a secret deal between me and then-president FW de Klerk to secure my participation in the 1994 elections.

This is absolute fiction.

In response, De Klerk publicly echoed my constant correction: “There is no truth in (this) assertion.”

The Act had nothing to do with the Inkatha Freedom Party’s participation in the elections. Negotiations were already complete and a memorandum of understanding had been signed by myself, Nelson Mandela and De Klerk. The memorandum (which is a public document) set out all the conditions for the IFP’s participation in the elections. There is no mention of land, the creation of a trust or the passing of an Act. 

Moreover, the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly neither needed nor sought permission to pass the Act. We were well within our rights and perfectly competent to pass legislation of this kind. 

In fact, the high court had already recognised the authority of the KwaZulu government a decade earlier, when the apartheid regime tried to excise the district of Ingwavuma and give it to Swaziland. 

I took them to court and won the case on the basis that they had no right or power to do what they did without consulting the KwaZulu government. 

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein agreed that the land that I administered through the KwaZulu government belonged to us, and the South African government had no right to parcel it off. 

So I did not need De Klerk’s permission in 1994 to pilot the Ingonyama Trust Act, nor did we need permission for the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly to pass it. 

As head of state, De Klerk signed all legislation, including that of KwaZulu, because we had rejected nominal independence and never became a bantustan. 

But the Act went for signature as a fait accompli. Negotiation was unnecessary. 

The lie that the Ingonyama Trust was the result of a secret deal is ultimately premised on the assumption that the ANC was never informed of my intentions. But it was. The author of the M&G’s article was told exactly how this had been done, by whom and when.

The IFP’s negotiator, Dr Ben Ngubane, together with Mr Walter Felgate and Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, gave a copy of my Bill and its schedule to Mr Joe Slovo and other ANC leaders at the Skukuza Summit, well before the article alleges it was first thought up by Dr Danie Joubert. The ANC showed no interest in the Bill at all. But they were aware of it. I had no intention of springing something unexpected on them. 

Nevertheless, just as we did not need permission from the National Party government to pass the Act, neither did we need the ANC’s permission. 

It is quite possible, and even likely, that the ANC’s focus was elsewhere. So too was that of the National Party government. Perhaps the full effect of the Ingonyama Trust Act did not hit home until after the fact. 

Yet rather than consider this obvious interpretation, those far removed from events seem unable to accept that such a bold move could possibly have been conceived and executed by Buthelezi alone.

While the article’s author relies heavily on Joubert’s diary, she never once mentions the personal papers of the key role player, Oriani-Ambrosini, my adviser during the negotiations, whose writings were made available to her. 

Dr Ambrosini’s account pokes huge holes in her argument. Presumably that is why it was ignored.

Hours before publishing its damaging and inaccurate story, the M&G did a check-box exercise, asking the author to verify a few facts with me. My answers to her questions revealed more information that drew into question her conclusions. It was a red flag for the M&G to press pause. 

The problem was, it was ready to publish. The sensationalist front page had already gone to print. There was no time for the article’s author to consider the new information, weigh it against what she previously assumed, conduct the further research it necessitated and adjust the story accordingly. 

So the M&G simply ran with it. 

The story was unethically published, and it unjustly maligned me, the king and the Ingonyama Trust. 

Prince Mangosuthu ButhelezI MP is former chief minister of the Kwazulu government, traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation, and founder and president emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party.