SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS (CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS) AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NCOME/BLOOD RIVER MONUMENT - 16 DECEMBER 1998
Your Majesty the King of The Zulu Nation, the Minister of Arts, Science and Technology, Mr LPHM Mtshali and other Ministers present, the Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Dr BS Ngubane and members of the KwaZulu Natal Cabinet, members of the Royal House and amakhosi present, members of Parliament present, members of the Provincial Legislature of KwaZulu Natal present, Mayors, Indunas, Councillors, distinguished guests from all our various communities, ladies and gentlemen.
One hundred and fifty years ago courageous people died on this battlefield in pursuance of their respective dreams of freedom, liberty and prosperity. On both sides their dreams were defended with the devotion of the ultimate sacrifice. On this battlefield through the clashes of weapons, those conflicting dreams confronted one another with the equal righteousness of two African nations craving their respective destinies. As their dreams clashed, the blood spilled in a thousand ripples of pain, flooding down into the river of history. In this battlefield's river, as in the one of history, one could not distinguish then, as one cannot distinguish now, the blood of the Afrikaner from the blood of the Zulu, which together merged in mutual pain on this sacred soil.
When our blood merged on this soil our peoples merged in an inextricably joint destiny on this land and together begun a long conflict-ridden journey destined to reach today's new beginning. The blood which once imbued this sacred soil created the germs of a new nation which only after its long journey of pain can now be forged in equal dignity and mutual respect. We have now come here to celebrate the dream of those who have died and the efforts of those who survived on both sides of the battlefield. We have come here because, as the blood of our nations once merged into the waters of this river, today we can announce that the dreams which once stood in armed conflict on this battlefield can now finally merge in the creation of a new nation under a new covenant of harmony in diversity.
Our ancestors fought and died here under the leadership of King Dingane ka Senzangakhona, who was the half-brother of my maternal great-great-grandfather, King Mpande. The Zulu nation fought for its inalienable right to this God-given land, and for freedom and liberty. As the day closed on this battlefield, for the Zulu nation a long journey opened filled with anguish, untold misery and many and continuous efforts made by our enemies to divide us in order to conquer us. Thirty one years after that day, my great-grandfather King Cetshwayo was defeated by the British colonial powers who then proceeded to force divisions within our nation and on our Kingdom. Dividing was the only way through which they could impose their dominance on our Kingdom and we are still suffering because of the legacy of these divisions within our nation.
From Blood River, with sufferance and endurance, the Zulu nation and its Kings would walk the long journey marked by the Bambatha Rebellion, the imprisonment and exile of King Cetshwayo and King Dinuzulu, the manipulation of our traditional leadership and our laws and traditions, the stealing of our land, the exploitation of our labour, the creation of the African Native Congress, the creation of the first Inkatha ka Zulu, apartheid, the systematic violation of human rights, the creation of the second Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe National Cultural Liberation Movement, the armed struggle, the political violence and the many other glorious and tragic moments which have marked our history.
From this battlefield the Afrikaner nation rose with the pride of a people seeking its destiny as a newly-born indigenous African population. From here they started a long journey which was also filled with anguish and untold suffering. After their glorious battle against the Zulu Kingdom, within three decades they would fight to defend their own destiny from the British colonial administration. In the following decade they would begin a three-year war against the British colonial empire to which they surrendered only because of the death of twenty-six thousand of their women and children in British concentration camps and the cowardly destruction of thirty-thousand of their farms.
Since Blood River, we have walked a long journey filled with horrors and atrocities, the memory of which haunts us as monsters in the night. The horrors of Piet Retief, the horrors of Blood River, the horrors of the Anglo-Zulu War, the Independence War of the Afrikaner Republic, the Anglo-Boer War, the Bambatha Rebellion, British colonialism, the conflicts of our most recent past, have all impregnated the soil of our fatherland with blood and our collective consciousness with pain, fear, grudge and sorrow.
All these sufferings of the past are not going to have been in vain if out of them a future of harmony may stem. These sufferings may give us and our posterity the strength of forging a new nation conceived in diversity and dedicated to the proposition that within a frame work of equality and mutual respect, diverse people can strive together towards the common goal of economic prosperity and social stability. We must dedicate this battlefield and the monument we are privileged to erect here, to the memory of the long journey which from here we began one hundred and fifty years ago. However, we should also dedicate this battlefield and its monument to a now covenant which henceforth may bind those who were once divided to pursuing our common goal in a framework of unity in diversity.
I have always believed that God is on every side of every conflict. That is why in any modern war, you have chaplains on each side all praying for people on their side for God to be with them. This is the time for us to move from the idea of a one-sided covenant to a new covenant in which all of us together as South Africans are on one side.
Let us put behind us the horrors and monsters of the past so as to create a new covenant which projects the pain which in the past we had to endure, into the promise that together we can fight the monsters and the horrors which are bedeviling our present and our immediate future.
Poverty, unemployment, ignorance for lack of education and exposure and lack of essential services, are bedeviling our society and remain the root cause of most of its social evils. It is only if we join the efforts of all South African that we can succeed in overcoming these enormous problems confronting us. Our ancestors fought to pursue separate dreams. Let us ensure that we and our posterity can pursue a common dream in fighting the social evils which prevent South Africa from becoming a fatherland which can fulfil the dreams, wants and aspiration of all its children.
As we stand together on this glorious battlefield, let us dedicate ourselves to making possible together that which once became impossible to achieve because of separation, greed and lack of mutual respect. Those who died on this field were brave people, not cowards, and they fought for their respective countries. We must inherit from these honoured dead their fervour, valour, courage and determination and with increased devotion we must commit ourselves to building a new country in which everybody can find equal pride, benefit and satisfaction. The problems undermining South Africa's success can only be overcome if confronted with the same courage, valour and determination which once united in glory those who across the battle lines fought on this field.
The length of the journey we have thus far successfully completed gives us hope that what remains to be achieved is within our reach. I am very pleased that the Afrikaanse Federasie vir Kultuur Verenigings is one of the institutions participating in this important event, which reminds me of how, before he ever met me, its Past Master Dr Louis Riev used to point me out as a threat to Afrikanerdom and apartheid and described me with contempt as "a modern Dingane". Dr Riev then met me and we became friends and began co-operating to build a new future for our respective peoples. He never retracted the epithet he gave to me of the modern Dingane because he came to see the Zulu honour in the battle of Blood River which he grew to respect together with the viewpoint, pride and the dreams of King Dingane. We learned to know and appreciate one another and began walking together the difficult road of reconciliation. Today, the presence of the AFKV shows how far we have moved away from the past and our readiness for the future.
In the past, we celebrated this day as the day of the covenant and a suggestion has been made that it should now be celebrated as King Dingame's day as it was in the past. I believe that any revisionist approach to history is always filled with pernicious implications. Therefore, henceforth, let us consider the day of a new covenant which binds us to the shared commitment of building a new country through a shared struggle against poverty, social inequality, corruption, crime and lack of discipline at all levels of our society. South Africa is large enough and can indeed be prosperous and stable enough to offer a future worth living to all of us. Today let us begin erecting this monument to our past, committing ourselves to accepting the sacrifices, the discipline and the resolve necessary to build a new country. By putting the past behind us, today we may begin a new journey towards a shared future.
However, the past cannot be removed, or forgotten. In 1991, even before apologies became the fashion of the day, on behalf of the Zulu nation I tendered my apologies to the Afrikaner nation for what became the fate of Piet Ritief and his Voortrekkers and the action taken on my ancestor's side which caused pain and suffering to their people. I have reiterated this apology on several occasions including two weeks ago when I received the Freedom of the City of Utrecht. It remains proper and fitting that on the great battlefield of the Zulu-Boer war we also recognise the many injuries, humiliations and sacrifices which the Zulu nation has had to endure at the hand of the Afrikaner nation, not only in the past but also in the more recent present.
On this occasion, it is also proper and fitting that we recognise that the fulfilment of the promise that the Zulu Kingdom and its monarch be properly recognised and accommodated in the unity of South Africa, remains important to redress the injustices of the past and to create the basis of a prosperous and stable future. The last time the Zulu nation gathered together was in a joint imbizo of all our clans which was held in October 1995. At that imbizo the Zulu nation for the first time convened irrespective of race, colour and creed, to stress its intention to embrace all those who live in harmony within the ancestral territory of our Kingdom. On that occasion, the Zulu nation swore to a sacred covenant which pledged our lives, honours and fortunes to the cause of the recognition of our Kingdom within a unified South Africa. On this occasion we should extend our covenant of peace and prosperity to all those across the country who wish to embrace a new journey which unites those who were once divided.
In the past the great monarchs of the Zulu nations led our people through the tragic and glorious moments of our history. They were behind the commencement of our struggle for liberation in 1910 and inspired the establishment of many of the institutions and organisations which were created for that purpose. Zulu Kings should remain a vital part of our covenant as they symbolize the unity amongst all the members of our nation, as well as the mystical relationship among the past, the present and future generations. Today, as I present his Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, King Zwelithini Goodwill ka Bhekuzulu, I know that he remains the symbol of this continuity over time of our dreams and our struggle for liberty and prosperity. There is a wound within the Zulu nation which still bleeds and can stop bleeding if the institution of our Monarchy is given its rightful place as the monarchies of Lesotho and Swaziland which have existed alongside it for more than two hundred years.
The King of the Zulu nation is an essential lasting covenant which on this day we must broaden to mark a new beginning. His presence amongst us signifies the continuity of the past into the present and the future. He carries the legacies of the Kings who came before him and the dreams of those who in the future will sit on the throne of the Zulu monarchy within a united South Africa, blessed by mutual respect and harmony. His presence on this battlefield on this occasion signifies the coming together of the Zulu nation and its unity of mind and spirit. I am pleased to present once again the King of the Zulu nation to his father's people. May he so speak as to once again join his father's people in a new covenant which embraces all the people of goodwill who together and in peace join efforts to build a new country and to defeat the evils of poverty and social injustice.