Zulu leader's white adviser hangs on: Chief Buthelezi's speech writer seems likely to keep his job in spite of opposition from within Inkatha, says John Carlin in Johannesburg

WALTER Felgate, Mangosuthu Buthelezi's speech-writer, never smiles in public. Face set in a scowl, he has the nickname 'Rumpelstiltskin' in press circles. For unlike most speechwriters, Mr Felgate, 63, is a prominent South African personality. Outspoken, quoted daily in the media, he may plausibly be described as the voice of the Inkatha Freedom Party, his boss preferring as a rule - even when he meets diplomats in private - to speak from prepared texts.

Mr Felgate is as influential a member of the Inkatha Central Committe as any. A social anthropologist by training, he has been an adviser to Chief Buthelezi since before Inkatha was founded in 1975. When Inkatha opened its membership to all races in 1990, he was the first white person to join. Today he is the embodiment of Inkatha intransigence, the advocate of an all-or-nothing policy which government and African National Congress officials fear might lead to South Africa's ruin.

It is a view shared by some senior Inkatha politicians - and this has prompted Nelson Mandela, F W de Klerk and others obsessed with the riddle, 'How to defuse the Inkatha bomb?', to wonder whether the answer lies within.

It has been an open secret for some months in political circles that a small but significant group of Inkatha officials believe that Mr Felgate and Chief Buthelezi run the party like feudal twins. Joe Matthews, a former Communist, and Frank Mdlalose, Inkatha's national chairman, formally headed the party's negotiating team in multi-party talks until Chief Buthelezi, encouraged by Mr Felgate, decided to pull out.

Time and again, before the withdrawal, Mr Matthews and Mr Mdlalose would make a deal with the ANC and the government only to learn a short while later that Chief Buthelezi had scotched it - often following a telephone conversation with Mr Felgate, who plays the role of the chief's agent at the talks.

For several weeks a move has been afoot inside Inkatha to push Mr Felgate out. In the last few days such feelings have been made known in the form of leaks to the South African press. The thinking of the Inkatha moderates, and this includes some white MPs who recently defected from the Democratic and National parties, is that as long as Mr Felgate has Chief Buthelezi's ear, the prospect of next year's elections being drowned - in a favourite phrase - in blood will remain strong.

Compounding the fears of those in Inkatha who know they have already wrested as many concessions from the ANC and the government as they could reasonably expect is the suspicion that Mr Felgate is, or has been, linked to right-wing elements in the South African intelligence community. But despite Mr Felgate's unpopularity among some of Inkatha's leading lights, it is unlikely that he will fall from grace. At a recent 'summit' between Chief Buthelezi and Mr Mandela, participants were struck by how psychologically in tune the Inkatha leader was with Mr Felgate, how out of tune with another of the participants, Mr Matthews. Chief and speech-writer share a profound mistrust of the ANC, a terror of what the future might hold under a Mandela government.

The theory has been advanced too that Chief Buthelezi is far more likely to trust a white adviser than a black. Black Inkatha leaders pose a potential threat to his standing in a way that Mr Felgate, who can advance no more within a predominantly Zulu organisation, could not.

But the most powerful guarantee that Mr Felgate will retain his unique influence over South African politics is that those sophisticates who oppose him are in a minority within the Inkatha Central Committee. Most members, rural Zulus largely who fear nothing more than the loss of power and privilege that might attend democratic rule, instinctively follow the belligerent line.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?