Letter: Chief Buthelezi: not 'mad, bad or extremely dangerous', but much maligned

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Sir: 'Everyone knows that the chief is mad, bad and extremely dangerous', writes John Carlin ('Dangerous myth of the Zulu warrior' 24 June).

Earlier in the same article, Mr Carlin asks: 'Why are whites flocking to Inkatha?' We must presume it is because they believe Chief Buthelezi is the best bet for the future of South Africa even though they know he is 'mad, bad and extremely dangerous'.

Your correspondent describes Chief Buthelezi as the 'greatest threat to South African democracy'. South African democracy has always been a sickly plant, and one might with equal validity state that democracy is the greatest threat to South Africa - if only one could agree on the meaning of democracy.

Chief Buthelezi is the only leader to my knowledge who has commissioned constitutional experts to produce a multi-racial constitution for any part of South Africa. This was specifically for Natal and Kwa Zulu, to take the place of the Provincial government of Natal and Zululand. Sadly, the National government was at that time concentrating all power in its hands at the expense of the Provinces. The Commission's report, though widely accepted by all races in Natal and Kwa Zulu, was placed in the Pretoria waste-paper basket.

Chief Buthelezi, with consistency, presses still for a significant place for provincial government. Cynics may suggest this is because he would rather be a bull in a small kraal, than not a bull at all. Realists would suggest that South Africa, being a very large country with such diversity of peoples, needs an effective decentralised government at provincial level, and that a federal state might be appropriate.

Whatever the conclusion will be, the most difficult problem is the application of democracy in a country that has shown little respect for it in the past, and sees little to commend it in the rest of the world at this time. Sadly, I found nothing in your correspondent's article to help resolve this problem.




24 June

(Photograph omitted)