Letter: KwaZulu and the ANC: past problems, future dangers

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Sir: John Carlin is right to focus on the importance of Zulu politics, but it is vital to remember that the conflict between Zulu traditionalists and modernising Zulu nationalists is an old one.

Zulus may have founded the ANC in 1912 and lobbied Westminster on black rights after the First World War, but the last inter-clan pitched battle fought with traditional weapons took place as late as 1944. When Mangosuthu Buthelezi became the first Zulu prince to enter university in 1948, it was against fierce opposition from Zulu elders, who (rightly) saw tradition being eroded. Buthelezi's subsequent monogamy (the present Zulu king has four wives) symbolises this division.

Inkatha has always been a hybrid organisation, embracing modernisers and traditionalists in shifting alliances.

The departure in 1990 of secretary-general Oscar Dhlomo, an Inkatha founder and former associate of Steve Biko, was the first public sign of the traditionalists' ascendency.

The ANC's current support for the traditionalists over the modernisers, for the king over Buthelezi, makes short-term political sense, as Mr Carlin makes clear. But in the longer term it will be difficult to reconcile with the ANC's ideals. It is also uncomfortably reminiscent of colonial divide and rule.

Yours faithfully,


St Albans,


24 May