Originally published in Inqaba Ya Basebenzi No.16/17 (May 1985).

by Peter Davies and Daniel Lakay

“Like never before, Inkatha has shown its true colours. They are not green, yellow and black. They are blood red.”[1]

The flag of Inkatha is smeared with the blood of trade unionists, students and political activists who have challenged its reactionary role. It is red with the blood of hundreds of people savagely beaten and stabbed by Buthelezi’s ‘impis’ seeking out and terrorising opponents of the KwaZulu dictator.

The middle class mafia which leads Inkatha, propped up by big business and the Pretoria regime, co-operates with Botha’s efforts to repress our movement by disrupting school boycotts and strikes and attacking the UDF with armed thugs. At the same time Buthelezi is greeted warmly by Reagan and Thatcher, who are the enemies of workers throughout the world.

The lying bosses’ media at home and overseas have portrayed Buthelezi as a man of non-violence, and Inkatha as a force of ‘opposition’ to the SA regime. In fact it is an instrument of violent counter-revolution. It is used by the bosses and the government to sow divisions among black working people and to attack workers and youth.

Inkatha and the police now collaborate openly. In 1976 they were ashamed to admit that Inkatha helped the police to incite Zulu hostel-dwellers in Soweto to go on a bloody rampage in an attempt to break a stay-at-home called by the youth. Today the police shamelessly stand by while Gatsha’s impis and hired killers viciously dispose of opponents of Inkatha in KwaZulu and townships in Natal.

The state is actively organising, inciting and using vigilante killers and Inkatha gangs to terrorise the townships, drive-out UDF supporters, and provoke racial and tribal animosities to cut across the revolutionary movement.

The counter-revolutionary role of Buthelezi and Inkatha is not a new development. It flows inevitably from the collaboration of these petty-bourgeois political ‘leaders’ with the Bantustan system of the state, and from their support of capitalism against the democratic and socialist aspirations of the working class.

The Institute for Black Research, in its pamphlet Unrest in Natal, August 1985, summarises Inkatha’s record:

This autocratic trend was apparent at the outset for one of the first requests KwaZulu made of Pretoria, on assuming the status of a self-governing territory in 1977, was to extend the state of emergency, with its provision for detention without trial for 90 days, then restricted to Msinga, to the whole of KwaZulu.

In 1975 the Umlazi Residents’ Association became disaffected when KwaZulu became actively involved in the removals of shack dwellers in the Malukazi area. In 1979 the residents of Makuta returned four non-Inkatha councillors out of a total of six, despite allegations that Inkatha officials had threatened to evict residents from their houses if they did not support party candidates. In 1980 Inkatha was accused of acting with the police in teargassing students in a bid to break a schools-boycott; in 1983 students at the University of Zululand were attacked by Inkatha, resulting in 5 deaths and many injuries. In 1984 over a hundred residents of Hambanati were forced to flee for refuge to the Gandhi settlement following an Inkatha attack on their homes.[2]

In April 1983 Msizi Harrison Dube, Lamontville community leader and former Robben Island prisoner, was assassinated after coming into conflict with Inkatha councillors who supported the Port Natal Administration Board.

When 12,000 people gathered to unveil a tombstone for him in July 1984, over 100 Inkatha supporters turned up outside the cemetery, many of them armed with spears and knobkerries and some apparently with guns. Some of them told reporters they had been sent to Lamontville to “eradicate elements opposed to Inkatha”.[3]

This was at the time of a struggle by the people of Lamontville and Chesterville to prevent their forcible incorporation into KwaZulu. Over 80% of residents were opposed to coming under the rule of Buthelezi.

In this clash at the Msizi Dube memorial, the Inkatha thugs were heavily outnumbered, and the pro-UDF youth successfully fought back. Since then they have had to defend the township on many occasions against night attacks by impis. Buthelezi became increasingly incensed that Lamontville had become a solid UDF area and a ‘no-go’ area for his thugs.


In September 1985, during a violently anti-ANC and anti-UDF speech by Buthelezi in Umlazi, busloads of armed Inkatha supporters, led by a top official, crossed into Lamontville to attack the residents. Again fighting flared when these ‘warriors’ were confronted by UDF youth. Several people were killed. “Hippos and police vans passed groups of impis and they repeatedly greeted each other,” reports SASPU National.[4]

This attack came against a background of horrific violence between Africans, and between Africans and Indians, in the townships of KwaZulu and Natal. It began with the assassination of Victoria Mxenge on 1 August and culminated in massacres by the police and a sustained reign of terror by Inkatha. Some 70 people were killed, and well over 1,000 reported injured.


The shooting of Victoria by agents of the regime was a signal to Inkatha impis to try to wipe-out the UDF in the area. Natal and KwaZulu was being drawn into the tidal movement of revolutionary struggle in cities and small towns countrywide. Buthelezi and his paymasters were clearly determined to use Inkatha to cut across this movement, and divert it into violent clashes between blacks.

Inkatha’s attack on 5,000 unarmed UDF supporters attending a memorial for Victoria Mxenge in Umlazi cinema left about 20 people dead. Police, who were in massed formation there, denied all knowledge of the incident.

In Inanda, although Inkatha denied responsibility, men shouting “Usuthu!” (Inkatha’s war-cry) burned and looted the homes and shacks of Indian residents. Indian workers have lived side-by-side with Africans in Inanda since 1860. But Buthelezi wants them out as they are an obstacle to the incorporation of the whole of Inanda into KwaZulu.

Organised attacks on Indians, coupled with deliberate spreading of rumours that this had been the work of ‘Congress’, produced a chaotic situation of fighting, looting and burning involving rival crowds of African and Indian youth and workers.

This was felt as a serious setback for the entire movement nationwide. Nevertheless, a survey by the institute for Black Research, conducted in August, showed that among Africans in KwaMashu, Inanda and Clermont, support for the UDF had doubled to 50% while support for Inkatha had fallen from 20% to 5%, as a result of the experience of the ‘unrest’. People knew where responsibility for the violence lay.

Support for the UDF among coloured and Indian people in the Durban area had also increased although only marginally. (The vast majority of the people claimed to support no organisation.)

The leaders of the independent non-racial unions took a bold and correct step, when, at the end of November, the founding conference and rally of Cosatu was held in Natal. This was to demonstrate the power of workers’ unity to overcome racial division and stand up to Buthelezi and Inkatha on his own ground.

As a result, Buthelezi has declared civil war also against Cosatu and its unions, declaring the federation to be a front for the ANC. He is now attempting to set up rival ‘unions’ under Inkatha in an effort to split the working class in Natal/KwaZulu.

The task of taking on and defeating Buthelezi and Inkatha – the task or destroying this spear of counter-revolution thrust into the side of our movement – has now become central. It cannot be postponed.


A strategy to defeat Inkatha has to be based firmly on two facts.

Firstly that Inkatha is, in its inherent nature, a counter-revolutionary organisation directed against the struggle of the black working people to overthrow the state, and that its weapons against our revolution are inevitably the weapons of violence, murder and terror. From this flows the need for a policy of organised and armed self-defence by the trade unions and the UDF against Inkatha.

Secondly, our strategy must take account of the fact that Inkatha has built up a basis of mass membership which, even while its support dwindles in the townships, continues to exercise a political hold over many old people, women, and workers, especially from the impoverished rural areas of KwaZulu. From this flows the need for a bold political challenge by Cosatu and the UDF, aimed to liberate the mass of Inkatha members from its reactionary grip and to provide a bridge to the revolutionary movement.


Why was Inkatha able to develop as a mass organisation in KwaZulu/Natal, with its leadership claiming up to a million members? There are a number of factors in this, bound together.

The Zulu-speaking people of KwaZulu/Natal have a warrior tradition of resistance to colonial conquest that is renowned around the world. The Zulu kingdom also resisted the incorporation of its adherents into the wage-labour system.

Buthelezi’s Inkatha ye Nkululeko ye Sizwe had a forerunner in Inkatha ya ka Zulu, founded by King Solomon Ka Dinizulu in 1922. It was formed for two reasons: firstly, in an attempt to stop the disintegration of the tribal kingdom under the pressures of capitalist expansion; secondly, to combat the rising influence of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) among the rural labourers and small farmers.

Historically, therefore, Inkatha has combined an element of resistance against conquest, white domination and the pressures of capitalism, with hostility to independent worker organisation.

Gatsha Buthelezi, after assuming his chieftainship in 1953, built on the tradition of resistance by successfully opposing Pretoria’s imposition of the Bantu authorities system in Natal. He joined the ANC in the 1950s.

Of royal descent, Buthelezi represented – and represents – those sections of the KwaZulu petty-bourgeois who hope to use their limited local privileges, traditional chiefly institutions, and now their ‘power base’ in the Bantustan apparatus, as a springboard for their own eventual incorporation into the central establishment of capitalist wealth and power.

These petty oppressors and exploiters, with interests and aims fundamentally at odds with those of the dispossessed and working class mass of the people in KwaZulu/Natal, have contrived to blend together their own limited resistance to the impositions and restrictions laid down by Pretoria with the masses’ still semi-conscious striving to be free of all the oppression and exploitation of the racist and capitalist system.

Hence both the initial success of Buthelezi in building a mass Inkatha – and the contradictions in which Inkatha is now increasingly caught-up in trying to prevent the erosion of its former mass base.

On the one hand, the essentially collaborative nature of Buthelezi and the aspiring petty-bourgeois elite he represents (collaborative, even while in ‘conflict’ with their Pretoria masters); on the other hand the essentially revolutionary striving of the Zulu-speaking masses (revolutionary even when overlaid with tribalism and conservative illusions) – these two contradictory class natures could never rest easily together in one organisation.

Sensing the volcanic movement that can so easily engulf their mass base and tear it from them Buthelezi and the Inkatha mafia have always reacted to political opposition with ferocity born of fear.

The first challenge was from the youth in the early to mid-1970s, under the banner of Black Consciousness, with its forceful repudiation of all collaboration with the Bantustan system. Buthelezi’s apoplectic hatred of Black Consciousness has only been exceeded by his new-found hatred of the ANC.

This change has taken place precisely as the Congress movement has risen as a mass challenge to the state, the bosses and all their agents – as the working class under the banner of the ANC and UDF has begun to move into active revolutionary opposition to the regime and its collaborators.

From the outset, in fact, Buthelezi used Inkatha to try to prevent the emergence of independent democratic organisations of the working class.

Durban Strikes

It is not a coincidence that Inkatha was formed in 1975, in the aftermath of the Durban strikes of 1973 and the widespread industrial struggles that followed. The dangers of a united workers’ movement loomed large before the capitalists and their petty-bourgeois agents.

While Gatsha did not support the strikes, Inkatha stepped into a political vacuum, providing initially an outlet for the political aspirations of Zulu workers, youth and rural poor. This political vacuum existed because the ANC, after its banning and disastrous turn to a guerrilla strategy in the early 1960s, had withdrawn most of its surviving working class cadres from the country and had not built systematic political organisation on an underground basis.

More than this, however, the success of Inkatha in filing the ‘vacuum’ resulted in large measure from the support given to it by the ANC leadership in exile.


In a remarkable admission to the 1985 Consultative Conference of the ANC in Zambia, comrade Oliver Tambo recounted what happened:

To return to the internal, we must also report that throughout the period after the Morogoro Conference (1969), we had been concerned about the organisation and activisation of the masses of our people in the Bantustans against the apartheid system as a whole, including its Bantustan creations. Consequently we were of the view that, among other things, it was of vital importance that we should encourage the formation in the Bantustans of mass democratic organisations where none existed, and urge that those which existed should be strengthened and activised…

It was also in this context that we maintained regular contact with Chief Gatsha Buthelezi of the KwaZulu Bantustan. We sought that this former member of the ANC Youth League who had taken-up his position in the KwaZulu Bantustan after consultations with our leadership, should use the legal opportunities provided by the Bantustan programme to participate in the mass mobilisation of our people on the correct basis of the orientation of the masses to focus on the struggle for a united and non-racial South Africa. In the course of our discussions with him, we agreed that this would also necessitate the formation of a mass democratic organisation in the Bantustan that he headed. Inkatha originated from this agreement.

Unfortunately we failed to mobilise our own people to take on the task of resurrecting Inkatha as the kind of organisation we wanted owing to the understandable antipathy of many of our comrades towards what they considered as working within the Bantustan system. The task of reconstituting Inkatha therefore fell on Gatsha Buthelezi himself who then built Inkatha as a personal power base far removed from the kind of organisation we had visualised.[5]

Where lies the source of this appalling blunder, which has cost, and will yet cost, so much in lives and suffering? It lies in the failure of the ANC leadership to approach political questions from a working class standpoint, with a class analysis of people, organisations and perspectives.

Squeezed between the contending forces of the capitalist class and the working class, oppressed by big capital and the state yet fearful of losing its petty privileges in a workers’ revolution, the middle class is inherently disposed to opportunist vacillation and therefore treachery towards the masses.

The diverse elements of the middle class, lacking cohesion and possessing no independent political stand-point of their own, are pulled hither and thither by the pressures of capital, the capitalist state, and the working class. When the mass working class organisations are showing a clear and firm revolutionary lead in action, the bulk of the oppressed middle class can be drawn magnetically behind them.

When the alternative to that is practically closed-off by the strength and determination of the working class, when the workers are able to mount a challenge for state power itself, then the bulk of the middle class can adjust themselves as easily to the idea of living under democratic workers’ rule as they accommodate themselves to the dictatorship of the monopolies under capitalism.


The danger arises when, instead of the necessary attitude of vigilance and deep political distrust towards the politicians of the middle class, the working class is encouraged to have faith in their ‘democratic’ good intentions.

The whole essence of the game as far as petty-bourgeois politicians are concerned is to deceive the people by cultivating the illusion that the unbridgeable class gulf between workers and bosses, between the working class movement and the bosses’ state, can be bridged by them through artful compromises, through the suppression of the workers’ socialist aims, through this or that concession in the sphere of democracy.

Of course individuals from middle class or even bourgeois backgrounds can break with their class and go over whole-heartedly to the revolutionary movement of the working class. History has many examples of outstanding revolutionary leaders who have taken this route.

But that possible evolution of individuals does not alter the fact that the working class can have confidence only in its own power as a class, must subject its leadership constantly to democratic working class control, and requires a clear working class revolutionary program as much for the victory of national liberation and democracy as in the struggle for socialism.

Petty-bourgeois politicians who fail to break with their class, who oppose the fight for workers’ power and socialism, and who are not under working class control – however much they may wrap themselves for convenience in the colours of our movement – at some point inevitably must enter into conflict with and must betray the working people’s cause.


To have encouraged Gatsha – always an avowed pro-capitalist and opportunist – to enter and use as his base the Bantustan apparatus created and funded by the state; to have given ANC blessing to his creation of a mass political organisation on tribal lines and linked to this Bantustan apparatus; to have disregarded completely the fact that independent working class organisation is the only reliable basis for genuine “mass democratic organisation” – all this would have been bad enough.

Yet, perhaps the victims of Inkatha would not have died in vain if, from the debacle of this policy, the ANC leadership drew fundamental conclusions which would ensure no other mistake of like character could ever he made again. But the report by comrade Oliver Tambo to the ANC Consultative Conference draws no such conclusions.

Instead, by clear Implication, it puts the blame on the “many of our comrades” whose “understandable antipathy” towards working within the Bantustan system meant they failed to build Inkatha themselves, and so left “the task” to Gatsha!

We should salute those ANC comrades who always resisted the leadership’s policy of fraternisation with and support for Buthelezi and Inkatha. The movement has them to thank that an even worse setback for the ANC and the struggle as a whole has not been suffered.

Inkatha, let us remember, was always, in conception, in constitution, in purpose, a tribalist organisation linked to the state. Its leadership is constitutionally reserved exclusively for Zulus. Its ruling National Council is designated “the supreme body of the Zulu nation”, and includes the entire membership of the KwaZulu ‘Legislative Assembly’. The constitution decrees that the President of Inkatha must be the Chief Minister of KwaZulu – an office restricted to hereditary Zulu chiefs.

How could this ever have been conceived of by the ANC leadership as a vehicle for “mass democratic organisation’’ of working people for revolutionary purposes of national liberation? How could there be any surprise that it has turned out to be a vehicle for counter-revolutionary violence by the state and its petty-bourgeois collaborators? Even a grain of Marxist understanding could have prevented such a disastrous mistake.

Yet, throughout, the policy of the ANC leadership towards Buthelezi and Inkatha has received the silent endorsement of the SA ‘Communist’ Party – a body wrongly assumed by many to be defending working class interests and upholding Marxist ideas within the ANC.

In fact the SACP leaders organised, in 1979, the suspension (and later expulsion) from the ANC of Marxists who, alone at that time, were prepared to voice open opposition to the secret meeting of the ANC leadership with Buthelezi in London. At the time, the leadership denied the meeting had taken place – but in 1985 it was reported to the Consultative Conference as an attempt to “ensure unity of approach (with Buthelezi) to the main strategic requirements of the struggle”!

Against this whole background it becomes easier to see why, in 1975, the fledgling independent unions in Natal (later to form part of Fosatu) came perilously close to being drawn into the clutches of Inkatha – a course that was being seriously discussed at that time. This clanger was averted, however, largely owing to the instinctive class sense of the worker-militants in the unions who were determined that the workers’ organisations should not come under petty-bourgeois and semi-state control.


Buthelezi, of course, has never been naive enough to depend solely on ANC approval to build a mass membership of Inkatha. He could foresee eventual rivalry and conflict with the ANC, whose trust he was temporarily eager to exploit. Therefore, from the outset, measures of force, blackmail and intimidation were used to impose membership of Inkatha on Zulu-speaking people in KwaZulu.

Coercion has increased as the trade union movement, political, community and youth organisations, genuinely fighting for the needs of black working people, have risen to overshadow and oppose Inkatha.

As a UDF supporter in Umlazi told SAPU National: “…most UDF members (here) carry an Inkatha membership card. It’s like a KwaZulu dompas [pass book]. You can’t get a house, or a job, or a pass without one.” Those who do not have an Inkatha card are assumed to be UDF sympathisers, deserving to be beaten, killed and have their homes burnt.


However, far from this indicating the strength of Inkatha, it is a symptom of its inherent weakness politically that such methods have to be used to prevent the evaporation of its membership. This weakness is shown, too, in the constant rhetorical references Buthelezi is obliged to make, at rallies and in the press, to the militant tradition of the Zulus’ resistance to conquest, and the projection of Inkatha as a “liberation movement”.

Marx wrote:

The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes….

The Eighteenth Brumaire

When Zulu workers, youth and rural poor, trapped in a political vacuum, suffering poverty, national oppression and all other manifestations of capitalist exploitation, have conjured up the tribal spirits and symbols of the past, this has been in the course of their awakening to a new epoch of revolutionary liberation struggle. For them “the tradition of all the dead generations” is precisely a spirit of militant resistance to the oppressor.

Buthelezi and the Inkatha mafia exploit these “names, battle cries and costumes” in an effort to turn back into the past a social movement that, in its actual inner force, has been groping towards a democratic and socialist future in common with the black working class throughout South Africa.

To succeed in his purpose even temporarily Buthelezi is compelled to speak in tones radically in contrast with his reactionary deeds.

“Warrior blood flows in my veins”, he told the London Daily Express,[6] echoing his usual stadium demagogy.

There are no more militant people than the Zulus – we have shaken all Southern Africa before. But my people do not want war now. We do not think it is the time. It is no use attacking someone if you have no chance of defeating him. At the moment my people are unarmed, but from what is happening you will see that their fingers are itching. Yet I have no right whatsoever to sacrifice young lives needlessly. It could change. I have never ruled-out in the life of nations that there can come a time when there is a just war – I have never ruled out that this is an option we may face one day.

To sustain his position, Buthelezi must demonstrate that the oppressor cannot be defeated. Therefore he must attack those forces which are beginning to shake the oppressor in battle, which are beginning to raise within the mass of the working class countrywide the confidence that given time, with organisation, with unity, with the necessary program and fighting leadership, and with arms, the liberation struggle can be victorious.

Maintaining that the regime of white domination is invincible, Buthelezi summons up the old, moderate, ‘petitioning’ tradition of the ANC and uses ANC colours to try to contain the anger of his members against poverty, oppression and degradation. He contrasts this ANC with the ANC which working class people throughout South Africa are striving to build as an instrument for revolution – for mass working class political unity and for eventual armed insurrection against the state.


The revolutionary character of the Congress movement today Buthelezi blames on the ANC Leadership in exile. Having once eagerly accepted their endorsement, he now ferociously condemns them as men who “drink whisky in safe places” while plotting how to attack fellow blacks.[7] Truly, ‘there is no gratitude in politics’.

The UDF is attacked as a “slimy stepping-stone” for the ANC, and a “hyena”. COSAS, he has said, “works among your children exhorting them to lose their lives on the township streets. COSAS will fail and in failing will drag your children down with them, and destroy all the things you strive for”.[8] So, on top of the banning of COSAS by Pretoria, the impis are sent to hunt and kill COSAS activists.

Now Buthelezi is obliged to take the offensive against the unions too – not ‘because’ Elijah Barayi attacked him in a speech, but because the very launching of Cosatu is a deadly political challenge to him. It threatens to bury tribalism in the working class once and for all, through united struggle against the capitalists and the state.

Defeating Inkatha

All this supplies many clues to the underlying weakness of Buthelezi’s position, and the basis of a strategy for defeating Inkatha.

In practice Buthelezi’s collaboration with capitalism and with Pretoria can deliver nothing of substance by way of concessions to the people of KwaZulu. However much he rants about the ‘impossibility’ of revolution, there is no alternative to revolution. In practice, faced with the real revolutionary movement of the workers and youths he must inevitably expose himself, more and more openly, as a conscious agent of the very oppressors and exploiters from whom the impoverished Zulu masses demand liberation.

Out of this – if the Cosatu, UDF and ANC leaderships approach the problem with a clearly worked-out policy and strategy for the youth and workers to implement – the point will be reached when KwaZulu rises against Inkatha and even the impis turn their assegais against Buthelezi and his criminal gang.

In the last twelve years the international crisis of capitalism has led the bosses and their states to attack the standard of living of the working class everywhere. This has been done by lowering wages, lengthening working hours, cutting benefits and educational facilities, ignoring health and safety and worsening general conditions at work.

In SA this crisis has triggered waves of struggles. Workers have understood the importance of unions as a weapon of struggle. Youth and community organisations have taken up struggles to defend or improve workers’ standard of living alongside the unions.

The processes of capitalist crisis and working class struggles have not eluded Natal/KwaZulu. The new period of industrial militancy was ushered in by the 1973 Durban strikes, and has found echoes throughout the region. The strike-breaking role of Inkatha has served to expose its anti-working class nature.

In addition, Buthelezi and Inkatha preside over and enforce atrocious social conditions in KwaZulu. This is the most densely populated Bantustan with about four million people. In KwaZulu/Natal the proportion of Africans living in shacks has risen from about 10% in 1950 to about 50% by 1984.

More than 395,000 workers commute daily from their homes in KwaZulu to workplaces in Natal. The rising transport costs have led to huge struggles. In January 1984 more than 60,000 workers, commuting daily from Empangeni in Richards Bay, began a bus boycott. In Esikwani, 15,000 elected a committee of ten, eight of whom were active members of Fosatu unions it the area.

The overwhelming opinion in working class townships in Natal/KwaZulu is that Inkatha has done nothing for them. That view was expressed by no less than 97% of people surveyed in Lamontville in 1984!


In KwaZulu health services are atrocious, worst of all in the rural areas. Most reported cases of cholera in the whole of SA are found there. Recent figures for KwaZulu showed one clinic for 24,000 people, while Transkei had one for 14,000. Such are the benefits brought by the ‘liberation movement’, Inkatha!

Buthelezi and Inkatha’s role in forced removals has now become notorious: Malukazi, St. Wendolins, Lamontville, Hambanati…

While COSAS and youth organisations struggling for a non-racial education have been viciously attacked, Buthelezi has implemented a racist education system in KwaZulu. Despite his claimed concern for education, KwaZulu spends even less per child than Pretoria spends on African education. The figure for KwaZulu is about R150, while in Bophutatswana it is R245, in Transkei R177, and in Ciskei R161.

Buthelezi is an ardent defender of the capitalist system – the system which enriches the privileged few and grinds the majority of working people in poverty. “I have come to the conclusion,” he says, “that despite its faults the free enterprise capitalist system is the best economic system which man hay ever devised.”[9]

His argument that business won’t invest in Natal if there are too many strikes means he is willing to allow the workers to be held to ransom by big business. Companies like Bata, BTR, Dunlop and Raleigh can rely on Buthelezi to act as the policeman of capitalism and help them exploit workers with poverty wages.

Buthelezi’s claim to be the friend of trade unions has always been refuted by his real policies and actions. In 1983 he wrote an ‘aide memoire’ for discussion with the AFL-CIO, which spoke of “the urgent need to make [Inkatha’s] power available to workers. Inkatha has always adopted the stance of support for the worker movements in the country.”

He said that “action on the labour front suffers the terrible disadvantages of not being able to employ their full strength because they lack the essentials for supporting sustained action.” As a solution, he offered the unions affiliation to Inkatha!

But this crocodile has different words for different audiences and occasions. He has repeatedly said that “trade unions are not a machinery for staging strikes, but for negotiation in order to avoid strikes”.

Real struggles always bring out his reactionary role – e.g. over the Transvaal general strike in 1984; over the NUM wage dispute; over the Durban-Maritzburg consumer boycott; over BTR… In each case he has alienated workers who formerly supported or tolerated him.

This fact has become apparent even to the financial press, which normally cannot praise Buthelezi highly enough. In November 1984, despite his attempts at strike-breaking, 90% of Zulu migrant workers in five major factories supported the general strike. The Financial Mail[10] commented:

Forced to choose between loyalty to Inkatha and their unions many supported the stay-away. Inkatha Chief Gatsha Buthelezi’s vocal opposition to the stay-away call distances him even further from the mainstream of opposition in South Africa.

It is an historic advance that Buthelezi has now been driven into open opposition to the unions with his attacks on Cosatu. More than anything, this will prepare the way for his defeat.

However, because of the state forces of coercion in KwaZulu, linked to the chiefs and sustained by central government, Inkatha’s hold, especially in the rural areas, will not be easy to dislodge. The rapid collapse of Inkatha’s support, for instance in the PWV triangle, will probably not be repeated so simply in KwaZulu itself.


In all the unions, especially those with Inkatha members in their ranks, the role and crimes of Buthelezi and the Inkatha leadership need to be thoroughly explained and patiently discussed. But above all it is in action and through straggle that supporters of Buthelezi can most surely be won over, since it is then that he and Inkatha most clearly expose their true nature.

That requires well-prepared action campaigns in the region and nationally, both on democratic issues and on social issues – on wages, on housing, education, pensions, against removals etc. – where the responsibility of Inkatha for defending capitalism and government policies can best be brought to light.

It is essential that the unions and youth organisations work together in carrying such campaigns to the inactive mass of Inkatha members.

At the same time Cosatu and the youth organisations of the UDF need to develop a co-ordinated policy of self-defence against Inkatha impis. Inkatha terror can only be smashed in this way. Even a few well-prepared physical blows struck against Inkatha from a defensive position can do wonders in overcoming fear amore the people and so speed up its disintegration.

The defeat of Buthelezi and Inkatha can best be assured if the UDF in Natal is understood by the mass of Zulu workers, women and youth as a movement uniting black working people in an uncompromising struggle against capitalism.

Working Class Character

The UDF’s non-racial and non-tribal character can become a much more attractive force to win aver present-day Inkatha supporters, with illusions in Zulu “nationhood”, if it takes on a clear working class and anti-bourgeois character.

The predominance in the UDF in Natal of leaders identified with capitalism, such as those of the NIC associated with the exploiting Indian merchant class, only plays into the hands of Buthelezi with his efforts to stir up Africans against ‘Indians’.

If Indian bourgeois want to give money to the UDF and support it in other ways, well and good, but all claims to influence or leadership in our movement must be firmly denied to them. In fact, we should support calls for the disbanding of the NIC on the principle of opposing racially separate organisations. (In any event the NIC is reportedly supported by less than 5% of Indian residents surveyed by the IBR in Phoenix, Avoca, Chatsworth and Reservoir Hills!)

In Natal, it is a UDF built and led mainly by African and Indian workers and youth together – a UDF fighting shoulder to shoulder with Cosatu on a clear non-racial socialist basis – that will have the power to defeat Inkatha and draw the working masses of KwaZulu/Natal into a united revolutionary struggle for national liberation in South Africa.

As our movement nationally gains strength and effectiveness in the struggle against the bosses and the regime, as it becomes clear that the state can and ultimately will be overthrown, those oppressed working class people who formerly looked to Inkatha as their ‘liberation movement’ will cast it aside, and can move forward to take their place among the best militant fighters in Congress ranks.

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2020).

Continue to Part Two

[1] State of the Nation, Oct/Nov 1985

[2] Page 4

[3] Sowetan, 24/7/84

[4] Oct/Nov 1985

[5] Conference Documents, pages 20-21. Our emphasis.

[6] 26 October 1985

[7] Guardian, 30 September 1985

[8] Star, 26 November 1985

[9] Weekly Mail, 11-18 October 1985

[10] 16 November 1984