Originally appeared in Inqaba Ya Basebenzi No. 26 (April 1988).

Events have delivered their verdict on the policy of peace talks with Inkatha, pursued by the UDF and Cosatu leadership: A TOTAL FAILURE.

The civil war goes on – now with the UDF virtually banned, Cosatu restricted, and the murderous Inkatha warlords not only untouched by Botha’s crackdown but openly aided by thousands of police and kitskops.

Force alone can settle the people’s ‘differences’ with Buthelezi, his gangsters and his backers – big business and the apartheid state. This conclusion, long understood by the fighting youth of Natal, should be acknowledged also by the leadership.

Instead, comrade Winnie Mandela is reported now (25 March 1988) to have offered to meet Buthelezi in an attempt to “unite” Congress and Inkatha forces in the struggle against apartheid! She said at Wits University: “It is necessary for us to look at our own ranks, clean up our own house to see whether we have the unity to fight this racist regime.”

Comrade, the fighting youth of Natal don’t need “cleaning up” (isn’t that what the police are trying to do?). The youth need unwavering support, a fighting leadership at regional and national levels, a definite programme of action on the social issues, and arms from the ANC to make their self-defence units more effective.

When will Congress leaders learn that peace with Inkatha is impossible? Can they not see now that a policy of trying to make peace with these tribal gangsters is wrong and damaging to the liberation struggle?

Why have “peace talks!” failed so far? Is it accidental? Or perhaps because the authority of Mandela was not involved? No, the cause lies deep. And a name which stands as a symbol of defiance, for our whole movement and around the world, should not be associated with this dirty business of trying to make so-called “peace” or achieve “unity” with warlords, thugs, oppressors and exploiters of the working people.

All the ‘powers’ of official society, starting with the state, could not impose ‘peace’. The Chamber of Commerce proved impotent. All the pleadings of the Church fell on stony ground. This although Archbishop Tutu was mandated (as he put it) by “Jesus Christ”[1] – and also had a personal mandate from cde O.R. Tambo to try to reconcile the UDF leaders with the “Christian” Buthelezi.[2]

The UDF and Cosatu leaders appealed again and again for non-violence. The Congress rank-and-file paid as little attention to them as a swimmer, confronted by a shark, would pay to a boat’s captain who preached the sanctity of all living creatures instead of throwing him a spear. And the sermons had just as much effect upon the shark.


The impossibility of peace between Congress and Inkatha results from the fact that revolutionary torrents have begun sweeping away society’s middle ground. The mass of the black working people are no longer prepared to live under the oppression and misery endured in the past. Even the rural areas of Natal/KwaZulu are now gripped by this remorseless process.

Inkatha’s true character as a counter-revolutionary organisation on the side of the bosses and the state can no longer be disguised. On the other hand, the Congress movement’s character as the chosen vehicle of the working class revolution stands-out in ever sharper relief. This despite every attempt of middle class Congress leaders to hide it.

The essentially opposite characters of the two organisations makes it impossible to reconcile them. Buthelezi and his cronies have to fight against the revolution; Congress youth and workers have to fight against the counter-revolution. This has become a matter or political and physical survival on each side. The peace-makers are suspended in mid-air.

The same will happen to comrade Winnie Mandela’s efforts.

The unity we need is not “unity” between Congress and the Inkatha killers. We need unity of understanding, and unity of revolutionary purpose, between all the Congress leaders and the fighting Congress ranks.

Failure to understand what is at stake in Natal has already led to serious wrong-doing. Scandalously, for instance, the UDF Natal Midlands chairman, A.S. Chetty, actually called on the SA Police to arrest UDF members if they were responsible for attacks on Inkatha or UWUSA leaders.[3] For his pains he has now been banned from publicly uttering even that! And UDF co-president Archie Gumede, that ardent peace-maker, has been banned along with the UDF from even engaging in “peace talks” without government permission.

The death toll in the civil war has mounted to well over 500. Of course this is a tragedy.

Contrary to the image of Marxists painted in the bourgeois media, we don’t revel in violence and death. We are absolutely against undisciplined atrocities, or the criminal settling of personal scores and vendettas under the screen of political struggle. We deplore the spilling of one single needless drop of blood. Even necessary bloodshed is a matter for regret. But regret does ant make a policy.

We start from the position that vigorous self-defence is necessary against Inkatha’s forced recruitment, extortion and terrorism. It is likewise necessary against the forces of the state. All Congress leaders should applaud the bravery of the youth and workers who are taking on themselves this dangerous task. Armed defence units must be organised and extended systematically in every workplace and locality. These must be under firm political discipline and guidance.

Effective defence includes reprisals – and pre-emptive blows – against clearly identified thug-leaders of Inkatha/Uwusa. Essentially, the violence of the Congress youth has been selective and directed. It is necessary to strike at the head of the snake. That does not turn a policy of general defence into an immediate armed general offensive – something which would be premature at this stage, and would recoil on the movement.

At the same time, politically, we must go on the offensive. The former mass base of Inkatha has all but evaporated. Yet we need to remove every last residue of it. We must rouse the confidence to fight amongst formerly submissive layers of the masses. That is why a massive campaign on social issues like wages, housing, education and pensions is so vital in the struggle to destroy Inkatha, build Cosatu, SAYCO and the ANC, and really mobilise the forces for revolution against the bosses and the state.

At the UDF/Cosatu rally in Pietermaritzburg on 6 December, UDF leader Skhumbulo Nwenya

told the crowd that they must make it easy for Inkatha people to join the UDF by making it clear to them that they were not the enemy and that they were struggling for their liberation as well. He called for discipline and restraint, concluding thus: “If we are confident of our ideas as we surely are, then it is clear that we cannot physically force anybody to join our organisation. We need to show in practice that we are not like the warlords.”[4]

We agree with this, for the struggle is to separate the masses completely from Inkatha’s vicious grip, and destroy the gangster-apparatus, isolated politically from the people.

But comrade Nwenya’s points appear, unfortunately, as an argument for passivity when not combined with a fighting lead from the national and regional leadership – when put forward together with a policy of “peace talks” and “reconciliation” with Inkatha instead of a declared policy of smashing it through social action and armed defence.

It has been argued that a policy of “peace talks” is necessary to “expose” Inkatha’s violent nature. That is not so. The civil war in Natal took-off when Inkatha’s violence had reached such a scale that the youth had no alternative left but to take up arms, and perish. Buthelezi was already exposed by a decade of thuggery, and what was needed was to break the spell of his so-called “power”. That the youth have done – so well in fact, that Buthelezi now craves to be recognised by Congress as “legitimate”!

In December this blood-soaked gangster boasted of “all or nothing victories” against Cosatu and the UDF, and said he would only be reconciled to those who bowed down to him. By February he was writing to Archie Gumede, saying: “I was asking you to consider the fact that both the UDF and Inkatha are here to stay”!

And instead of a fighting policy to drive home the advantage and sweep Buthelezi & Co. into political oblivion, Congress leaders are still conceding his claims to permanence. That must stop. The policy must change.

A page from Inqaba No. 26

Despite all Buthelezi’s atrocities over more than a decade, the bourgeois media cynically presented him as a “man of peace and non-violence”. Instead of combatting this bourgeois public opinion vigorously and exposing his true nature, our leadership spent these precious years hoping for reconciliation. Now, when the youth are smashing Inkatha (and through the titanic events of the civil war forcing even the world press to reveal that Buthelezi’s organisation is basically a murder-gang) – now we hear the argument that “peace talks” are needed to “expose” Inkatha’s violent nature!


Sometimes the representatives of the big bosses can see things more clearly than leaders of the middle class. They are more prepared to face the sharp realities of the class struggle.

Christo Nel, a Johannesburg business consultant and a director of Maritzburg company gave this ominous warning to his class:

Reports indicate that Inkatha has been losing the struggle for power during the past few months. It is therefore becoming a test of Inkatha hegemony that could have serious repercussions for its perceived following … in other areas in Natal. If Inkatha were to lose the struggle for control, it would open-up the real possibility of a struggle in the greater Durban metropolitan area.[5]

The Congress movement, with a fighting lead, can extend the heroic achievement of the Maritzburg youth and workers to all parts of Natal and KwaZulu. We can drive Inkatha from the townships of Durban, and finish it as a force. We can destroy the Uwusa danger once and for all.

All over South Africa the oppressed people will stand taller as a result!

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

[1] City Press, 8 November 1987

[2] Weekly Mail, 27 March 1987

[3] See Natal Witness, 24 December 1987

[4] Natal Witness, 7 December 1987

[5] in The Star 15 January 1988