Former Mpumalanga premier and treasurer-general of the African National Congress, Dr Mathews Phosa, described the late leader of the former Kangwane Bantustan, Dr Enos Mabuza, as revolutionary leader than a Bantustan leader.
Mabuza became the first Bantustan leader who chose to break ranks with the apartheid regime by openly meeting with the then banned African National Congress while his peers were enjoying the fruits of collaborating with the apartheid regime.
“While shortsightedly and unfairly seen by some as a Bantustan leader, he was in fact the opposite. He was a revolutionary,” Phosa said.
He added that when leaders want to be successful, they need to do the unexpected and think outside the box.
“Don’t be chained down by your own current circumstances or by capture from those who fear that good governance will expose their wrongdoing,” he said.
Phosa was presenting a memorial lecture in honour of Mabuza at Mbombela on Saturday. Mabuza retired from politics and later died from cancer in 1997.
Mabuza started working with Phosa when the apartheid government entered into a so-called land deal to cede the former KaNgwane Bantustan and parts of modern day KwaZulu-Natal into Swaziland. The deal brought Mabuza closer to the Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Bantustan, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, but their relations soured after Mabuza led a delegation to meet the ANC in Lusaka in 1986.
If the apartheid government’s plan had succeeded, it would not have only altered the borders of the Republic of South Africa, but would have also deprived hundreds of thousands Black South Africans of their citizenship and turned South Africa into a land of white people only.
The move would also have undermined the resolution of the Organisation of African Union adopted in 1964 that member states respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence.
As a young attorney and founder of the first black law firm in Nelspruit, Phosa successfully represented Mabuza in his opposition to the incorporation of the province into Swaziland.
“We needed to approach the Organisation of African Union (OAU). We asked president Samora Machel of Mozambique to raise the matter with the OAU.
“If we didn’t work together all of us would be citizens of Swaziland,” said Phosa.
Following his meeting with the ANC, Mabuza’s Inyandza National Movement – a political party formed in the Bantustan – worked closely with the African National Congress.
“The ANC assigned Mabuza to go back to the country and organise other Bantustan leaders. He was successful in the former KwaNdebele and they formed Intando Yesizwe Movement, but was less successful in KwaZulu and Gazankulu bantustans,” he said.
Phosa explained how difficult it was for the ANC to convince militant youths in the then Eastern Transvaal to accept Mabuza and his Inyandza National Movement and Intando Yesizwe into the liberation movement.
Both organisations, however, later formed part of the Patriotic Front that was created by the ANC ahead of the first democratic elections.
While the two organisations were later absorbed into the ANC, Intando Yesizwe of KwaNdebele splintered into smaller organisations, some of which are still contesting elections, but without any success.
Phosa commended Mabuza for effectively governing the Bantustan.
“As Chief Minister of Kangwane (Bantustan), he was part of the homeland system created by the National Party as a much-hate part of the apartheid system. I don’t remember one case of corruption reported in KaNgwane,” said Phosa.