Mere Anglicanism

Cape Town archbishop apologizes for Tutu’s apartheid era politics

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba celebrates Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s 90th birthday, affirming he is a “faithful Anglican”

The Archbishop of Cape Town has apologized on behalf of the Anglican Church to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi for the actions of former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

On Sunday, 18 Aug 2018, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba attended the 90th birthday party of Chief Buthelezi, the Zulu tribal leader who founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975 and was Chief Minister of the KwaZulu bantustan until 1994. After the end of apartheid in 1994, he served as South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs until 2004. He is expected to step down as chairman of the IFP at the end of this month.

One of South Africa’s foremost black leaders during the apartheid era, Chief Buthelezi took an active part in the CODESA negotiations in the early 1990s that led to the right of non-whites to vote. As the leader of the Zulu bantustan, or native homeland, he was sharply criticized by Black nationalists who saw him as a stooge of the apartheid regime.

At the 1978 funeral of Pan-African Congress leader Robert Subwuke, a mob sought to block Buthelezi from attending the service and threatened his life. When order could not be restored, Archbishop Tutu asked Chief Buthelezi to leave the funeral, protected by a phalanx of clergymen. Speaking to the media after the funeral, Archbishop Tutu praised the young people who had sought to kill Chief Buthelezi saying “they were a new breed of blacks with iron in their souls.”

Chief Buthelezi, an Anglican, saw Tutu’s words as an endorsement of the mob’s threats to kill him. Relations further sourced when Archbishop Tutu publicly criticized Chief Buthelezi for his participation in the tribal homelands system.

At service of thanksgiving on Sunday in Durban to commemorate the chief’s birthday, Archbishop Makgoba apologized for his predecessor’s words, “and that at times you had become lonely as a Christian.”

The archbishop told the congregation that Chief Buthelezi had never broken with the archbishop, “Even at the most difficult times in history, you have always been willing to welcome Archbishop Tutu to Ulundi, recognising him as your archbishop, sharing a meal with him and even sending a plane to bring him from Durban,” adding: “When Archbishop Tutu asked you to meet president Mandela to talk peace you agreed without hesitation.”

South Africa should celebrate Chief Buthelezi’s “great life” while the church should thank him for being a “faithful Anglican”, the Archbishop said.

On 31 August 2018 a public ceremony will be held to commemorate Chief Buthelezi at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. The Prince of Wales is among the guests expected at the event, the South African press reports.

Photo: Chief Buthelezi in 1983

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