King Goodwill Zwelithini became the eighth Zulu Monarch following the death of his father, King Cyprian in 1968 and brief regency that lasted until 1971 when he ascended the Zulu throne. Relations between Zwelithini and Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, Chief Minister of Kwa-Zulu were strained, and in 1972 Zwelithini's position was declared as only ceremonial. This marked the beginning of a tumultuous relationship between Chief Buthelezi and King Zwelithini.
For the better part of the 1970s Buthelezi and Zwelithini were often at loggerheads. Buthelezi accused Zwelithini of interfering in party politics in violation of his role as a ceremonial head of Kwa-Zulu. Accusations and counter accusations abounded in 1979, with Buthelezi claiming that Zwelithini had conspired with the Mozambican Government to overthrow the Kwa-Zulu Government.
It was only early in the 1980s that relations between the two were mended. This followed the emergence of the United Democratic Front (UDF), an internal resistance movement aligned to the African National Congress (ANC) vigorously opposed to homeland governments, including Kwa Zulu. The UDF had garnered significant support in Kwa Zulu, particularly at the University of Zululand, where Buthelezi was Chancellor. In one of his visits to the Campus, Buthelezi was accompanied by Zulu impis or warriors, who attacked students, leaving more than a dozen of them dead.
As tensions escalated in the second half of the 1980s, and clashes between Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) supporters became more bloody and frequent. The ANC President Oliver Tambo blamed the Kwa-Zulu government for fuelling the flames of political violence. Zwelithini's response to this condemnation of the Kwa-Zulu government suggested a change of heart on his part. He demanded an apology from the ANC, and subsequently threw his support behind the IFP. Zwelithini was also opposed to sanctions being imposed against South Africa, a position that further alienated him from the ANC.
The rift between Zwelithini and the ANC continued to widen until and after CODESA in 1991 and 1992. It was only later in 1992, when Mandela assured him that under the new dispensation his position will be assured that tensions subsided. Zwelithini is currently on cordial relations with the ANC and the government, and continues to enjoy privileges as the Zulu Monarch.
Dear friends of SAHO
South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.
SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.
Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.