The Presidential Years

But remember that Madiba was working within the ANC policy, the founding policy. Think back to Pixley ka Seme saying, ‘We must bury the demon of tribalism.’ But at the same time it was a very nuanced position. They would recall the important role that was played by kingdoms and traditional leaders in organising resistance to colonial invasion; they were in that sense extolling their virtues. They were reciting the personal histories, to say that it was a history of bravery: Hintsa, Moshoeshoe, Sekhukhune, Makhado: ‘but we were defeated because we were fighting as separate tribes’. Then apartheid sought to use ethnicity as politicised identities to justify the so-called separate development, divide and rule, and so on.

The idea of working with traditional leaders was to get them to embrace the traditions introduced by their forebears when they fought against colonialism and subsequently against apartheid.

I think Madiba understood the rootedness of that institution amongst the people, given his own background, and that if you choose to make it your enemy you are creating an enemy that you don’t need.

​ Sydney Mufamadi