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Buthelezi ‘a great leader and human being, a giant’

The late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. File Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

The late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. File Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 12, 2023


Durban — Prominent KwaZulu-Natal leaders have shared their brief memories of the impact Prince Mangosuthu “Gatsha” Buthelezi had on them.

The chairman of the Juma Masjid Mosque in Durban, Ahmed Vally Mahomed, described Buthelezi as a great human being who cared for all humanity irrespective of race. Mahomed said South Africa has lost a great giant who has been fighting for social cohesion all his life.

“I was present at the ICC in Durban when Buthelezi celebrated his 90th birthday in 2018. He respected all religions as he was a great friend of the Muslims. It is really a sad moment for all who crossed paths with him,” said Mahomed.

South African businessman Vivian Reddy said he has known Buthelezi for the past 35 years “as we worked very closely in the era of tensions between Indians and the Zulu people”. Reddy said another thing he loved about Buthelezi is the respect he had for him even though he knew very well that he is a staunch ANC supporter.

“He played a vital role together with the late King Goodwill Zwelithini. We have lost a great leader who responded very swiftly to issues. He respected all humankind, even religious-wise. He would attend even our cultural events including Diwali functions. I will remember him as someone who championed the cohesion of the Zulu people and Indians,” Reddy said.

In a joint statement from the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), which Buthelezi founded, he was described as a mentor, friend, philanthropist, and father to many South Africans. Sandile Zungu, MUT Chancellor; Professor Lourens van Staden (MUT administrator), and Professor Marcus Ramogale, MUT’s Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal; said Buthelezi meant so many things to so many people.

“The community of MUT is in grief. On Sunday, 27 August, we, the staff and students of MUT celebrated his birthday on our MUT Radio, not knowing that the birthday messages he was receiving were to be his last.

“A big tree has fallen. The gigantic tree that Prince Buthelezi was, spread its roots across South Africa and the entire African continent. When Prince Buthelezi established MUT in 1979 with just 15 students, he knew, as a visionary person, that this small institution would grow into a large educational organisation that would have the greatest impact on the poor and the marginalised.

“Today MUT has more than 14 000 students and has produced more than 42 000 alumni who are employed across the world as industry and business leaders, as CEOs and as technical specialists in wide-ranging careers,” read the statement.

MUT further said that Buthelezi was bold and knew how to use his network for the benefit of “abantu abampisholo”, meaning marginalised people and communities. He used this expression many times.

It was indeed his compassion for the poor that impelled him to approach Sir Harry Oppenheimer of Anglo-American to provide seed funding for the establishment of MUT in 1979.

Anglo-American continues even today to support MUT with student bursaries. “For our part, we are grateful that we were able to honour Buthelezi when he was still alive at our 2022 graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Engineering, for his vision that led to the establishment of MUT with the Faculty of Engineering as a founding entity.

“All of us have known uMntwana as a person who always wanted nothing but the best for MUT. He was like a father who provides the best for his children and stands there to watch in awe as the children exceed all expectations.”

When MUT received the “Excelleration Award” from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2021, in recognition of the excellence of its research and the accelerated speed with which the turnaround happened, Prince Buthelezi wrote:

“I am proud of what MUT has accomplished. More than that, however, I am excited by what this means for the future. Seeing MUT come this far, I know that it has the potential to go even further. With the investments being made in research, innovation, and technology at MUT, I have no doubt that there will be more awards like this, and with the investments that are being made in international partnerships, it is clear that MUT is a rising star.”

“Prince Buthelezi’s last meeting with us was at the inauguration of our Chancellor Mr Sandile Zungu, on 17 March 2023 at MUT’s Seme Hall. We were happy to meet him, and he also seemed very excited.

“This event was attended by more than 200 industry captains, MUT alumni, and all strategic stakeholder groupings. At this event, he urged all of us to lead this university to greater heights. His plea has not fallen on deaf ears. We will ensure that MUT continues to grow in strength and stature so that his legacy is honoured and protected.”

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