Buthelezi’s spokesperson mourns his death

In one of happier times, Liezl Van der Merwe and the late inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Photo supplied

In one of happier times, Liezl Van der Merwe and the late inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Photo supplied

Published Sep 12, 2023


Durban — Liezl van der Merwe, an IFP member of Parliament and a personal spokesperson of Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said his death has left her emotionally traumatised.

The sudden loss of Buthelezi, the traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation, inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, and founder and president emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party has been an extremely painful and traumatic experience for me, Van der Merwe told the Daily News on Monday.

“I have lost a friend, father, colleague, mentor, and leader. He was someone I cared for and loved deeply,” she said.

Van der Merwe said she had the privilege of serving and working alongside Buthelezi for 17 years and had acted as his spokesperson and media officer for almost a decade, adding that during this time they formed a very close and deep bond – one which prompted Buthelezi to call her his daughter on many occasions.

Van der Merwe said that during their 17-year journey, she was privileged to travel abroad with Buthelezi and as a person more than half his age, she could never quite keep up with him.

Liezl van der Merwe.

“I don’t think I ever told uMntwana this, but the real reason I often flew ahead of him was just to rest. His schedule was just too punishing. One of the most memorable trips was when he was invited as a guest of Prince Harry to the screening of Shaka Zulu at Leicester Square in London,” she said.

“Walking the red carpet in Leicester Square alongside Buthelezi is a memory I will cherish forever. We also travelled to Germany and Nigeria. When our Nigerian visit did not quite pan out as planned, Buthelezi refused to leave his hotel room before he saw my face. It was only when I had arrived back at the hotel that he was willing to leave for the airport. Ours was a relationship built on trust,” said Van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe also described Buthelezi as a workaholic, saying one of his greatest qualities was his work ethic. She said in 17 years she never saw him taking a day off from work.

“He would often stay up very late, writing remarks for the next day, or taking the time to reply to each and every person that wrote him a letter. This was another of his unique qualities. He never thought of himself as better than the people he served. Having known Prince Buthelezi was the greatest blessing of my life,” she said.

“The relationship we shared became one that was the very embodiment of buntu botho – I am, because you are. Our responsibility, as those who have benefited from his love, guidance, and support, is to pick up the baton and continue his work. We will pick up the baton Buthelezi, and protect your legacy. I mourn a father, and a friend. A great tree has fallen. Shenge! Sokalisa!” she lamented.

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