Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi at his 90th birthday celebrations at the Durban ICC. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said he was saddened by the “public controversy” over the R90 000 golden birthday suit he had been given as a gift.

Buthelezi wore the gold-threaded suit, which took five artisans two months to complete, to his 90th birthday celebrations two weeks ago at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC.

But, days later, he returned the item to the Parekh family, who had presented it to him.

“I am saddened by the continued public controversy being created over the personal matter of a suit. I did not commission the suit nor did I expect to receive such magnificent kindness from Mr Janak Parekh.”

Buthelezi said he had always paid for his suits, but when he was presented with the suit by Parekh, he was told it was a gift.

“This suit, however, I could certainly not have afforded. When Mr Parekh presented it to me, he explained that he had made it specifically for my 90th birthday gala dinner. I thus agreed to wear it for the dinner.

“After the dinner, I returned the suit to Mr Parekh with a written letter thanking him for his kindness.

“I expressed my hope that I would see it worn again at another gala event and explained that it would be a pity to have such a valuable and beautiful item simply hanging in my wardrobe.

“My hope was that the suit could be sold to defray the costs Mr Parekh must have incurred when he decided to have it made,” said Buthelezi.