Durban - Local residents in Nkonjeni, Ulundi, in northern KwaZulu-Natal paid their respects to the family of the late IFP leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, at his home on Sunday.
Buthelezi, founder and president emeritus of the IFP, iNkosi of the Buthelezi clan and traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation, died on Saturday at the age of 95.
Many locals said while they had known that Buthelezi had been battling ill health associated with old age, they had been hoping for more time with him.
The locals, many of whom are IFP members and supporters, said they wanted Buthelezi well for the 2024 elections.
Speaking to The Mercury yesterday, Siyabonga Xulu said the last time he had seen Buthelezi had been in July, and he had been hopeful that the elder statesman would get better.
“It had been after the hosting of the Prince Mangosuthu Legacy Cup. It was clear that he was old, but that did not affect his enthusiasm,” said the 33-year-old.
He added there would be no one like Buthelezi and used a soccer analogy to illustrate his point.
“The great striker has passed on at a critical point of the match but because Prince Buthelezi trained us well, there are sufficient and able defenders, mid-fielders and strikers to ensure that the IFP team wins,” said the IFP member.
Another local, Lucky Shandu, said they had been deeply wounded by his death, but would soldier on as part of paying homage to their leader. “Because we knew him as a strong leader perhaps it was also important that he left us while in a good condition for his age.
“It would not have been nice to see a once eloquent leader unable to speak.
“So on those grounds we accept this chapter, sad as it is,” Shandu said. Wilson Ntshangase, the mayor of Ulundi Local Municipality which is run by the IFP, said Buthelezi was counted amount the heroes of liberation for South Africa. Ntshangase was responding to questions on Buthelezi’s legacy.
“When you speak about the liberation of South Africa, you are talking about the heroes who made us to be free today and you don't mention the name of uMntwana (Buthelezi) it means you are not honest.
“In fact, it means you don't know what you are talking about because among the sons of Africa, uMntwana is one of them, his name will never be forgotten,” Ntshangase said.
Petros Ngubane, a protege of Buthelezi who is the mayor of Umzinyathi District Municipality, could not contain his tears when asked to comment.
“He was like a father, he paid for my studies to be a teacher after my parents passed away,” Ngubane said.
Another protege of Buthelezi, Mntomuhle Khawula, whose parents were close to Buthelezi, also described him as a father figure who taught him to be honest as a leader and put the people first.
“To him, the people came first and that is the legacy we want to take forward as his followers and the party,” he said.