Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi cuts a dazzling figure in his R90 000 birthday present.
I am saddened by the continued public controversy being created over the personal matter of a suit which was made for my 90th birthday celebration. I did not commission the suit, nor did I expect to receive such a magnificent kindness from Janak Parekh.

On his own initiative, Mr Parekh has designed suits for me in the past. Evidently, he became aware of my admiration for Eastern apparel which I have been purchasing for years from Mumbai, through a shop in London.

Before I ever met Mr Parekh, I bought this style of suit in New Delhi. Fifty years ago, a tailor in Durban, Mr Daya, made the first Eastern inspired suit for me.

On the few occasions that Mr Parekh presented me with a suit, I have always felt compelled to pay for his remarkable creations.

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

I already had my suit for the dinner but felt I should not disappoint Mr Parekh and his family.

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.

I am thus taken by surprise to see that Mr Parekh has approached the media claiming that he has no idea why I returned the suit and saying that he is “traumatised and heartbroken”.

His interviews have fixated on the cost of the suit, which he revealed to the Sunday Tribune, saying, “It’s worth over R90 000 which is in line with the number of years on earth Buthelezi is celebrating.”

In the Daily News and The Swazi Observer Mr Parekh is quoted as saying, “I shouldn’t have let slip how much it cost.”

However, in The Sowetan and The Herald, he claims that he did not disclose the price of the suit to anyone, saying, “I don’t know how this even came out. I would never reveal (what) it costs because that is like buying someone a gift and leaving the price tag on.”

I cannot fathom why Mr Parekh is continuing to create a fuss in the media when we have interacted on this personal matter with no confusion.

Nevertheless, because it has become the focus of such public and unwarranted attention, I felt it necessary to present the facts.

* Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.