IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his wife Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi. Picture: Enos Mhlongo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

JOHANNESBURG - The Nelson Mandela Foundation has sent a message of condolences on the passing of Princess Irene Buthelezi, the wife of Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

She died on Monday after a long illness.

"We have learned with great sadness of the passing of Princess Irene Buthelezi. We send the condolences of our Chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele, the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the whole family," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Nelson Mandela had known Mrs Buthelezi since before he was imprisoned, having first met her father, Mr Zachariah Mzila in the 1940s.

"While he was in prison Mr Mandela corresponded with her, most notably in 1969 after his son Thembi was killed in a car accident, when he wrote 'Death is a frightful disaster no matter what the cause and the age of the person affected'”.

The foundation said in the letter Mandela asked her to pass on his gratitude to Chief Buthelezi for his telegram of condolence on Thembi’s passing.

The statement from the foundation concluded: "Our deepest condolences to Chief Buthelezi, their children Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa and Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela."

- African News Agency (ANA); Edited by Moses Mudzwiti