The former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo paid a moving tribute to his close friend Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and called on the people of the African continent to continue honouring him and holding him in high regard.
“Buthelezi had the misfortune of being born in trying times, but he had the fortune to walk amongst giants and become a giant himself,” Obasanjo said speaking at Buthelezi’s funeral in Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.
“Africa must continue to honour and hold him in high regard and ensure that his legacy remains with us.”
Obasanjo told the thousands of attendees that they were not there to mourn the Zulu prince, but to celebrate his life.
He described Buthelezi as a hero, victor and conqueror in the struggle and fight against inhumanity, saying his life was dedicated to making other peoples lives better and to making the place he found himself in, better.
In remembering his friend and political counterpart, Obasanjo said that although the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) — which Buthelezi founded — had its issues, former president Nelson Mandela never questioned Buthelezi’s “genuineness”.
“Mandela knew who Buthelezi was. He knew, at his core [Buthelezi] was a committed fighter to the greater freedom of South Africa,” he said.
He said that Buthelezi should be commended for his negotiation skills and ability to remain a voice of reason in the fact that South Africa did not descend into a true civil war at the dawn of democracy.
“To learn more about his life, is to learn more about strong, moral leadership, commitment to principles and dedication to the people he served,” Obasanjo said.
“Buthelezi led the war for dignity, humanity and in particular, the dignity of the black man.”
He added that Buthelezi’s death was not only a big loss to his immediate family or country but was a big loss to the whole of Africa.
Buthelezi died on September 9 at the age of 95, a few days after he was discharged from hospital. He had been admitted for over a month and had undergone a medical procedure.