Prince Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi dies

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a one on one interview with Itumeleng Mafisa from the Star at the Edward Hotel in DurbanPicture: Shelley Kjonstad / African News Agency (ANA)

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a one on one interview with Itumeleng Mafisa from the Star at the Edward Hotel in DurbanPicture: Shelley Kjonstad / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 9, 2023


Former Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) founder and President Emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi has died at the age of 95.

Buthelezi's death was confirmed in a statement released by his family said: “It is with utter grief that we, the family of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, announce the passing of South Africa’s truest champion and greatest servant, our father, uMntwana wa KwaPhindangene.

“In this devastating moment, we thank God Almighty for His faithfulness and grace, knowing with certainty that uMntwana has been embraced by His Lord. He quietly and painlessly stepped into eternity in the early hours of this morning.

“We realise that this loss will be deeply felt by many and that many will wish to express their condolences and pay their respects in the days ahead. The family will engage His Majesty the King and the Royal Family, His Excellency the President, the Buthelezi Clan and the leadership of the Inkatha Freedom Party as the necessary funeral arrangements are made. Further details in this regard will be announced in due course.”

An ailing Buthelezi was hospitalised in Durban’s St. Augustine’s hospital in July. Despite reports at the time that he was battling a terminal illness, his spokesperson Liezl Van Der Merwe poured cold water on these claims. At the time she confirmed his hospitalisation for the routine treatment of a back problem.

Buthelezi was subsequently moved to the intensive care unit where he spent a few weeks before being discharged into the care of his family.

He was born on August 27, 1928 into the Zulu Royal family in the Mahlabathini district of KwaZulu Natal and is the son of Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, sister of King Solomon and Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, the King’s Prime Minister. His royal bonds earned him the title of Prince and he served the Zulu monarch and nation as traditional prime minister.

One of South Africa’s most controversial and divisive figures in the country’s political landscape, Buthelezi, joined the ANC Youth League in 1948 while a student at the University of Fort Hare.

Following the banning of the ANC in the 1960, Buthelezi founded the Inkatha yeNkulukelo yeSizwe in 1975 as a cultural organisation. A year later he opted to participate in the apartheid’s state’s abhorred homeland system and served as the Chief Minister of the KwaZulu bantustan during the period 1976-1994.

At the time Buthelezi claimed to have the blessings of the ANC and its then leader OR Tambo. However, the ANC refuted this claim on a number of occasions.

Buthelezi’s opposition to the ANC’s campaigns of armed struggle, sanctions and disinvestment placed him at odds with his former political home and gave rise to a violent contest for supremacy.

Despite his public commitment non-violence and negotiations, the provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng were engulfed in an orgy of violence spearheaded by Inkatha, the KwaZulu Natal bantustan and the apartheid state’s political and security against the ANC aligned Mass Democratic Movement. More than 20 000 lives were lost and thousands more maimed during this period.

Buthelezi also became the poster boy for the apartheid state’s international campaign opposing economic, sporting and cultural sanctions. The ANC’s campaign to isolate the apartheid state became a potent weapon in its arsenal and was a major contributing factor which led to the collapse of governance in the country and triggered the unbanning of the liberation movements and constitutional negotiation.

Following the unbanning of the liberation movements on February 2, 1990, and prior to the commencement of political negotiations, Inkatha was transformed from a cultural movement into the political party Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

Buthelezi and the IFP joined the constitutional negotiations in 1992 but withdrew their participation in 1993 after accusing the ANC and the apartheid state of negotiating in bad faith.

During this period the intercine violence, sponsored by the apartheid state and with participation of the IFP, continued unabated and almost derailed the 1994 polls.

Buthelezi was convinced to join the elections at the last minute and the IFP secured victory in a bitterly contested and controversial poll in KwaZulu Natal.

Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, Buthelezi served in a government of national unity and was appointed Minister of Home Affairs.

The GNU collapsed in 2004 with Buthlezi leading the IFP in Parliament as part of the opposition.

Buthelezi was equally controversial in his role as traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch. This became more pronounced following the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu where he became embroiled in a number of bitter disputes within the Zulu royal family following the appointment of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

This is a developing story with more details to follow.

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