A RESPLENDENT Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi at his 90th birthday celebrations at the Durban ICC on Friday night. Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
Cut from the finest imported fabric and embroidered with genuine gold threads, it was certainly a suit made for a prince. That’s Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The specially tailored suit, said to be worth R90 000 was gifted to the veteran politician by Durban-based Indian-born designer Janak Parekh, in recognition of Buthelezi’s efforts to build South Africa’s “Rainbow Nation”.

Parekh, 61, has in the past made similar clothing offerings to former president Jacob Zuma - who was present at the gala dinner held at Durban’s ICC - Prince Charles, Martin Luther King jr and King Goodwill Zwelithini.

But he assured that the IFP leader’s coat, of many of golden threads which took two months to create, was exclusive to Buthelezi because of the bond they shared.

“My family has the highest regard for Buthelezi. So we decided to do something specially to celebrate his milestone birthday,” said Parekh.

Buthelezi became one of his first acquaintances when he landed in Durban in 1989, he said.

“Buthelezi was the first person I designed a suit for in 1993.”

He said Buthelezi was also the man who introduced his family to former president Nelson Mandela in 1999.

Such is the bond between the two men that when Parekh decided to marry a black woman, Ntokozo, against his family’s wishes, he consulted Buthelezi.

“He gave me his blessings. Now Ntokozo and I are married for 15 years and we are blessed to have a 14-year-old son,” he said.

Parekh was reluctant to disclose the cost of the outfit because he didn’t want money to be an issue when honouring the political giant.

He eventually relented: “It’s worth over R90 000 which is line with the number of years on earth Buthelezi is celebrating.”

While Parekh designed the suit, it was Wahab Master, from the province of Bihar in India, who was responsible for tailoring.

Buthelezi’s son, Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi, said: “We are extremely grateful and humbled as a family for the support we have received during my father’s birthday celebration.”

Among guests present were former president FW De Klerk and former first ladies Zanele Mbeki and Graça Machel.

Businessman Nicky Oppenheimer, the former chairman of De Beers diamond mining group, was also present.

Parekh said he approached Oppenheimer and jokingly said: “I would do one diamond suit for you, but only if you supply me with diamonds.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE