IFP founder and traditional Prime minister to the Zulu Royal family Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has died.
He was 95 years old.
The family announced Buthelezi’s death in a statement released early on Saturday morning.
“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,” read the statement.
The family said it will engage with Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Buthelezi family and the leadership of the IFP as the necessary funeral arrangements are made.
Further details in this regard will be announced in due course.
The family has asked for privacy as it deals with this “unspeakable trauma”.
“We thank the nation for the immense support that has been shown towards our family in the past few weeks, and give thanks for the prayers that will surely sustain us now.
“May South Africa’s beloved servant rest in peace,” read the statement.”
Commenting on Buthelezi’s death, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Buthelezi has been an outstanding leader in the political and cultural life of our nation, including the ebbs and flows of our liberation struggle, the transition which secured our freedom in 1994 and our democratic dispensation.
“My thoughts and prayers and those of government and our nation go out to the Royal Household who have been blessed to share,” said Ramaphosa.
uMntwana waKwaPhindangene’s extended lifetime with him, as well as to the Zulu Nation and the leadership and membership of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
Buthelezi was born on August 27, 1928, in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The son of the late Zulu nation ruler, King Dinuzulu’s daughter, Princess Magogo, Buthelezi attended Adam’s College and the University of Fort Hare, among other institutions.
A former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) member, Buthelezi formed the Inkatha Freedom Party in 1975.
Despite being opposed to the apartheid government, Buthelezi accepted a role as chief minister of the KwaZulu government, which was one of the Bantustan administrations created by the government.
However, while other Bantustans leaders accepted the title of being presidents of their so-called independent states, Buthelezi did not accept the government’s proposal that KwaZulu should become an independent Bantustan.
Despite Buthelezi’s stance that ANC leaders advised him to form the IFP so that the movement could be used as a weapon to counter the apartheid government inside the country, the IFP founder was subsequently vilified by some ANC leaders who labelled him as a puppet for the apartheid government.
The animosity between Buthelezi and some ANC leaders led to violent confrontations between the IFP supporters and those of the ANC.
According to statistics, the violence between supporters of the two political parties claimed the lives of about 20 000 people in the late 80s and early 90s.
When leaders of political parties held talks during the build up to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, Buthelezi initially refused to be part of them.
As a condition for participating in the talks, Buthelezi demanded that the country should be a federal state, with provinces being independent from the central government.
Further, Buthelezi demanded that land under the Ingonyama Trust should continue being under the control of KZN traditional leaders post-1994.
While it was agreed that land under the Ingonyama Trust should continue being under the control of traditional leaders, Buthelezi’s demand for a federal state was referred to a team of international mediators – which until now is yet to deal with the matter.
Following an agreement between Buthelezi and the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) negotiators, the IFP subsequently agreed to participate in the elections.
Agreements reached at Codesa saw Buthelezi serving for 10 years as Home Affairs Minister following the country’s first democratic elections of 1994.
During his tenure as Home Affairs Minister, Buthelezi had a fallout with the then Home Affairs Department Director General, Billy Masetlha.
A former ANC intelligence operative, Masetlha was of the view that Buthelezi intended to use his cabinet minister position to push an IFP agenda.
The situation saw Masetlha on a number of occasions refusing to take instructions from Buthelezi, who at the time accused the ANC-led government of giving him “a spook” for a Director General.
As the relationship between the two deteriorated, Buthelezi penned a strongly worded letter to Masethla:
“I will no longer tolerate your open defiance and reserve all my rights herein,” the then IFP president said.
When the unity government arrangement which made it possible for Buthelezi to serve as cabinet minister lapsed, Buthelezi remained an IFP MP in the National Assembly.
At the time, the IFP which was the third largest political party, was the majority party in KZN.
However, in the 2004 general elections, the IFP was dislodged from power in KZN by the ANC.
In 2009, the IFP lost its KZN official opposition status after several of the party’s supporters deserted the organisation to join the newly formed IFP splinter political party, the NFP.
Led by former ANC national chairperson, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, the NFP also snatched several rural KZN municipalities, including Zululand, from the IFP.
The IFP’s loss of support led to Buthelezi accusing Magwaza-Msibi of using funds from NFP-controlled municipalities to bankroll her party’s elections campaign.
However, following Magwaza-Msibi’s ill health due to a stroke, the NFP soon disintegrated.
And in 2019, the IFP regained its official opposition status in KZN following that year’s general elections.
In the 2021 general elections, the IFP regained almost all the rural municipalities it had lost to the NFP in previous polls.
At the time Buthelezi, who remained IFP MP until his death, had relinquished his position as IFP president, handing the baton to the current party leader, Velenkosini Hlabisa who was elected unopposed during the party’s 2019 nation general conference.
Apart from keeping the IFP afloat during difficult times, Buthelezi has been credited for his role in ensuring the appointment of the current Zulu Monarch, King Misuzulu kaZwelithini as leader of the Zulu nation.
Following the death of his father, King Goodwill kaZwelithini in 2020, King Misuzulu kaZwelithini – who according to Zulu cultural experts was the legitimate heir to the throne – faced immense opposition from some members of the Zulu royal family.
Using his wealth of knowledge of Zulu royal family traditions, Buthelezi ensured that King Misuzulu was installed as Zulu King.
However, in 2023 Buthelezi had a fallout with the new Zulu King.
According to Buthelezi, the source of the dispute between him and the King was the Zulu Monarch’s decision to replace long-serving Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya.
King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, Buthelezi said, had removed Ngwenya without consulting him as the Zulu nation prime minister.
On July 24, Buthelezi’s spokesperson, Liezl van der Merwe announced that the IFP founder has been admitted in hospital following a “minor procedure”.
“Although he was discharged, he unfortunately needed to be readmitted for further treatment and recovery,” she said.
On September 9 it was announced that Buthelezi has died.
Buthelezi, who was 95 at the time of his death, is survived by his daughter, Princess Phumzile Buthelezi and his son, Zuzifa Buthelezi.