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PoliticsSouth Africa

South Africa: Veteran Zulu politician Buthelezi dies at 95

September 9, 2023

South Africa's president announced the passing of Mangosuthu Buthelezi, founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Buthelezi was involved in South Africa's post-apartheid government and sometimes served as acting president.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi stepped down as leader of his Inkatha Freedom Party 2019 after 44 years at the helmImage: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty Images

In South Africa, veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi has died, the country's presidency said in a statement on Saturday.

"I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi ... Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, and the Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.

"He quietly and painlessly stepped into eternity in the early hours of the morning," Buthelezi's family said in a statement.

The Zulu prince and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was 95 at the time of his death.

Local media site News24 reported that Buthelezi had undergone a procedure for back pain in July and was readmitted for treatment. 

South African Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi dies at 95

IFP 'gives thanks' for Buthelezi's leadership

South Africa's presidency said there would be consultation with Buthelezi's family and government on arrangements "to mourn and honor the Inkosi of the Buthelezi clan as a formidable leader who has played a significant role in our country's history for seven decades."

Current IFP leader, Velenkosini Hlabisa, said in a statement that "as South Africa mourns, the IFP gives thanks — even through our tears — for the exceptional leader given to us for so many years. He blessed our country beyond measure. We cannot begin to express our gratitude." 

A controversial political figure

Buthelezi was leader of the IFP during South Africa's period of unrest leading to the country's transition during the 80s and early to mid-90s.

Buthelezi has been seen as a controversial figure who was at odds with the now governing African National Congress (ANC).

Thousands of people were killed in violent clashes during this period. The apartheid government at the time was accused of stoking political violence with the use of a clandestine third force, claims which the last apartheid president, FW de Klerk, has denied.

Buthelezi would famously backtrack at the last minute and go on to participate in the country's first free and fair elections in April 1994, a vote which ended apartheid rule and brought Nelson Mandela to office.

Buthelezi would serve in the government of national unity as Minister of Home Affairs, and even stood in as acting president, during which time he signed an order to send troops into neighboring Lesotho to quell unrest.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi stepped down as leader of his Inkatha Freedom Party 2019 after 44 years at the helm.

kb/wd (Reuters, AFP)