Mangosuthu Buthelezi Dies At 95 In South Africa

In the early hours of a Saturday, South Africa lost a prominent figure in its political landscape, who had recently celebrated his 95th birthday. Chief Buthelezi, according to a report by the BBC, had a complex and influential role during the apartheid era and beyond.

During the dark days of apartheid, Chief Buthelezi established the Zulu Inkatha party as a response to his disillusionment with the African National Congress (ANC). This period witnessed violent clashes between the supporters of these two political parties, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives in the early 1990s.

However, Chief Buthelezi’s political journey took a different turn when he reconciled with the ANC and served as Nelson Mandela’s Minister of Home Affairs. His political stance was characterized by moderation, particularly as the leader of the Zulu ethnic homeland.

Notably, Chief Buthelezi disagreed with the ANC’s armed resistance strategy against white-minority rule. He also opposed international sanctions against South Africa, arguing that they would disproportionately harm the country’s black majority.

During the tumultuous clashes of the early 1990s, accusations arose that Chief Buthelezi collaborated with the white-minority government, and there were concerns that the violence could escalate into a civil war, jeopardizing the transition to democracy that ultimately saw Nelson Mandela assume the presidency in 1994. Chief Buthelezi consistently denied any collaboration with the apartheid security forces.

President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to Chief Buthelezi, describing him as a “formidable leader” who had played a pivotal role in South Africa’s history for seven decades. He acknowledged Chief Buthelezi’s contributions to the nation’s political and cultural life, spanning from the liberation struggle to the transition to democracy in 1994.

Chief Buthelezi, who was the hereditary chief of the Zulus, South Africa’s largest ethnic group, hailed from the Zulu royal family. His mother was Princess Magogo kaDinzulu, the sister of the Zulu king. Additionally, he portrayed his own great-grandfather, Zulu King Cetshwayo, in the 1964 film “Zulu.” Over his long political career, he served as prime minister of KwaZulu, the Zulu homeland, and in 1975, he founded the Inkatha Freedom Party, a Zulu political and cultural movement. In 2019, after 44 years of leadership, he stepped down as the party’s leader.