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Mangosuthu Buthelezi, South African politician and Zulu leader, dies aged 95

Controversial politician and traditional minister of the Zulu nation Mangosuthu Buthelezi has died at the age of 95.

He was the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the third largest political party in South Africa when the country transitioned from the apartheid system to a democratic one in 1994.

He served two terms as Minister of Home Affairs in the post-apartheid government after burying the hatchet with the governing African National Congress party in 1994.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to Mr Buthelezi calling him an “outstanding leader” in both the political and cultural life of the nation.

He said: “Prince Buthelezi, who served as the democratic South Africa’s first Minister of Home Affairs, passed away in the early hours of today, Saturday, 9 September 2023, just two weeks after the celebration of his 95th birthday.

“Prince Mangosuthu 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.”

The veteran politician had been admitted to hospital in July after a failed medical procedure to ease his back pain, according to his family.

Arrangements for his mourning and funeral will be announced after consultations with the Zulu royal family, said Mr Ramaphosa.

Mr Buthelezi established the IFP in 1975 as a national cultural movement founded on the ideology of Zulu nationalism, which became a political force in what is now known as the KwaZulu-Natal province.

FILE ??? Controversial South African politician and traditional minister of South Africa's large Zulu ethnic group, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in traditional dress March 26, 2009. Buthelezi has died at the age of 95, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.. (AP Photo/File)
Mangosuthu Buthelezi in traditional dress in 2009. (Photo:AP)

Initially aligned to the African National Congress, the IFP later became involved in violent clashes with ANC supporters in the 1980s and early 1990s.

This culminated in what became known as the Shell House Massacre in 1994.

Nineteen IFP supporters were shot and killed by ANC security guards after almost 20,000 of them marched to Shell House in Johannesburg, then the headquarters of the ANC.

They opposed the upcoming elections and accused the ANC of undermining Zulu leaders and chiefs.

Mr Buthelezi opposed apartheid but he took a controversial stance on certain issues putting him at odds with ANC leaders, including his opposition to international sanctions against apartheid and his support for free markets at a time when most liberation movements were largely socialist.

His leadership of the Zululand administration was considered a betrayal to Black South Africans as the “homelands” system was an integral part of the apartheid framework.

However, his decision to participate in the first post-apartheid election in 1994 brought peace between the IFP and the ANC.

Newly-elected president Nelson Mandela appointed him minister of home affairs, a position he continued to hold in the second administration of former president Thabo Mbeki.

(FILES) African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela (R) shakes hands with Zulu's Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi after their day-long meeting in Durban, 01 March 1994. Mandela meets Buthelezi in a bid to persuade him to take part in South Africa's first democratic and multiracial general elections to be held on the 27th April 1994. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, historic leader of the Inkhata Freedom Party, died on September 9, 2023 at the age of 95, the South African Presidency announced. (Photo by WALTER DHLADHLA / AFP) (Photo by WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP via Getty Images)
ANC president Nelson Mandela (R) shakes hands with IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi after their day-long meeting in Durban in March 1994, ahead of South Africa’s first democratic elections. (Photo: Walter Dhladhla/ AFP/Getty)

He remained a member of South Africa’s Parliament from 1994 until his death and the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party until he was replaced at its national conference in 2019.

Deeply involved in the affairs of the Zulu nation, he served as a traditional prime minister and advisor to the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and his successor, his son King Misuzulu KaZwelithini.

He was renowned for his incredibly long parliamentary speeches – one said to be 427 pages long – and once ventured into the world of film to play his great-grandfather Zulu King Cetshwayo kaMpande in the 1964 blockbuster Zulu.

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