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Tributes for 'giant leader' Dr Frank Mdlalose

Former MEC Dhlomo with former premier Dr Frank Mdlalose and his wife Eunice.
Former MEC Dhlomo with former premier Dr Frank Mdlalose and his wife Eunice.
Image: Supplied

The first premier of KwaZulu-Natal, IFP veteran Dr Frank Mdlalose, has died of Covid-19, the party announced on Saturday.

“It is with deep sadness that the IFP announces the passing of our former national chairperson, Dr Frank Mdlalose, who has succumbed to Covid-19. We extend our condolences to his daughter, Ms Makhosazana Mdlalose, and to his wife who is currently in hospital fighting this virus. We pray for her and we wish her strength,” party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi said in a statement.

Mdlalose, 89, was the province's first democratically-elected premier from May 1994 until March 1997. He also served as SA's ambassador to Egypt, and retired from active politics in 2005.

Buthelezi hailed the former premier as an “outstanding servant of the people of SA” whose “leadership qualities quickly showed” and praised “his ability to ignite a vision in our people”.

Mdlalose also served as minister of the interior and then-minister of health in the KwaZulu-Natal homeland cabinet, however he also played an integral role in the transition negotiations.

During the constitutional negotiations, he became one of the IFP’s main negotiators, and was our country’s champion for federalism and the creation of provinces. When SA achieved democracy in 1994 and the electorate placed KwaZulu-Natal under the governance of the IFP, we appointed Dr Mdlalose as the first premier of the province,” said Buthelezi.

Mdlalose was the IFP’s national chairperson and premier of KwaZulu-Natal until “ill health forced him to relinquish these positions. He handed over the premiership to Dr Ben Ngubane, having laid a good foundation of democratic governance in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Buthelezi said the IFP was proud when the national government appointed Mdlalose as SA’s Ambassador to Egypt. Again, adding that he served with distinction.

“I am grateful to have served our country alongside a leader of his calibre, and to have maintained a friendship with him long after our political work together ended. We remained close, exchanging correspondence regularly. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to see one another just six months ago,” he added.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said the province mourned the passing of the “giant leader” and was indebted to him for his  “unquantifiable contribution to peace and prosperity in the province”.

“The passing of Dr Mdlalose comes a few days before we celebrate the 27th year since the country chose a people’s democracy based on nonracialism, non-sexism and the equality of all human beings.

“Dr Mdlalose sits among the rare breed of civil servants who sacrificed their potentially lucrative careers as full-time medical doctors to dedicate their lives to the service of our nation. By so doing, he entered a world of uncertainty and one which was marked by twists and turns.”

Zikalala said he established himself as a leader during political turmoil in KwaZulu-Natal.

“While conditions may threaten to overwhelm, they also define leaders who are suited to the time, as Dr Mdlalose was for the transition from apartheid to democracy. The period of the late 80s to the 90s was one of the most painful in the life of KwaZulu-Natal, witnessing some of the most violent confrontation between the ANC and the IFP. Thousands were killed on either side in a war that was later described as having been fuelled by a  so-called third hand.

“This period required the calm and visionary leadership of leaders on either side such as Nelson Mandela and the strategic intervention of people such as Dr Mdlalose in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Zikalala said that in 1991, Mdlalose, together with then ANC chairperson of Southern Natal Jacob Zuma, led the first peace efforts between their two parties when they set up the Peace and Reconstruction Foundation.

“Dr Mdlalose was a leader with eyes fixed firmly on the masses of our people and extending beyond the party line. He believed fervently, that peace was a necessary condition not only for successful national and provincial elections, but for the socio-economic development of the people of the province.

“We will remember Dr Mdlalose for his prominent role as leader and negotiator during the Codesa negotiations which were held at Kempton Park and eventually led to the 1994 elections. Following the democratic elections, Dr Mdlalose was elected premier. In 1996 Dr Mdlalose was appointed by President Mandela to become SA’s ambassador to Egypt.”

Mdlalose was born in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal village of Nquthu on November 29, 1931. He studied at the University of Fort Hare where he obtained a BSc degree in 1952 and a University Education Diploma in 1953. In 1958 he obtained a MB Ch B degree from the University of Natal.

In his formative years, Mdlalose was a member of the ANC Youth League before becoming one of the founding members of the IFP in 1975, together with IFP President Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi.


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