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'A very complex person': mixed tributes for departed IFP leader Buthelezi

The late prime minister of Zulu monarch, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi addressing amakhosi during a meeting relating to the Ingonyama Trust in Empangeni, northern KwaZuliu-Natal.
The late prime minister of Zulu monarch, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi addressing amakhosi during a meeting relating to the Ingonyama Trust in Empangeni, northern KwaZuliu-Natal.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

“A very complex person.”

These are some of the words that have been used to describe the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who died early on Saturday morning.

Buthelezi's death has been met with various reactions across sections of South African society.

Buthelezi's death was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa who paid tribute to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) founder calling him “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.”

However according to academic at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN), Sakhile Hadebe, Buthelezi's leagacy is not one that is easily summed-up.

“He is a very complex person. You must be multi-dimensional in your approach, so as not to be biased when looking at his life and legacy. For example...at some point he was an active member of the ANC Youth League. Where he participated in the struggle against apartheid. We later saw him forming Inkatha as a tool to fight against apartheid in the 70s but towards the 80s the relationship between Inkatha and the ANC fell out and now we saw Chief Buthelezi...collaborating with the same regime whom he was fighting as a member of the ANC Youth League,”

According to Hadebe, Prince Buthelezi was a man whose legacy will remain divided by opinion.

“You cannot say whether he is good or bad. He fought against apartheid and he also collaborated with apartheid,” said Hadebe.

Others will remember Buthulezi for the role he played in matters of tradition, particularly in his role as traditional prime minister to the zulu monarch.

Cluster leader of African languages and lingusitcs at UKZN and an expert on Zulu culture Dr Gugu Mazibuko described Buthelezi as deep well of knowledge.

“A huge tree of wisdom has fallen. Prince Buthelezi had a wealth of cultural and traditional heritage. He left an indelible mark in the sense that Prince Buthelezi participated in the revival, preservation as well as the protection of traditional leadership not only in SA but in the entire continent of Africa,”

“He made sure that traditional leadership is given significant preservation and dignity.” said Mazibuko.

Reacting to his passing, Build One SA (BOSA) leader Mmusi Maimane described Buthelezi's passing as “a painful day for SA and the end of an era,”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also paid tribute to Buthelezi, issuing a statement where he was described as “one of the most notable and influential politicians in SA.

Meanwhile leader of the official opposition Democratic Allaince (DA) John Steenhuisen described Buthelezi as ” as a true servant leader who dedicated his life to improving the lives of others,”

Buthelezi had recently celebrated his birthday turning 95 two weeks ago.

President Ramaphosa said that announcements will be made in due course, based on consultations between government and the Buthelezi family, on the arrangements to mourn and honour the Inkosi of the Buthelezi clan.

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