Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu prince and apartheid-era rival of Mandela, dies at 95


Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a Zulu prince and a prominent figure in South African politics for seven decades, died on Saturday at the age of 95, his family and the president announced.

Buthelezi Inkatha Freedom party

Buthelezi, who founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975, was a controversial and divisive leader who clashed with the African National Congress (ANC) during the struggle against apartheid and after the end of white minority rule in 1994.

He served as the traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation, South Africa's largest ethnic group, and as the minister of home affairs in the first two post-apartheid governments led by Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who leads the ANC, paid tribute to Buthelezi as "a formidable leader who played a significant role in our country's history for seven decades".

"He was a man of great courage who fearlessly spoke his mind on matters of national interest," Ramaphosa said in a statement.

Buthelezi's family said he died peacefully at his home in KwaZulu-Natal province after a long illness.

They described him as "a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather" who dedicated his life to serving his people and his country.

Buthelezi was born into the Zulu royal family in 1928 and educated at Fort Hare University, where he met Mandela and other future leaders of the liberation movement.

He became involved in politics in the 1950s and joined the ANC, but later broke away over ideological differences and formed the IFP, which advocated for Zulu autonomy and cultural preservation.

He also opposed the armed struggle against apartheid and sought to negotiate with the white regime, which earned him accusations of being a collaborator and a traitor from some of his former comrades.

In the 1980s and 1990s, his party was involved in bloody conflicts with the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and in migrant workers' hostels around Johannesburg, which claimed about 20,000 lives.

He initially boycotted the 1994 elections that brought Mandela to power, but changed his mind at the last minute after securing concessions on regional powers and representation.

He joined Mandela's government of national unity as the home affairs minister, a post he held until 2004.

He remained the leader of the IFP until 2019, when he stepped down and became the party's president emeritus.

He was also a staunch defender of the Zulu monarchy and tradition, and played a key role in resolving the succession dispute that followed the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini earlier this year.

Buthelezi was praised by some as a visionary and a peacemaker, but criticised by others as a warlord and an opportunist.

He leaves behind a complex legacy that reflects the turbulent history and present reality of South Africa.

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