Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, commonly referred to as uMntwana wakwa Phindangene, has undoubtedly made a significant impact on the political landscape of South Africa, eliciting strong reactions from people across the nation.

As the nation reflects on his legacy, there has been ongoing discussion and debate surrounding his role as the founder and influential leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) during South Africa’s transition to democracy.

By Staff Reporter

Sad news greeted South Africans this Saturday morning as they learned of the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party and long-serving Prime Minister of the Zulu kingdom.

Buthelezi’s death comes just a fortnight after he celebrated his 95th birthday within the confines of a hospital.

His death was confirmed in a statement released by his family, which read: “It is with utter grief that we, the family of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, announce the passing of South Africa’s truest champion and greatest servant, our father, uMntwana wakwa Phindangene.

“In this devastating moment, we thank God Almighty for His faithfulness and grace, knowing with certainty that uMntwana has been embraced by His Lord. He quietly and painlessly stepped into eternity in the early hours of this morning.

“We realise that this loss will be deeply felt by many and that many will wish to express their condolences and pay their respects in the days ahead. The family will engage His Majesty the King and the Royal Family, His Excellency the President, the Buthelezi Clan and the leadership of the Inkatha Freedom Party as the necessary funeral arrangements are made. Further details in this regard will be announced in due course.”

Political Enigma

Buthelezi founded Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe, now known as the IFP, in 1975.

He said Oliver Tambo, the longest-serving president of the ANC, had requested this. Tambo was in exile in Lusaka, Zambia, as a result of the country’s ban on liberation movements.

Inkatha was initially intended to serve as an internal ally of the African National Congress (ANC) within South Africa. However, it swiftly evolved into a source of contention for the liberation movement at that time.

Following years of violent clashes between the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng, the IFP eventually participated in the first democratic elections and became a part of the initial post-democratic government in the country.

Today, some view Buthelezi as a figure who brought people together, but those who are familiar with his past recall him as someone who incited violence and was responsible for the deaths of many people in the townships of KZN and Gauteng during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In a 1990 New York Times review of Buthelezi’s book South Africa: My Vision of the Future Michael Clough said: “Depending on whom you talk to in South Africa, he is a tool of apartheid, a courageous opponent of white domination, a tribal warlord or a visionary proponent of democratic capitalism,” adding, “While he speaks eloquently of the need for nonviolence, his followers have been accused of murdering hundreds of their opponents in Natal Province.”

After the chaos settled and South Africa was on the verge of achieving democracy, it is estimated that more than 20,000 individuals lost their lives.

Buthelezi referred to it as a minor civil war and denied any responsibility for the killings carried out by IFP-aligned militia in various townships until his death. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that his Inkatha trainees were guilty of murdering activists from the ANC and UDF, with the South African Defence Force having trained these individuals.

In the period leading up to 1994, the prince actively advocated for the establishment of a federalist state and played a significant role in facilitating the creation of the Ingonyama Trust. However, Buthelezi ultimately surrendered at the last minute after withdrawing from the breakthrough talks of 1994 and threatening to boycott the elections.

Following the elections on April 27, he joined Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet. In 2019, Buthelezi stepped down as the party president after 44 years but retained the title of president emeritus. Even after his departure, his party’s election posters continued to reflect his popularity.


Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi was born in Mahlabathini, South Africa, on Aug. 27, 1928, to Chief Mathole Buthelezi and Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu. His parents were Zulu royalty, descended on his mother’s side from King Cetshwayo, who inflicted a historic defeat on British forces at Isandlwana in 1879, and on his father’s side from Chief Mathole Buthelezi, the prime minister for King Solomon kaDinuzulu. Buthelezi’s mother was King Solomon’s sister.

He attended Adams College, near Durban, from 1944 to 1947, then the University of Fort Hare from 1948 to 1950. He was expelled for taking part in political protests after joining the African National Congress Youth League. He later finished college at the University of Natal.

In 1952, he married Irene Mzila, a nurse. They had three sons and five daughters and were married almost 67 years before Princess Irene died in March 2019. Buthelezi is survived by three of their children — Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa and Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *