Zulu Nationalist and Mandela Rival Mangosuthu Buthelezi Passes Away at 95

07:36 09.09.2023

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a prominent figure in South Africa's struggle against apartheid, died on Saturday at the age of 95, according to a statement released by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. The statement did not specify the cause of his death or where it occurred. Buthelezi, who was a Zulu nationalist, played a significant role in the country's transition from a white segregationist society to a multiracial democracy in the 1990s. He positioned himself as Nelson Mandela's most powerful Black rival during this transformative period.

Buthelezi, pronounced mahn-goh-SOO-TOO boo-teh-LAY-zee, was a hereditary chief of the Zulus, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. Descended from royalty and known for his ambition, he sometimes wore leopard skins and carried assegai spears, traditional Zulu weapons, during ritual war dances for political advantage. He served as the prime minister of KwaZulu, a homeland for six million Zulus, and founded the Inkatha Freedom Party, a political and cultural movement with 1.9 million members.

While Buthelezi claimed to represent nearly a quarter of the country's Black population in 1990, he garnered support from many white South Africans by advocating for a peaceful transition to democracy and free enterprise. He vehemently opposed Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and its calls for international sanctions, armed struggle, and a socialist revolution to dismantle the apartheid regime in Pretoria.

However, Buthelezi's political career was marked by controversy and mixed views. Critics accused him of using devious tactics to amplify his power and of collaborating with the white minority government. Instead of openly challenging apartheid, which could have led to his imprisonment, he opposed the system from within the governing structures. Critics argued that under his leadership, KwaZulu operated like a dictatorship, with Buthelezi controlling the police, legislature, and courts to suppress anti-apartheid groups.

Historians and human rights activists contended that Buthelezi's Inkatha paramilitary fighters engaged in deadly clashes with ANC militants, resulting in the deaths of up to 20,000 people in the late 1980s and '90s. In 1991, Pretoria admitted to covertly subsidizing Inkatha in its conflict with the ANC, further fueling allegations of collaboration between Buthelezi and the white government.

Opinions about Buthelezi varied widely in South Africa. Some saw him as a tool of apartheid, while others viewed him as a courageous opponent of white domination or a visionary advocate for democratic capitalism. His followers often praised his eloquent speeches on nonviolence, but his critics accused Inkatha members of committing acts of violence against their opponents in Natal Province.

During negotiations for a new constitution in the early 1990s, Buthelezi positioned himself as a voice for capitalism, education, tribal and ethnic rights, and regional powers. While he occasionally boycotted the talks, the negotiations resulted in the dismantling of apartheid and the creation of a parliamentary democracy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches, a Bill of Rights, and universal suffrage.

In the first democratic elections held in 1994, Buthelezi campaigned with enthusiasm but won only 10 percent of the votes. Mandela became South Africa's first Black president, and Buthelezi was appointed as the Minister of Home Affairs. He retained this position under President Thabo Mbeki until 2004 and also served as a member of Parliament for two decades.

In the aftermath of apartheid, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to document human rights abuses during the era. In 1998, the commission concluded that Buthelezi had collaborated with the white regime, and Inkatha had been responsible for the massacre of thousands of opponents. Buthelezi challenged the findings in court, and as part of a 2003 settlement, his name was dropped from the final report.

Buthelezi was born on August 27, 1928, in Mahlabathini, South Africa, to Chief Mathole Buthelezi and Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, both of Zulu royalty. He attended Adams College and the University of Fort Hare but was expelled for participating in political protests. He later completed his studies at the University of Natal. In 1952, he married Irene Mzila, and together they had eight children. Irene passed away in March 2019 after nearly 67 years of marriage.

In 2019, Buthelezi stepped down as the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, and Velenkosini Hlabisa took over the position. However, Buthelezi continued to lead the party's caucus in the national Parliament.

With his passing, South Africa bids farewell to a controversial figure who played a significant role in the country's history and whose legacy remains a subject of debate.

/ Saturday, September 9, 2023, 7:36 AM /

themes:  War

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