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Message by HRH Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa Buthelezi

on behalf of the Buthelezi Family

at the Memorial Service Hosted by the Inkatha Freedom Party

in honour of 

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party

Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and Nation

Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan

Members of the Buthelezi Family and the Zulu Royal Family;

Members of the Buthelezi Clan;

The President of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa, and the leadership of the IFP;

Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Mrs Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula;

Members of Parliament and Members of the Provincial Legislatures;

Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Speakers and Councillors;

Amakhosi and Izinduna;

Members of the diplomatic corps;

And friends from near and far who seek to honour uMntwana waKwaPhindangene.

I was just 19 years old when my father returned from a trip to Lusaka, where he had gone to visit President Kenneth Kaunda. There was clearly a lot on his mind when he got home. The decisions he took over the next few days turned out to be the most significant of his life. They shaped the course of his political career. They shaped our family. And they shaped the destiny of South Africa for the next five decades.

Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe was born in 1975, and it became the centre of our lives.

When he spoke at the 40th anniversary of the IFP in May 2015, Prince Buthelezi said: “The journey of Inkatha has been a journey of my own soul… I have poured my time, energy and prayers into the work of this party… Whether by design or destiny, Inkatha was the right solution at the right time.”

I am grateful that the IFP has arranged this memorial service specifically to honour its Founder. There are many who grieve his passing, for he was not only the Founder of the IFP, but the Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, the founder of the Mangosuthu University of Technology, the founder of the Tembe Elephant Reserve, the Patron of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, the founder of Ithala Bank, the former Minister of Home Affairs. The list goes on and on.

These many roles will be remembered as he is laid to rest on Saturday, and will be celebrated in the time to come. But it is important that the Party he loved and served for 48 years has the opportunity to honour him, specifically as the Founder of the IFP.

My family and I know all too well how much uMntwana gave to the IFP. We know the countless days and nights that he was away from home, serving the cause of freedom, justice and stability for South Africa. We could never begrudge him this time away from us. It was clear that he was fulfilling his God-given duty. Had we demanded more of his time, we would have robbed South Africa of its truest champion.

However, as much as we sacrificed to lend our father to the nation, he was an unexceptional father. He loved our mother, Princess Irene Thandekile, with an unfailing love, and he made sure that all of us, as his children, felt loved too. He invested heavily in our character, raising us to be men and women of integrity, selflessness and commitment. He never dictated that we should follow his path into politics. He simply demanded that we find our way to serve.

That was perhaps his finest trait. He never sought to control what others would do. He simply laid a foundation of principle, and then placed his trust in people to do the right thing. It was a blessing, and a curse. For as much as it inspired good people to rise to their greatest potential, it also brought tremendous pain when those whom he trusted failed to act with integrity.

It is impossible to speak of my father without acknowledging the distress he suffered when the party of his youth unleashed a campaign of vilification against him. When lies were told about him and his life was threatened, his foremost concern was always for us: for his wife and his children. How would we feel, with these things being said about our father? We knew the truth, but the pain was not diminished by knowing that a grave injustice was being done.

With his words and his actions throughout that time, our father taught us to forgive, to endure, and to trust in God. I know that the IFP shares our pain in seeing long-discredited propaganda revived in the present moment, by a few individuals who have no sense of humanity. But we will not be drawn into their spiral of hatred, when the wide respect and high regard expressed by so many leaders throughout Africa – and beyond our continent – are surely answer enough.

We encourage all those who have been distressed and hurt by these individuals to leave it in the hands of God and history; for both will vindicate Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. His legacy will endure far beyond this present moment. We will not divert our grief into anger, to satisfy a few evil men.

The achievements of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, through his leadership of Inkatha and then of the IFP, are too numerous to mention. I am grateful that they will be told and retold in the years to come, as the IFP celebrates the legacy of its Founder. Beyond any accolade or praise that could be heaped on him right now, the greatest tribute the IFP could pay to uMntwana would be to carry forward his work for our country.

I am confident that that will be done, because my father was confident. When he stepped down from the presidency of the IFP in August 2019, he told us that he was leaving the Party in very capable hands. He believed that those to whom he passed the baton would run the next part of the race with excellence. His greatest hope was that the IFP would run united.

He was deeply grateful for the chance to serve alongside men and women who loved South Africa as much as he did. Over the years, extraordinary demands were placed on his shoulders. And he never shied away from them. Because he knew that even in his loneliest moments, he was not walking alone. There were always those with service at heart who walked the path beside him.

On behalf of the family, I want to thank the exceptional patriots who shared our father’s journey of service. There are far too many to mention, for the list goes back many years. It has been clear from the number of messages we have received that Prince Buthelezi maintained a vast treasury of friendships, both in South Africa and throughout the world. Often these friends are people who worked with him in one capacity or another. Just as often, they are the children of those who worked with him. Because when uMntwana touched lives, he became another member of the family.

While we cannot name everyone whose friendship blessed him, we must, as the family, thank the faithful few whom our father constantly relied on and who quietly worked to support him. We owe our gratitude to Warrant Officer Eddington Sithole and his team of Protectors who travelled with uMntwana and kept him safe. We thank every individual who drove him, or flew him, the countless miles; and brought him back to us. We thank his staff for their faithful service, knowing that they were available to him every hour of the day and night, and knowing that, far from a burden, they considered it an honour to serve.

On behalf of my sisters, Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa and Princess Angela Sibuyiselwe, the eldest and the youngest among the siblings; on behalf of my own wife and family; on behalf of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of uMntwana waKwaPhindangene; and on behalf of the Buthelezi Clan, I say thank you.

The IFP was my father’s pride and joy. As difficult as the path of politics and service can be, particularly for a man of principles, Prince Buthelezi loved the journey. He often quoted Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote: “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Of all that he gave to us, Umntwana undoubtedly gave us hope.

May the IFP carry that legacy.

This message was delivered at the Memorial Service hosted by the Inkatha Freedom Party in honour of  Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP on 13 September 2023 at the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Regional Stadium, and published on on 13 September 2023.

Photo by Jabulani Langa