DEATH OF A ZULU PRINCE
King Misuzulu offers sympathy to Buthelezi family as Zululand community mourns at Shenge’s homestead
The news of the death of Umntwana waKwaPhindangene (The Prince of Phindangene Palace) Mangosuthu Buthelezi, affectionately known as Shenge to his ardent supporters, devastated the community of Zululand, especially that of his home village of Nkonjeni.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi – the Prime Minister of the Zulu nation, and founder and emeritus president of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – died in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The elderly politician had been brought back from the hospital, where he had been recuperating from a post-operation complication. His death during the early hours of Saturday morning comes almost two weeks after his 95th birthday.
By mid-morning on Saturday, streams of men and women – young and old – made their way into the Buthelezi homestead to show their grief and pay their respects.
Later, they were joined by family members, top politicians, dignitaries and IFP leaders from all ranks.
Sello Mhlongo, an 84-year-old Nkonjeni resident, said: “Shenge is my uncle. I’m the son of Shenge’s [half-] sister. He was very fond of me and referred to me as Mshana [nephew]. Whenever I needed anything, I would go to him. Even when my mother – his sister – passed on, he gave a cow to slaughter to bury his sister.
“Now I will have no one to cry to. Now, as the Zulu nation, we are defenceless. Even his enemies will come and tear us apart; all the wolves will come and get us now,” Mhlongo said.
A nurse at the Nkonjeni Hospital – about a five-minute drive from the Buthelezi homestead – said they were heartbroken to hear the news.
“Hhawu Shame, it is so sad what has happened to the Old Man, but at least he is no longer in pain because he was very sick,” said a 41-year-old nurse who declined to give her name as staff are not allowed to speak to the media.
Nhlanhla Mbatha (50) from Holinyoka, a deep rural village near the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Nongoma, was selling traditional Zulu spears, knives and other tools on route to the Enyokeni Royal Residence in the hope of catching Zulu Reed Dance traffic.
He said Buthelezi’s death is devastating to all people of KwaZulu-Natal. “On all matters, from political, social, economic, traditional affairs, we had put our trust in him and knew that, if something is bad, he will say Hhayi Khona, and that thing will not pass, but if the issue is handled genuinely, he will give his stamp of approval. He had that special gift and intellect; he was one of the best brains around the world,” Mbatha said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Presidency, politicians and MPs offer condolences after death of political and cultural leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Velenkosini Hlabisa, IFP president and leader of the opposition in the KZN legislature, told journalists gathered at the Buthelezi homestead garden that his party and the entire nation had lost a statesman par excellence.
“As everyone knows, the Prince of KwaPhindangene played a crucial role for the king to be on the throne. We know that the loss that we are mourning here today, even His Majesty, the King Misuzulu, is mourning because he knows that the Prince was the pillar of his kingship,” said Hlabisa.
He said it had been Buthelezi’s wish that by the time he goes to the grave, there would be genuine reconciliation and finding each other between the ANC and his IFP.
“Unfortunately, this wish was not fulfilled. Now it is up to us as the leadership to pick up this baton and ensure that reconciliation is achieved. We will be initiating it with the ANC … but reconciliation between the two parties does not mean that they should be under one party. They can reconcile, and still operate and work as two distinct parties,” Hlabisa said.
Even young people remember fondly some of Shenge’s personal touches.
Mbuso Ndlovu, the 32-year-old local IFP youth brigade leader, said in 2013 he found himself penniless, unable to pay for tuition for his BCom studies at the University of Zululand.
“I decided to write to uShenge to recount my plight. I was surprised to get a reply letter from him, saying he is sorry to hear about my plight and that I must persevere in my quest for education. He said he was facing his own challenges, but he could give me a cheque of R5,000. I used it to pay for registration. I promised him I will come back to help my region once I’m a qualified accountant. Now I’m back at Ulundi Local Municipality as an auditor,” said Ndlovu.
KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, who also arrived at the Buthelezi homestead to express her condolences, said Buthelezi was an icon of the province, the country and the world.
She said Buthelezi was a humble and visionary traditional leader who accepted defeat through the ballot. She said Buthelezi had been supportive and always respectful towards her.
She said the provincial government is working with the Buthelezi family and other stakeholders to ensure that his funeral befits the standard expected in such high-profile deaths.
Buthelezi’s death on the morning of the Zulu Reed Dance – attended by thousands of Zulu maidens carrying reeds to the king to symbolise purity – resulted in the two-day event being reduced to one day.
Zulu King Misuzulu used his speech at the Zulu Reed Dance ceremony to express his condolences to the Buthelezi family. He said Buthelezi had played a huge role during his ascension to the throne and those of his two predecessors.
“He was a pillar of strength to the Zulu nation, to all of us. He always stood for the truth. He and myself were working together till the very end,” said the Zulu king.
The king did not mention the recent squabbles he had with Buthelezi regarding the composition of the Ingonyama Trust Board, which Buthelezi was not happy with but which King Misuzulu endorsed and supported.
This led to Buthelezi refusing to sign affidavits in support of King Misuzulu in court papers. The king is under siege as the process to his crowning as the Zulu king is challenged by his siblings and other members of the Zulu Royal Household. DM