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Along the highway they call Mangosuthu, supporters mourn the loss of a father figure

Along the highway they call Mangosuthu, supporters mourn the loss of a father figure
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi enjoyed strong support in hostels across Durban and in Umlazi, where residents honoured the founding leader of the IFP with blockades, marches, songs, speeches and the occasional gunshot.

Tensions were running high in Durban on Sunday afternoon, 10 September, when a group of IFP supporters and hostel dwellers blockaded the Mangosuthu Highway , with some motorists reporting they were told by marchers that the highway would be closed to traffic until the IFP’s founding leader had been buried. There were sporadic clashes between the marchers and motorists, joined by the occasional discharge of firearms.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (95) died in the early hours of Saturday, 9 September. A “category 1” special official funeral, the state’s highest honour, will be held on Saturday, and thousands are expected to attend the event at Buthelezi’s homestead near the Ulundi town.

In 2007, eThekwini Municipality had to halt its plans to change the name of the Mangosuthu Highway to Griffiths Mxenge Highway – named after the anti-apartheid lawyer who was killed by a police hit squad – when hostel dwellers and IFP supporters blockaded it, protesting furiously that the name could not change.

As the Sunday blockade by IFP and hostel dwellers was under way, further along the highway in Umlazi, South Africa’s second-largest township after Soweto, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) students supporting the IFP-aligned South African Democratic Students Movement were calling for the university to close until after Buthelezi was buried.

Buthelezi is credited for establishing the university named after him. He first proposed the idea of establishing a tertiary educational institution specialising in technical subjects for black students in 1974 at a meeting with the executives of Anglo American and De Beers Consolidated Mines, including mining mogul Harry Oppenheimer.

With the help of the mining companies and other local and international donors, preliminary but permanent buildings were designed and built, and teaching began in 1979. The then technikon moved into its main buildings after their completion in September 1981. In November 2007, Mangosuthu Technikon was renamed Mangosuthu University of Technology.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Buthelezi’s death is about South Africa’s past — and its future

MUT announced on Tuesday, 12 September, that it was suspending classes and said its Senate had suspended academic activities from 14-16 September to allow students and staff to attend the memorial service and funeral of the institution’s founder. Its academic programmes will resume on Tuesday.

MUT acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Marcus Ramogale said the institution would be forever indebted to Shenge, as Buthelezi was affectionately known by some. Ramogale said he went beyond the call of duty to ensure that children were educated and skilled enough to develop themselves and their communities and face their future challenges.

“There is no doubt that South Africa, and the world, has lost a giant of a leader. Having said that, we must thank God for giving us such a wise leader. We must thank the Buthelezi family for borrowing us their father, their uncle, their grandfather. 

“Prince Buthelezi will also be remembered for his jokes. He was a great entertainer. Ask MPs in Parliament! He loved music. As we all know, he inherited that from his mother, Princess Constance Magogo.”

‘A father, a leader, our protector’

Many motorists from Umlazi were trying to avoid Mangosuthu Highway after Sunday’s clashes. Thokozani Shangase (57) was parking his car at KwaMnyandu Shopping Centre on Monday.

He said: “It felt like I was a daredevil when I was passing there, Mangosuthu Highway and MUT, after what happened yesterday.”

The mall is located between the former Unit 17 Hostel and the rest of the township. The atmosphere at Durban’s hostels, where many residents supported Buthelezi, was tense but quiet following news of the IFP leader’s death.

Outside the mall on the hostel side, Daily Maverick encountered several men who said they were hostel residents, but many were not willing to talk.

Themba Mzimela (57), a hostel resident who hails from Mtubatuba, said they were mourning the loss of the IFP leader.

“To us here at the hostel, he was a father, a leader, our protector. Now we are left naked without his watching eye,” Mzimela said. 

At Glebelands Hostel, residents said they had been hearing gunfire since Saturday, especially at night, but no serious incidents had occurred.

On Monday evening, when Daily Maverick visited the Dalton Hostel, in Congela, just a few kilometres from Durban’s city centre, dozens of men emerged from the hostel entrance singing pro-Buthelezi songs, with a few rounds of ammunition being fired. Some passing cars stopped while others sped off.

For some, it brought to mind an incident on 3 November 2021 during the local government elections when a group of protesters from Dalton Hostel torched a vehicle parked at a voting station in Ward 32, claiming they were unable to cast votes despite having registered to do so.

Mthembiseni Thusi, an IFP leader at the hostel and a leader of Ubunye BamaHostela, who was part of Monday’s procession and had addressed the gathering, said warriors from the hostel were marching to celebrate Shenge’s life.

“The guns were fired by an unruly few, but they were quickly ordered to stop because we are celebrating the life of an icon. After the march, izinduna and ourselves spoke of the impact of Shenge in our lives as people living in hostel,” Thusi said. 

He said that during apartheid, Buthelezi ensured that people living in hostels were provided with skills such as bricklaying, plumbing, tiling, roofing and welding.

“This was to ensure that people don’t sit idle and do nothing. Now the hostels are regarded as the breeding grounds for hitmen, for cash-in-transit robbers and others who are mugging people, taking cellphones and money. This is because people are sitting in hostels, without jobs, without food or anything to support themselves and their families … they are ready to do just about anything to survive,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi: SA bids farewell to a divisive leader whose resilience and contention helped forge a nation

Critics say despite his good deeds, Buthelezi failed to take full responsibility for the wanton killing and other violence perpetrated by his supporters in townships and other areas, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, under the pretext of fighting to preserve the Zulu kingdom.

To many, including the families of the victims, Buthelezi’s death conjures nothing but images of the Thokoza, Boipatong and KwaMashu massacres, for which nobody, including Buthelezi, had taken responsibility.

Thusi said it was wrong to blame only Buthelezi, IFP supporters and the hostel dwellers for the so-called black-on-black violence in the 70s, 80s and 90s, which claimed thousands of lives.

“We acknowledge that bad things happened during that time. But our view is that it was during the war and in the war people commit atrocities. The ANC committed atrocities and so did the IFP. I, for one, lost my father and I got scars on my body through that war. Now when they talk about reconciliation talks, these must be genuine and acknowledge that war crimes were committed by all sides; otherwise, if those talks are premised [on] blaming one side and exonerating the other, those initiatives could lead to new conflict,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mourners pay their respects to Mangosuthu Buthelezi while ANC and IFP commit to reconciliation efforts

These sentiments were echoed by Induna (headman) Mbangomuni Ndaba, who hails from the Kranskop village of eMakhabeleni and who addressed Dalton residents on Monday about plans to travel to the funeral in Ulundi. He said izinduna from all hostels and villages are in talks, preparing for thousands of Zulu warriors who are expected to attend the funeral of their leader.

Durban’s female-only hostel, the Thokoza Hostel, which was built in 1925 to house black working women, was the first of its kind in South Africa and here, too, Buthelezi has a very strong support base.

Nelie Shange (46), from KwaDukuza, said Buthelezi’s death was felt by many in the hostel.

“He was a father figure to us. Now we are like orphans, like chicks whose mother has suddenly passed on, leaving them with nothing and nobody to look after them,” she said.

Colonel Boysie Zungu, Durban Metro Police spokesman, said no disruptions related to Buthelezi’s death had been reported to the police.

“We have not had any report of road closure or incidents of violence. Some of these things [the protest video clips] are seen on social networks but are not reported to the police,” Zungu said. DM


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