Prince Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi (born 27 August 1928) is a South African politician and Zulu prince who is currently a Member of Parliament and the traditional prime minister to the Zulu royal family. He was Chief Minister of the KwaZulu bantustan during apartheid and founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975. He also served as Minister of Home Affairs from 1994 to 2004.
Buthelezi was one of the most prominent black politicians of the apartheid era and his legacy in that period remains controversial. He was the sole political leader of the KwaZulu government, entering when it was still the native reserve of Zululand in 1970 and remaining in office until it was abolished in 1994. Critics described his administration as a de facto one-party state, intolerant of political opposition and dominated by Inkatha (now the IFP), Buthelezi's political movement. In parallel to his mainstream political career, Buthelezi held the Inkosi of the Buthelezi clan and was traditional prime minister to three successive Zulu kings, beginning with King Cyprian Bhekuzulu in 1954. He was himself born into the Zulu royal family; his maternal great-grandfather was King Cetshwayo kaMpande, whom he played in the 1964 film Zulu. While leader of KwaZulu, Buthelezi both strengthened and appropriated the public profile of the monarchy, reviving it as a symbol of Zulu nationalism. Bolstered by royal support, state resources, and Buthelezi's personal popularity, Inkatha became one of the largest political organisations in the country.
During the same period, Buthelezi publicly opposed apartheid and often took a patently obstructive stance toward the apartheid government. He lobbied consistently for the release of Nelson Mandela and staunchly refused to accept the nominal independence which the government offered to KwaZulu, correctly judging that it was a superficial independence. However, Buthelezi was derided in some quarters for participating in the bantustan system, a central pillar of apartheid, and for his moderate stance on such issues as free markets, armed struggle, and international sanctions. He became a bête noire of young activists in the Black Consciousness movement and was repudiated by many in the African National Congress (ANC). A former ANC Youth League member, Buthelezi had aligned himself and Inkatha with the ANC in the 1970s, but in the 1980s their relationship became increasingly acrimonious. It emerged in the 1990s that Buthelezi had accepted money and military assistance from the apartheid regime for Inkatha, arguably stoking the political violence in KwaZulu and Natal in the 1980s and 1990s.
He also played a complicated role during the negotiations to end apartheid, for which he helped set the framework as early as 1974 with the Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith. During the Congress for a Democratic South Africa, the IFP under Buthelezi lobbied for a federal system in South Africa with strong guarantees for regional autonomy and the status of Zulu traditional leaders. This proposal did not take hold and Buthelezi became aggrieved by what he perceived as the growing marginalisation both of the IFP and of himself personally, as negotiations were increasingly dominated by the ANC and the white National Party government. He established the Concerned South Africans Group with other conservatives, withdrew from the negotiations, and launched a boycott of the 1994 general election, South Africa's first under universal suffrage. However, despite fears that Buthelezi would upend the peaceful transition entirely, Buthelezi and the IFP not only participated in the election but also joined the Government of National Unity formed afterwards by newly elected President Mandela. Buthelezi served as Minister of Home Affairs under Mandela and under his successor, Thabo Mbeki, despite near-continuous tensions between the IFP and the governing ANC.
In subsequent years, the IFP struggled to expand its popular base beyond the new province of KwaZulu-Natal, which had absorbed KwaZulu in 1994. As the party's electoral fortunes declined, Buthelezi survived attempts by rivals within the party to unseat him. He remained the IFP's president until the party's 35th National General Conference in August 2019, when he declined to seek re-election and was succeeded by Velenkosini Hlabisa. In the 2019 general election, he was elected to a sixth consecutive term as a Member of Parliament for the IFP.
Prince Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi was born on 27 August 1928, at Ceza Swedish Missionary Hospital in Mahlabathini in southeastern Natal.His mother was Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu (born 1900, died 1984), the daughter of former Zulu King Dinuzulu and sister of the incumbent King Solomon kaDinuzulu. In 1923, she became the tenth but principal wife (and ultimately one of 40 wives)of Buthelezi's father, Mathole Buthelezi.Mathole Buthelezi was a traditional leader as chief of the Buthelezi clan and his marriage to the princess was arranged by King Solomon to heal a rift between the clan and the royal family.Buthelezi is sometimes referred to by his clan name, Shenge, used as an honorific.
In 1953, Buthelezi returned to Mahlabathini to become chief (inkosi) of the Buthelezi clan, a hereditary position and lifetime appointment. In his account, he had planned to become a lawyer but had been advised to accept the chieftaincy by ANC leaders Albert Luthuli and Walter Sisulu. Buthelezi later recounted how Luthuli had persuaded him not to "betray my people and seek my own selfish ends away from them". He also said that his mother had encouraged him to take up the role. During apartheid, the government was responsible for recognising the status of chiefs, and Buthelezi's chieftaincy was not recognised until 1957, according to him because the government was wary of his activism. In other accounts, the delay was caused by a succession battle in the Buthelezi family, in which the government ultimately favoured Buthelezi over his elder half-brother Mceleli. Mceleli was later banished from the region.
As chief, Buthelezi was involved in organising a ceremony to unveil the Shaka Memorial in Stanger in September 1954, sometimes called the first Shaka Day celebration; he later said that the ceremony was the first time he or King Cyprian Bhekuzulu had ever worn "traditional" Zulu dress, which they did frequently thereafter. He also acted in the 1964 film Zulu, about the Battle of Rorke's Drift, playing the role of his real-life great-grandfather, King Cetshwayo kaMpande. He said that the role had already been cast but "when they came to my place, mainly to get extras for the battle scenes, then they noticed a family resemblance to my great-grandfather. They said how would it be if you played the part? I agreed."
In 1954, King Cyprian appointed Buthelezi his traditional prime minister –Buthelezi lists the full title as Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Nation (uNdunankulu kaZulu) and Monarch.He was reappointed by Cyprian's successor, King Goodwill Zwelithini, in 1968.According to Buthelezi, his paternal family was traditionally responsible for providing the royal family with its prime ministers,although the term itself was apparently a new innovation and referred to what previously might have been called the king's premier chief, his most senior advisor among the traditional leaders beneath him.He pointed in particular to his paternal great-grandfather, Mnyamana, who was a senior advisor to his maternal great-grandfather, King Cetshwayo, during the Anglo-Zulu War,and also claimed that his father was appointed traditional prime minister to his uncle, King Solomon, in 1925.
Buthelezi's hereditary claims in this respect are not uncontroversial. In particular, some Zulus dispute Buthelezi's claim that his paternal great-great-grandfather, Nqengelele Buthelezi, was "the most senior advisor" to King Shaka, founder of the Zulu kingdom;they argue that the role was filled by Ngomane of the Mthethwas, and also point out that several kings in the intervening period did not have Buthelezis as advisers.Buthelezi's supporters sometimes claim instead that Nqengelele was a senior advisor "alongside Ngomane".Others point out that, especially since the colonial period, when traditional leadership structures were politicised to help administer indirect rule, traditional leadership positions "have rarely been a simple product of genealogy".
A more specific challenge to Buthelezi's authority came after King Cyprian's death in 1968. Prince Mcwayizeni Israel Zulu insisted that he was the monarch's rightful senior advisor, as the most senior Zulu prince, and ahead of Zwelithini's coronation he entered into a decades-long feud with Buthelezi.Buthelezi was rumoured to have been estranged from the royal family from 1968 to 1970,as his status as traditional prime minister came into question.
He married Irene Audrey Thandekile Mzila (born 1929, died 25 March 2019), whom he met at a wedding in January 1949 when she was a nursing student from Johannesburg.They married on 2 July 1952 and had three sons, five daughters, and several grandchildren. At the time of Irene's death in March 2019, three of their children survived: Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa (born 1953), Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa (born 1955) and Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela (born 1969). Deceased were Mabhuku Sinikwakonke (born 1957, died 1966), Mandisi Sibukakonke (born 1958, died 2004), Lethuxolo Bengitheni (born 1959, died 2008), Nelisuzulu Benedict (born 1961, died 2004), and Phumaphesheya Gregory (born 1963, died 2012).
Buthelezi is a practicing member of the Anglican Church.He said that he was occasionally put under pressure to take on additional wives, in line with customary Zulu polygamy, but had followed Christian edicts in remaining monogamous.His traditional residence is at kwaPhindangene in Ulundi in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and he is a fan of classical and choral music.He contracted COVID-19 twice, in August 2020 and December 2021,and was hospitalised with hypertension in January 2022.
Buthelezi was made a Knight Commander of the Star of Africa for Outstanding Leadership by Liberian President William Tolbert in 1975 and appointed to the French National Order of Merit in 1981; King Goodwill Zwelithini awarded him the King's Cross Award in 1989 and the King Shaka Gold Medal in 2001.He has been awarded four honorary doctorates in law, from the University of Zululand in 1976, the University of Cape Town in 1978, Florida's Tampa University in 1985, and the University of Boston in 1986. He was named Man of the Year by the Institute of Management Consultants in 1972 and by the Financial Mail in 1985, and Newsmaker of the Year by the South African Society of Journalists in 1973 and Pretoria Press Club in 1985.He was patron of the Mangosuthu University of Technology and is also a former Chancellor of the University of Zululand, a ceremonial position to which he was appointed in 1979; he was the first black person to hold the title.
His other awards include a Citation for Leadership from the District of Columbia Council (1976), the AFL-CIO's George Meany Human Rights Award (1982), the Key to the City of Birmingham, Alabama (1989), the American Conservative Union's Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award (2001), the order of St. Markhus of the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa (2009), the order of St. Michael and All Angels of the Diocese of Zululand in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (2010), the order of Simon of Cyrene from the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (2010), and the Everlasting Gospel Leadership Award from the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (2011
Date of Birth: 27th August, 1928
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Mahlabathini
Country: South Africa