Respected figure of the powerful Zulu tribe, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, historic leader of the Inkatha party behind the most notable violence before the first multiracial elections in 1994, died on Saturday at the age of 95.
“It is with deep sadness that I announce the death of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, traditional prime minister of the Zulu king and nation, founder and chairman emeritus of the Inkatha Party,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement. communicated.
“He died in the early hours of the day, just two weeks after celebrating his 95th birthday,” said the head of state, saluting a “formidable leader who played an important role in the history of our country for seven decades.
Born in August 1928 into the Zulu royal family, Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi has long been the embodiment of the proud and warlike spirit of the country’s largest ethnic group.
Initially a member of the historic ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), he created the nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975, initially envisioned as a Zulu cultural organization. The rivalry between the two parties will be bloody.
The Inkatha party that he led for more than forty years led deadly territorial wars with ANC activists in predominantly black townships in the 1980s and 1990s. The violence left more than 5,000 dead.
Buthelezi was accused of playing into the hands of white power by inciting violence against the ANC just before the historic 1994 elections, which could have derailed the liberation movement against apartheid.
Having served as prime minister of the Kwazulu bantustan — these pseudo “independent” territorial entities assigned to blacks under apartheid, the Zulu leader has always fiercely denied having collaborated with or been an ally of the white racist regime.
Thin, slender, rectangular glasses on his nose, Buthelezi often covered himself with leopard skins, a Zulu tradition, to lead parades of Inkhata activists, carrying shields and spears, in his strongholds of Johannesburg or Durban.
The Inkatha party has lost a lot of influence over time, between disputes over its leadership and calls for its withdrawal to make way for new blood.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi is also in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest speech in March 1993 before a legislative assembly, spread over eleven days with an average of two and a half hours of speaking per day.
At the start of the 2020s, the nonagenarian was the spokesperson for the customary Zulu king, Misuzulu Zulu also called Misuzulu kaZwelithini, crowned last year.