Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Leader I know and respect
As the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Mangosuthu University of Technology, I am saddened to inform you of the passing away of His Royal Highness, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The Founder of our University passed away early morning, on 9 September 2023. Prince Buthelezi was hospitalised for a while; a few days ago, he was released from hospital in Durban. This gave all of us at MUT some relief. We were all looking forward to be with him, and continue listening to his wise words. All the time we met HRH, we marvelled at how he related the history of his country, South Africa, and that of the Zulu nation. He was a fantastic storyteller; we will always remember him for that. We will also remember His Royal Highness for the foresight he had for the future of the country. Those of us that are old enough, will recall his efforts at showing how the future of South Africa should be, so that its people would enjoy their country in several ways; so that its people would be free from the apartheid bondage. He will be remembered for the KwaZulu/Natal Indaba project, with which he was showing how South Africa should be, so that it would be accepted by all nations of the world. If you look at the structures the govern the country, they show exactly what HRH was showing us. Such an effort called for bravery; for determination; for true leadership; for friendship; for unselfishness; for the real necessity to invest properly for the future.
Prince Buthelezi was an honest leader who clearly understood that honesty was the foundation of all kinds of relationships. It is the same honesty that allowed HRH to stand firm in his convictions and beliefs that one day South Africa would be free, and there would a place for all its citizens in the sun.
Prince Buthelezi’s leadership shone through during, and after the fall of apartheid, when he was one of the political leaders that all of us, irrespective of our political persuasions, would look upon to show the way. You will recall that President Nelson Mandela, our first democratically elected President, requested Prince Buthelezi to hold the reigns when he, President Mandela, was overseas. President Mandela looked up to Prince Buthelezi to help him with big issues that required proper leadership. On more than one occasion, President Mandela called Prince Buthelezi ‘My leader’, just as Prince Buthelezi, on many occasions, called Oliver Tambo his leader. This was not only reflection of Shenge’s connection to the African National Congress, but also a sign of respect that all these leaders had for each other.
The examination of Prince Buthelezi’s life is watching a real movie of a man, a leader that loved his country, and worked for it for so many years. Over these many years, Prince Buthelezi left his young children with their mother, MaMzila, Princess Irene, and ventured far to take care of affairs affecting either Zulu nation, or the larger country, South Africa. Many of us will recall Prince Buthelezi’s message at the funeral of Princess Irene, his beloved wife of so many years. HRH repeated the words Princess Irene would say as she bade him goodbye: Uhambe kahle. Uzinakekele. Go well. Look after yourself. These were powerful words from a woman who knew very early in their relationship that she was married to a man who was also married to his nation by birth and by necessity. God gave Princess Irene strength to look after their children who were all princes and princesses. God gave Prince Buthelezi strength, and wisdom to look after his nation.
Prince Buthelezi will also be membered for his love for nature. For Prince Buthelezi, animals were a sign from God Himself that the world would not be complete if the animals were not roaming the face of the earth like us, humans.
I would need days, or weeks to relate to you how the world not only respected Prince Buthelezi, but also benefited from wisdom. I would strong recommend that if you want to know about Prince Buthelezi’s relationship with the world and its leaders – both politicians and community and religious leaders, seriously consider visiting the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Documentation Centre in Ulundi. There you will find tons of material on this leader’s life.
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. We must thank the late Queen for borrowing us her husband.
Lastly, I am must highlight the love that Prince Buthelezi showed to MUT. It was only health reasons that made Prince Buthelezi respectfully decline an invitation from MUT. There were not many of these; Prince Buthelezi was a strong and healthy individual who clearly looked after himself. On many occasions, Prince Buthelezi would clear his table and diary to meet MUT staff and leadership. I remember in 2019, when MUT celebrated 40 years of its existence. Prince Buthelezi, at 91 years of age, spent hours interacting with MUT staff and other guests, and posing for pictures on MUT main campus and the North Campus. Very late in the evening, after listening to a lecture that was dedicated to him, Prince Buthelezi also accepted an invitation from Umlazi’s Ntokozo Radio station for an interview. He did that in the name of MUT, which he called ‘MUT’ because for him, it was always an institution for the people which he decided should be built at Umlazi Township, which he called his ‘second home’. Prince Buthelezi’s love for MUT was a greater love!
Prince Buthelezi’s passing is indeed a great loss.
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, Mathinti, Sibilile, Ngangezinye, Thombisile, who, like her son, lived a for a long time. She passed away in 1984, having been born in 1900.
Hamba Kahle Shenge
Prince Buthelezi’s regiment was iNgangakazane (This is very important for a Zulu man. It was very common for Zulu warriors to ask each other – which regiment did you belong to? This is part of their identity.)