80th Birthday

2008-08-28 00:00

This week the uncle of Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and founding leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosuthu Buthelezi, turned 80. Opinions differ on the contribution he has made to this country as a political leader but no one can deny that he is a grand survivor who has played a key role in South African politics for over 40 years.

To his lasting credit Buthelezi refused to accept a bogus independence for the KwaZulu homeland during the apartheid era, yet he turned it into his personal fiefdom. Since 1994 he has been a member of the national Parliament and served, as leader of the IFP, in both Nelson Mandela’s and Thabo Mbeki’s cabinets in the nineties. Latterly he has been more sidelined, as has the IFP itself. This has not deterred him. Nor has the tragic loss of three of his children. His legacy will be ambiguous, his contribution long remembered and debated.

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