Hailed as a political peacekeeper, Dr Meshack Radebe, who celebrated his 70th birthday at the weekend, received praise from the opposition party for his role in ending the political violence between the ANC and IFP in the late 80s and early 90s.Radebe, a prominent ANC politician, played one of the leading roles as a peace negotiator during the internecine violence between the ANC and IFP during the last few years of the apartheid era.As a guest speaker at Radebe’s 70th birthday party held in Maqongqo on Saturday, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Radebe was taught by his late father that reconciliation was key to overcoming political differences.“In Hammarsdale, black-on-black violence was rife and while several attempts had been made to restore peace, they had failed. The leadership of the ANC-in-exile then commissioned Mr Meshack Radebe as its representative, and Inkatha commissioned Mr Sipho Mlaba. The peace they negotiated was recognised with the awarding of a doctorate to Mr Radebe by the University of Natal. “I cannot pay tribute to Dr Radebe without mentioning this important aspect of history. Our two parties knew at that point that the crisis of violence needed to be overcome, and the only hope was the normalising of political relations,” Buthelezi said.Guests who attended Radebe’s lavish birthday celebration included former president Jacob Zuma, Buthelezi, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Police Minister Bheki Cele, amakhosi, mayors from all over the province and members of the national and provincial parliaments.Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Radebe, who is the former deputy speaker of the KZN legislature, said Saturday’s gathering was a thanksgiving event.“I have been involved in politics for 41 years and I think it’s now the right time to take a rest and spend time with my grandchildren enjoying the life that God has blessed me with.“I need to rest and open space for young blood because this is not traditional leadership where you need to die before someone else assumes your position. It’s nice to step aside and spectate from the sidelines and only make suggestions or contributions when it’s really needed,” said Radebe.He said he will be focusing on running his foundation, the Dr Meshack Radebe Foundation, which helps impoverished people. The foundation has already built 42 houses in the province and also offers bursaries to put youngsters through university.Radebe said he was honoured by all those who took time out of their schedules to attend his event. “It was history in the making having all these people under one roof and not talking about politics but celebrating my life while I am still alive. I am very honoured and impressed that my contributions have made such an impact,” said Radebe.