The Inkatha Freedom Party mourns the loss of their "mother - a selfless woman of integrity".The family of IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi announced on Monday that his wife of almost 67 years, Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi, "passed away peacefully" following a long and difficult illness.She is survived by their children, Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa and Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela, and many grandchildren."Princess Irene has been a pillar of strength to the IFP's president for almost seventy years. Their marriage has been an inspiration to several generations. We admired the respect, love and honour that were the hallmark of their relationship," reads a statement from the IFP national executive committee.Gratitude"The IFP owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Princess Irene for supporting Prince Buthelezi as he served South Africa. She remained strong through the most trying times of political upheaval, violence and distress. She bore the pain of every arrow fired at her husband for political gain, and she remained kind, gentle and forgiving."The party also described her as a "freedom fighter in her own right". "For many years she was an active member of the Women's Brigade of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe and actively took part in its political activities. History recalls that she took part in the ANC's 1950s defiance campaign. The IFP therefore salutes this heroine of our struggle as she exits our stage to join the many heroes and heroines of South Africa's struggle for liberation."The party said she was instrumental in leading the IFP's women-driven economic programme of self-help and self-reliance, which encouraged women to participate meaningfully in sustainable agriculture and other economic empowerment initiatives."Throughout her well-lived life, Princess Irene remained a symbol of good family values which underpinned an Ubuntu/Botho-based society and moral regeneration."During the dark days of HIV/Aids denialism, Princess Irene stood strong in support of her husband to destigmatise this pandemic when Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi broke the silence and told the world that two of their children, Prince Nelisuzulu and Princess Mandisi, had died of Aids.""For many years, Princess Irene travelled with Prince Buthelezi, meeting international heads of state and building lasting friendships for South Africa. She will be remembered fondly by many at home and throughout the world.""We honour her for her courage, her resilience and her endless patience," the statement reads."We, the IFP, mourn our mother – a selfless woman of integrity."CondolencesFrom across the political spectrum, politicians expressed their condolences.President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his "deep sadness" and said his thoughts and prayers are with Buthelezi, their children, grandchildren and the family."On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, I offer Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi my deep sympathy at the loss of a partner, soul mate, confidante and advisor of many decades' standing. The loss of one so close and special at this late stage in life is a great sadness," Ramaphosa said in a statement."It is my wish that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his family will reflect with fondness and pride on the many years during which Princess Irene Buthelezi served as a tower of strength to her family and community."ANC acting spokesperson Dakota Legoete said in a statement the party wished Buthelezi and his family peace and comfort."On behalf of the ANC's entire membership, we send our deepest condolences to the Buthelezi family, KwaPhidangene clan, and friends.""The EFF sends heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and relatives," the party said in a statement. "We wish and pray for comfort and strength in this difficult time. We also extend condolences to the IFP in general. As a people, and as human beings, we can never be used to death. It is always painful and disheartening, more so when it hits our loved ones," read the statement by EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. "We wish President Buthelezi comfort as he is also facing one of the most meaningful elections in his political career. We know how special and close his wife of 67 years was to him. May the soul of Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi rest in perfect and eternal peace."Difficult circumstancesCope chief whip Deidre Carter said in a statement her party expressed its heartfelt condolences to Buthelezi and his family."We trust that at this moment of profound sorrow, some solace will be found in the memories and legacy of a life well lived, much of it in quiet and unassuming service to her husband and family over many decades and during difficult periods in the battle for liberation and the birthing of our democracy."May she rest in peace," Carter said.FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald expressed his condolences."The FF Plus also wishes to express its heartfelt compassion with the next of kin of Mrs Buthelezi. The party wishes Prince Buthelezi, who is 90 years old himself, all the best for the preparations for the upcoming elections that now have to be attended to under such difficult personal circumstances," he said in a statement.Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo tweeted: "It is with great sadness that we learn of the news of the passing of Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi. We extend sincere condolences to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his family. May her soul rest in eternal peace."It is with great sadness that we learn of the news of the passing of Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi. We extend sincere condolences to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his family. May her soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/tWl5dNelJl— Ayanda Dlodlo (@MinAyandaDlodlo) March 25, 2019 DA leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted that he spoke to the Buthelezi family."My prayers are with the family at this difficult time. May Mme'Buthelezi rest in peace. She was a true servant of the people."I've just spoken to the family of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, sending my heartfelt condolences following the news of Mrs Buthelezi's passing.My prayers are with the family at this difficult time.May Mme'Buthelezi rest in peace, she was a true servant of the people.— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) March 25, 2019 Several other politicians also tweeted their condolences. My deepest condolences to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his family for the loss of his wife, Irene. May her soul Rest In Peace.— Patricia de Lille (@PatriciaDeLille) March 25, 2019 CoGTA Minister, Dr #ZweliMkhize has expressed deep sadness and conveyed his condolences, on the passing of Princess Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi, wife of Prince #Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, following a long illness pic.twitter.com/w7A9SUY94z— NationalCoGTA (@NationalCoGTA) March 25, 2019 Condolences to the leader of @IFPinParliament Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his family on the loss of Princess Irene. You are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.— John Steenhuisen MP (@jsteenhuisen) March 25, 2019 The family said that the necessary arrangements are being made for the funeral and asked that their privacy be respected. The date of the funeral will be announced later."We thank our many friends and supporters for their love, prayers and condolences in this painful time," reads the statement."Our greatest solace is in knowing that Princess Irene Buthelezi has been received by her Lord. By His grace, she rests in peace."