Funeral of Zulu prince Buthelezi held in South Africa

Thousands of mourners congregated in eastern South Africa for the state funeral of Mangosuthu Buthelezi on Saturday.

The seasoned South African statesman, Zulu prince, and contentious figure from the era of apartheid liberation, passed away last week at the age of 95.

Gathered at a stadium in the town of Ulundi, mourners, including some wearing traditional Zulu attire made from leopard and other animal skins and holding shields crafted from cowhides, engaged in dancing, singing, and cheering as they prepared for the service.

According to South African media reports, as part of the ritual preparations, two giraffes and six impalas were reportedly slaughtered and skinned.

Buthelezi, the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) who served two terms as Minister of Home Affairs in the post-apartheid government after reconciling with his rival in the governing African National Congress (ANC), had undergone a procedure for back pain in July. He was readmitted to the hospital when the pain did not subside.

He established the IFP in 1975, and it subsequently became the prevailing political force in what is currently known as the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Similar to the ANC, he criticized white minority rule, which had marginalized Zulus and other Black South Africans to smaller “homelands.”

However, his Zulu nationalist movement became embroiled in violent conflicts with the ANC during the 1980s and 1990s. The ANC, led predominantly by members of the rival Xhosa nation, perceived Buthelezi’s intermittent willingness to cooperate with the apartheid authorities as a betrayal of all Black South Africans.

The two factions reconciled when Buthelezi opted to take part in South Africa’s 1994 election, marking the nation’s first nationwide ballot since the conclusion of white minority rule, which led to Nelson Mandela’s ascent to power.

By that time, approximately 20,000 individuals had lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands had been displaced from their residences due to clashes between Buthelezi’s followers and those aligned with the ANC. As a consequence, critics labeled Buthelezi a warlord. He relinquished his role as the leader of the IFP in 2019.

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