Prince Buthelezi remembered as a man of faith

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Although it was his political career which gave him prominence, the late Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi was also a man of faith, who was active in the Anglican church.

In an earlier interview with SABC News he spoke about religion, the scripture, his passion for literature, music, and friendships.

Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi undoubtedly played a profound role in shaping the history of South Africa for more than half a century.

Buthelezi singing his mother’s composition.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi l Remembering his faith and passions: 

Devout Christian

A descendant of Zulu Royalty, he always demonstrated pride in his heritage, language, and culture. As a devout Christian and member of the Anglican church, Buthelezi was awarded the prestigious Order of Saint Michael in 2010 for his distinguished service to the church’s Diocese of Zululand. He was also presented with the Order of Simon of Cyrene, the highest order granted by the bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. In an earlier interview with SABC News, Buthelezi speaks to his relationship with the church.

“I was elected many times to attend the Anglican synod as a leader delegate from my parish St Marys Nkonjeni and also, in the synod I was sometimes elected as the representative as at the provincial synod which is the synod of the whole Anglican church in Southern African and I use to attend those meetings in Cape Town. I think this is a very important side of my life that might not have been highlighted as much as my political activities.”

He credited his mother, Princess Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu, who instilled in him, a love for reading and music. Princess Magogo, a composer of Zulu classical music, a singer and poet, was regarded an authority on traditional Zulu music, tradition, and folklore. Her music remains as compelling now as it was during her lifetime. Buthelezi recalls his mother’s love for song.

“The greatest book that I read everyday is the bible that because I don’t believe that there is any book greater than the bible, my mother amongst other things she use to sing and recite by heart some of the songs by David I remember Psalm 19 for instance which was her favourite Psalm. She did that, so that has really made me regard the bible as the first book I can talk about of course I love to read biography’s too, if you could see my collection of books you would be surprised, I have biography’s of Ghandi of Gadaffi I have auto-biography’s of many distinguished people both here and abroad.”

His love for poetry was often reflected in many of his political speeches. A quote by R.A Stevenson is among his favourites.

Friendship with Mandela, Tambo

The late statesman often spoke about his friendship with some of the icons of South Africa’s liberation struggle, like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

“In the time when he was incarcerated I am one of the few people that he communicated with as you can read in his books, and sometimes in order to avoid attention to me he would address them to my wife Irene, and that letter you can find in the conversations with himself so those are the people who inspired me, even Mr Tambo, I remember that my first experience eating yoghurt was with Mr Tambo in 1963, I didn’t know what yoghurt was.”

But it was his beloved wife, Princess Irene Buthelezi, who passed away in 2019, who he credits as his inspiration.

Buthelezi recalled a memory from her youth, when she first met former President Mandela, who came to visit her father in the 1940’s.

“Mr Mandela did a great job when he talks about my wife Irene she never forgets to recall when she was in her teens, she use to be sent to serve tea to him and she would tell me and she left she would always laugh like this, and Mandela would say: “I must have been very funny because she always did this and laughed.”

Buthelezi chuckles. He goes on to describe her as his pillar of strength, saying she unselfishly supported him throughout his political career. But he proudly says while she always shied away from spotlight, she could hold her own amongst Heads of State and foreign dignitaries.

“She is my great person and of course she played a very important part when I was chairman of the South African Black Alliance which met here and other parts of the country, at the time there was no hotel here and she use to cook for so many people that came to attend those meetings she literally cooked for scores and scores of people and did this with a very great heart she never complained about it.”