South African former politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi has died at the age of 95 after a long illness. He was leader of the Zulus and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party, South Africa’s third-largest political party after the ANC and the National Party. Buthelezi headed this party for decades.
He was controversial because the ANC accused him in the 1970s and 1980s of collaborating with the apartheid regime. Buthelezi was head of the so-called homeland of Zululand, the present-day province of KwaZulu-Natal.
These ten ‘homelands’ were created by the apartheid regime to keep white and black apart as much as possible in physical terms, with black populations being forced to settle in remote and poor regions.
The leaders of the homelands were seen by the ANC as puppets of the regime. Buthelezi also clashed with the ANC in other areas: he was opposed to the international sanctions policy against South Africa and was a strong supporter of the free market.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party became embroiled in a bloody conflict that left hundreds of people dead, mainly in Zululand and the then Transvaal (now Gauteng province).
The low point came in 1994 when 20,000 supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party demonstrated at the ANC headquarters in protest against the impending general election – the first in which the black population was also allowed to participate. ANC security forces shot dead nineteen demonstrators, the massacre went down in history as the Shell House Massacre.
Despite everything, Buthelezi decided to participate in the elections (a week before they were held), whereupon the hatchet was buried with the ANC. He became Minister of the Interior under President Mandela and would also fulfill that position under Mandela’s successor Mbeki.
He then remained a Member of Parliament until his death. His death was announced by President Ramaphosa, who called him “an outstanding leader”.