Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the once-feared Zulu nationalist and historic leader of Inkatha Freedom Party which presided over South Africa’s deadliest violence ahead of the first all-race elections, died Saturday aged 95, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced.
“I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, and the Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been an outstanding leader in the political and cultural life of our nation, including the ebbs and flows of our liberation struggle, the transition which secured our freedom in 1994 and our democratic dispensation,” Ramaphosa said.
“He quietly and painlessly stepped into eternity in the early hours of the morning” Buthelezi’s family said in a statement.
Buthelezi, last week was discharged from hospital after a prolonged stay. Funeral arrangements have not yet been confirmed.
For years he was defined by his bitter rivalry with South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, a party that was his political home until he broke away to form IFP in 1975.
He led the party from its inception, until the age of 90, a reign marked by bloody territorial battles with ANC supporters in black townships during the 1980s and 1990s that left thousands dead.