- Thousands of mourners gather at a stadium for the ceremony.
- Buthelezi’s Zulu nationalist movement became embroiled in violent conflicts.
- Buthelezi stepped down as IFP leader in 2019.
A state funeral was held in eastern South Africa on Saturday to honor Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a prominent South African politician, Zulu prince, and controversial figure during the struggle against apartheid.
Buthelezi passed away at the age of 95 last week, leading thousands of mourners to gather at a stadium in the town of Ulundi for the ceremony.
Many attendees wore traditional Zulu attire made from leopard and other animal skins, along with cowhide shields, as they engaged in dancing, singing, and cheering before the service.
Reports from South African media indicated that as part of the ritual preparations, two giraffes and six impalas were slaughtered and skinned.
Buthelezi, known as the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), served two terms as Minister of Home Affairs in the post-apartheid government after reconciling with his political rival from the African National Congress (ANC).
He established the IFP in 1975, and it became a dominant force in what is now KwaZulu-Natal province.
Similar to the ANC, Buthelezi was critical of white minority rule, which had forced Zulus and other Black South Africans into reduced “homelands.”
However, his Zulu nationalist movement became embroiled in violent conflicts with the ANC during the 1980s and 1990s.
The ANC, predominantly led by members of the rival Xhosa nation, viewed Buthelezi’s intermittent willingness to collaborate with apartheid authorities as a betrayal of all Black South Africans.
The two parties eventually reconciled when Buthelezi chose to participate in South Africa’s 1994 election, marking the end of white minority rule and the rise of Nelson Mandela to power.
By that time, around 20,000 people had lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands had been displaced due to clashes between Buthelezi’s supporters and those of the ANC.
These circumstances led critics to label Buthelezi as a warlord. He stepped down as IFP leader in 2019.