South Africa holds state funeral for divisive Zulu leader Buthelezi | Political news

by MMC
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Thousands expected to pay their respects to the once-feared founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who died a week ago.

Mourners wearing traditional warrior headbands gathered for the state funeral of the Zulu prince Mangosuthu Buthelezia powerful but controversial leader involved in a wave of deadly violence that marked the birth of modern South Africa.

Thousands are expected to pay tribute to the once-feared founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), who died a week ago aged 95.

On Saturday, mourners wearing black headbands or sporting Zulu warrior headbands flocked to a small stadium in Ulundi, the former capital of the Zulu kingdom and heart of the IFP, for the funeral.

“He treated all of us Zulus as one person. That’s why I’m here,” said Bonga Makhoba, 31, who traveled 150 km (93 miles) and slept in his car to attend the ceremony. “I just respect him and I want him to…rest in peace.” »

White marquees were set up to welcome important guests onto the field, in the center of which was a black canopy for the coffin.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who ordered flags to be flown at half-mast across the country, will deliver a eulogy at the funeral.

“Buthelezi was an exceptional leader in the political and cultural life of our nation, including in the ebbs and flows of our liberation struggle,” Ramaphosa said, announcing the death of the Zulu nationalist last Saturday.

Buthelezi was once an enemy of Ramaphosa and his late boss Nelson Mandela, as the two men led negotiations to end white rule in South Africa. For years, it was defined by its bitter rivalry with the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The party, in power since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, was its political party until it broke away to form the Inkatha movement in 1975.

Born of royal blood, he was for some the embodiment of the Zulu spirit: proud and fiery. For others, he bordered on a strong man.

Buthelezi was a defender of his people and a prominent figure in the struggle against apartheid (File: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP)

A contested heritage

As prime minister of the “independent” homeland of KwaZulu – a political creation of the apartheid government – ​​Buthelezi was often seen as an ally of the racist regime.

He was dogged by allegations of collaborating with the white government to fuel violence and derail the ANC’s liberation struggle – a claim he fiercely denied.

Violence between Inkatha supporters and rival liberation groups killed around 12,000 people as unrest between the ANC and IFP intensified in the run-up to the 1994 democratic elections.

After an 11-hour turnaround, he was subsequently appointed interior minister in the Mandela-led government of national unity.

Slender, with distinctive rectangular glasses and a charismatic speaker, Buthelezi became one of the longest-serving politicians.

Considered a statesman by his supporters and protector of the culture of more than 11 million Zulus, his legacy remains contested.

Mourners sing outside the funeral home where Buthelezi’s body was kept in Ulundi (Marco Longari/AFP)

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