Simon Gumede: Politician and traditional leader
SIMON Hulumeni Gumede, a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature, died in a motor vehicle accident on Wednesday. He was 65.
Gumede, Inkosi of KwaMakhasa and KwaNibela on the KwaZulu-Natal far North Coast, was a traditional leader, an astute businessman, a keen conservationist and a career politician. A man who skilfully bridged the divide between traditional leadership and parliamentary politics, Gumede was a far cry from many of his peers in the House of Traditional Leaders.
In a province where many amakhosi use their positions to create personal fiefdoms in the tribal authority under their control, Gumede was a man apart.
He was constantly involved in efforts to make concrete interventions which bettered the lot of those he represented.
Gumede was central in ensuring that conservation efforts in his area directly benefited his people in economic terms.
He was a man of principle, leaving the IFP — of which he was then deputy secretary-general — in 1997 to later return to the party when its leadership abandoned the path to conflict they were on at that time.
His area, although an IFP stronghold, was one part of KwaZulu-Natal where political tolerance was practised, even in the dark days of conflict between the IFP and ANC.
Gumede was renowned as a negotiator and peacemaker in KwaZulu-Natal.
Premier S’bu Ndebele said Gumede had played a “major role in bilateral meetings to establish peace in the province”.
IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi described Gumede as “a man of principle, the doyen of community-based politics, and a humble servant of his people.
“His shrewd political judgment, strong social conscience and staunch traditionalism will be sorely missed. Inkosi was, quite simply, a star.
“First and foremost, he will be remembered as a Zulu and a South African patriot. His negotiating skills par excellence came to the fore during the constitutional negotiations.”
IFP provincial leader Dr Lionel Mtshali described Gumede as a leader dedicated to the preservation of Zulu institutions.
He said: “The sheer power of Inkosi’s argument on the subject was proof enough that our ancient traditional institutions were here to stay.”
Mtshali added that Gumede was a leader who combined traditionalism with “vast experience in community work and administration”, giving him talent in “the most intricate tasks of both government and opposition”. — Paddy Harper