Sunday Times

How Buthelezi groomed Buthelezi


● Thulasizwe Buthelezi, who has been chosen to fill the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s shoes as Zulu traditiona­l prime minister, was moulded by his predecesso­r from a young age.

The mayor of the Zululand district municipali­ty, the biggest under the control of the IFP, was announced by King Misuzulu kaZwelithi­ni as Buthelezi’s successor — raising the ire of some members of the rival ANC who had hoped the king would look beyond the IFP for a prime minister.

While there had been much speculatio­n about Thulasizwe Buthelezi’s pending appointmen­t, he told the Sunday Times he was “totally caught off guard when the king informed me”.

King Misuzulu did not hide Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s direct influence on who his successor would be. “The man I am appointing today, he comes from the hands of Prince Buthelezi. He knows how hard Prince Buthelezi worked for the nation. Therefore, I will not take someone who was not close to Prince Buthelezi. We want someone who understand­s Buthelezi’s vision for the nation,” he said.

Thulasizwe Buthelezi is a former leader of the IFP Youth Brigade, who was promoted to the KwaZuluNat­al legislatur­e. This week he began the “daunting” role of following in the footsteps of his mentor.

“The primary role is to be a senior adviser to the king, the secondary is to be the principal spokespers­on of the Zulu kingdom. My best will be not to mislead the king and to execute my leadership responsibi­lities by always putting the Zulu kingdom first without any other considerat­ions,” he said.

His journey strongly mimics that of Mangosuthu Buthelezi: he was involved in student politics, he too is descended from warriors who fought in the Battle of Isandlwana, and he has been a long-serving member of the IFP.

The 52-year-old, born in Nongoma, said his connection with Buthelezi dates back decades.

“My father was an Anglican reverend and a Zululand Council of Churches leader. He worked closely with the chief minister at the time, who was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, but my father was not involved in politics,” he said.

However, it was the work his father did that led him to politics. “During the period of violence my home was a sanctuary for people fleeing political violence. Their homes were burned by the UDF and their families were killed in townships — that experience at home opened up my eyes to politics from a young age,” he said.

But it was in the early 2000s when his commitment to the IFP caught the attention of the IFP leader. He began to galvanise young people to vote for the party while a student at the University of Cape Town.

“It was a very hostile environmen­t. The IFP had not existed before on campus. To get people to openly identify with the IFP was unheard of. I think that is why when we launched, Prince Mangosuthu decided to come to UCT.

“We had been trying for three years but eventually we did manage to grow. We even launched at Stellenbos­ch,” he recalled.

When Thulasizwe graduated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a BBA degree, Buthelezi appointed him to the KwaZulu-Natal legislatur­e, replacing IFP stalwart Prince Gideon Zulu after his death.

“Prince Gideon was trusted by Umntwana [Buthelezi]. He said he can’t just replace him with anyone. When I arrived at the legislatur­e I was mentored by reverend CJ Mthethwa. He taught me how to work with Umntwana and about the party. For two years I was under direct supervisio­n — that too was the decision of Umntwana.”

After five years at the legislatur­e, Thulasizwe went into property developmen­t and farming. He returned to politics at the behest of Buthelezi, taking up his current post as district mayor of Zululand.

But their relationsh­ip went beyond politics.

“In 2001 my father passed away and from then on Prince Buthelezi paid for the rest of my university education — I wouldn’t have a degree without his generosity. From 2001 I was directly under his supervisio­n — 23 years is a long enough time for me to say I am his product and his protégé. At very critical moments of my life he was there, to either open an opportunit­y or to play a father figure,” he said.

Now Thulasizwe plays a dual role as an IFP politician and traditiona­l prime minister, as his predecesso­r did. He does not believe there are any contradict­ions in being both.

“There will be times where there is a perception of a clash, but I am a senior leader of the IFP. I am well aware that for the Zulu kingdom to be sustained and to be enhanced that will need decisive political action. So these two roles, [rather] than cause conflict, are going to complement each other,” he said.

 ?? Picture: Supplied ?? Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithi­ni and his new traditiona­l prime minister, Thulasizwe Buthelezi.
Picture: Supplied Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithi­ni and his new traditiona­l prime minister, Thulasizwe Buthelezi.

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