IFP’s show of force at Buthelezi’s final send-off

It was a show of force as high-spirited IFP supporters gathered at the Ulundi regional stadium yesterday morning for the final send-off of party founder Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

They were joined by scores of amabutho (Zulu regiments) ferried from far-flung rural areas and various hostels in Durban and Gauteng.

About 10 km from Ulundi, strong regiments were stationed at the KwaPhindangene palace, the ancestral home of the last-standing leader of the previous homeland states.

They later walked, escorting the body of the man whose legacy divided the nation to the venue named after him.

As the day progressed, a crowd of about 35 000 swelled the pitch, almost doubling its capacity. Those who couldn’t access the stadium watched the proceedings from outside the stadium.

Buthelezi’s oldest son, Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi, explained that he would forever cherish the time he spent with his father in his last days.

“I spent several months by his side and watched his movements. My father was an extraordinary man, and I will forever cherish his teachings,” he said.

IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said the greatest honour for uMntwana [as Buthelezi was fondly known] was to preserve his legacy.  We will do this by reclaiming KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).”

High-profile guests attending the funeral included former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Jacob Zuma, and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo – who was Buthelezi’s close confidant.

South Africa’s wealthiest families, the Motsepes and the Oppenheimers, were also among the mourners.

The ANC KZN leadership, led by provincial chairman Siboniso Duma, also attended the funeral, as did Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

With Buthelezi gone, it is unclear whether the IFP will survive.

The IFP was considered a cult-like party centred around Buthelezi who founded it 48 years ago.

He also served as the party’s president emeritus and the face of the 2024 elections campaign. The party’s top brass refused to embrace and wear party regalia with the face of its president Hlabisa, instead wanting to ride on the back of Buthelezi’s popularity.

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