Eulogy by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the funeral service of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Nation and Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party, KwaZulu-Natal
Bantwana nomndeni wobukhosi baKwaButhelezi,
Bantwana bendlunkulu kaZulu,
Izindlu zobukhosi eningizimu Afrika yonkana,
Members of the Judiciary led by the Chief Justice
Baphathiswa kanye nabo bonke abahlonishwa abalapha,
Leaders of our political parties
Leaders of chapter 9 institutions
Abaphathi nabamele amabandla ezenkolo ngokuhlukana kwawo,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Uwile umuthi omkhulu. A mighty tree has fallen.
Isizwe sethu simbethe ifu elimnya.
We mourn the passing of Inkosi yakwaPhindangene. It is not only the Buthelezi family and the Inkatha Freedom Party that are in mourning, but many, many others who respected and loved him.
Silahlekelwe umholi, usopolitiki, nomeluleki ohlonishwayo, uMtwana waKwaPhindangene, uNdunankulu wesizwe samaZulu, kanye nomsunguli, futhi enguMongameli weNkatha Freedom Party.
The sun has set on an era and on a life that witnessed and had an impact on much of our country’s modern history.
We are here to bid farewell to a man who had a vision of a shared, common future. This was his enduring preoccupation even in the latter years of his life.
It was uShenge who said:
“We have our own history, our own language, our own culture. But our destiny is also tied up with the destinies of other people. History has made us all South Africans.”
On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we offer our deepest condolences to the Royal Household, the Buthelezi family and the people of our country.
Our condolences go to the leadership and membership of the Inkatha Freedom Party that Prince Buthelezi founded in 1975 and that he led with pride until 2019.
On this sad day, we remember his words on the day he stepped down.
He said: “A lifetime would never be enough to serve a country, especially a country I love so much.”
Prince Buthelezi loved his country.
He was a passionate advocate for the institution of leadership and especially traditional leadership, for women and for rural communities.
Shenge fought for the preservation of not only Zulu custom and culture but all indigenous cultures in South Africa. He respected all Kingships and traditional leaders.
Many of us have been enjoying the beautifully crafted production of the television series, Shaka iLembe, that chronicles the history of King Shaka and the formation of the Zulu Kingdom.
Aware of the deep well of knowledge that he possessed, the producers of the show sought counsel from uShenge and the late iSilo samabandla King Goodwill Zwelithini.
His contribution to this production is one of the many cultural endowments that he leaves behind for the benefit of future generations.
It is programmes like these that teach our children about the heroic acts of our ancestors. It is the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo that taught the world about our great culture. Through the work of Shenge’s great friend, Professor Khabi Mngoma, we saw European classic music fuse with African music, gaining respect from music lovers from the across the globe.
I tell this story because Umntwana waKwaPhindangene loved music. Through it he told stories that have been passed on through generations.
Umntwana was a voice for the marginalised and the vulnerable.
Who can forget his great courage on International Aids Day on the 1st of December 2004 when he told the world that HIV/Aids had struck inside his own family, taking away two of his children.
With this act he helped break the stigma around HIV/Aids, saying: “My belief in the glory of the human spirit to rise again, again and again, is stronger than ever.”
uShenge akazange abacwase abantu abaphethwe isifo sengculazi, ngoba weseka abakhe abantwana bebhekene nalesifo. Ube yisibonelo esihle sobuholi, sokuba wuBaba wesizwe empini nengculazi.
Shenge, like iLembe, was deeply connected to his mother. Just as we cannot tell the story of iLembe without relating the story of Queen Nandi, we cannot understand what shaped Shenge’s worldview without considering the influence of Princess Magogo.
Because of his great respect for his mother, he abhorred violence against women and children. He used his prominent position to speak out against men who perpetrate heinous crimes against women and children.
One of the lessons we take from the life of uShenge was that as a leader he was willing to collaborate across the political divide.
At a political level we did not always agree. We often found ourselves on opposing sides of one or another issue. He never shied away from a harsh word, a criticism or from voicing his dissent.
Kodwa, lokhu ubehlale ekwenza ngenkulu inhlonipho, nangeqiniso, futhi nangokwazi ubunzima esibhekene nabo ekuguquleni leli zwe ukuba lisuke esikhathini esibi esiphuma kusona.
I have always admired his commitment to finding common ground amongst political leaders and parties, particularly between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress.
Twenty-nine years ago, on the eve of the first all race elections, South Africa stood on the brink of catastrophe.
Despite the excitement building up to the historic event, the country was in turmoil; racked by a spiral of political violence that had began in the mid- 1980’s.
The country was also under threat from a right-wing uprising, and from so-called third force elements sowing discord amongst our people.
Kwakuyisikhathi esinzima. Kwakuyisikhathi esibuhlungu kakhulu.
Many people were displaced from their homes. Many people died. Today is not the day to point fingers and cast blame.
There were genuine and well-founded fears that in such a climate, the transition to democracy would not happen peacefully.
Through negotiations and serious engagement we stepped back from the brink of turmoil. All parties involved in the negotiation process participated in the historic elections that ushered in our democracy.
uShenge would later say that he had agreed that the IFP should also participate in the elections not only to avoid disaster and reduce tension, but to contribute to peace.
There can be no doubt that this was a turning point in the transition process, and a decisive moment. Had Prince Buthelezi not taken this decision in the best interests of peace, South Africa might be a vastly different place today.
He understood too well that we share a common goal of a better South Africa.
As ANC Secretary-General and as later as chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, we both shared many moments during the tumultous transition period.
Over the years we had many more conversations, many engagements, and many late-night talks. We also corresponded and spoke often, right until his final days.
He was not a man who let burning issues slide. And he was unafraid to speak truth to power.
And yet, as I have said, the spirit of cameraderie, respect, empathy and understanding of the immense difficulties we face in rebuilding this country, defined all our interactions.
He had respect for the authority of the state and defended the institutions of our democratic order.
He was always there when we needed to consult with traditional leaders, encouraging people to go and vote in elections and supporting the national effort during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was President Nelson Mandela who said: “It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”
In his long illustrious life Shenge served in several positions. One of the high points in his life was serving as a Minister in President Mandela’s cabinet, and being asked by President Mandela to act as President of the country on several occasions. This demonstrated the trust and confidence the father of our democracy had in him.
At certain points in our history there were deep divisions between these two leaders. But they did reconcile and made peace, for the sake of building South Africa.
Prince Buthelezi took time to express to me his desire to see the IFP and the African National Congress permanently reconciled and working together to build our country. For this he earned my admiration.
People of South Africa,
We carry the heavy weight of memories, and of many heartaches.
But difficult as it may be right now, it is important that we fulfill the wishes he had for a sustainable and durable reconciliation not only between the IFP and the ANC but amongst all of us as the people of South Africa.
On this, Shenge and the father of our democracy Nelson Mandela were of the same mind.
The legacy they have both left us is their enduring dream for reconciliation, peace and progress for our great nation.
uMntwana was a defender of our constitutional order and served proudly as a member of parliament in our democratic dispensation.
He was robust in his critique, but also genuine with his praise.
I believe I can speak on behalf of the members of our Parliament when I say that we will miss his legendary eloquence, the care, diligence and attention to detail with which he performed his duties as an MP.
As an elder statesman, he was dignity personified.
Many will testify that they can still hear his voice permeating through the National Assembly eloquently exhorting all members of Parliament to uphold the principles and values of our constitution and democratic order, and to do so with discipline, decorum and respect for not just each other, but for the people of South Africa.
In his spoken and written words, he always expressed the essence of a deep and enduring commitment to our democratic values.
Without a commitment to change, there can be no reconciliation.
Without reconciliation there can be no unity.
Without unity there can be no peace.
Our road to democracy was not easy, but the future is now ours to make.
It is a common future of equality, shared prosperity, justice and a better life for all that we must build.
As political parties we have to work for unity. We have to put aside our differences, here in KwaZulu-Natal and around the country, for the sake of building our nation.
We have a duty to follow in the footsteps of the many great leaders who came before, that Shenge respected and admired, who put aside political and other rivalries for the sake of the common good.
One speaks here about leaders uShenge respected deeply such as John Langalibalele Dube, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pixley ka iSaka Seme, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and the many luminaries whose ability to forge alliances across the political divide, to reconcilie and to make peace added to their towering stature.
When he stepped down as IFP President in 2019, he said that his greatest sadness is that he “will not be among the men and women who will cross into the promised land of social and economic justice”.
These solemn words should increase our resolve, as government, political leaders and parties and as all of society, to realise the vision of an equal, united society.
Our destinies are connected, as amaZulu, baSotho, amaXhosa, vhaVenda, baTsonga, Bapedi, Batswana, AmaNdebele, EmaSwati the Khoi and San, Afrikaners, English speakers, rural and urban dwellers, men and women, young and old.
A few years ago, Prince Buthelezi and I attended a cultural celebration in Thohoyandou in Limpopo arranged amongst others by Chief Livhuwani Matsila.
We were both enthralled by the rich display of cultural, dance and musical diversity of, and from, the Vhavenda, VaTsonga, Bapedi, Balobedu and Mapulane.
Like me he was deeply touched and impressed with the depth of diversity and wealth in our collective national cultural heritage.
We decided that we would want to have a display and celebration of all our cultures in the form of a national event, and that they should be held in our provinces by rotation. I hope we will still be able to do this.
What Shenge’s life has taught us is that our differences must never stand in the way of our South African nationality, and our nationalism.
Like many of us, uShenge endured many trials throughout his life. Yet he remained focused and steadfast.
The Buthelezi family have suffered an irreperable personal loss. But as they go through this valley of darkness and sorrow, it is my wish that as a family, they should hold onto the proud and enduring memories of their father and grandfather.
We share in their sorrow, and I know that they would wish us to share with them the many rich remembrances that an impactful leader like uBaba uShenge evokes.
May the Almighty grant the family strength as they go through this difficult time.
I would like them to remember the saying that “those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard but always near. Still loved, still missed, and held so dear”.
So should it be with your father, your grandfather and your beloved Shenge.
Let his forefathers and God whom he loved give him the crown of life.
He did not take easy steps. He showed wisdom and courage.
We too have not taken the easy road.
Forging unity, building bridges of tolerance and understanding, and reconciling our differences for the sake of our beloved country is what we are called upon to do as leaders and people of South Africa.
Let us look to the future with faith, with hope, with tolerance, and with a focus on what unites us.
Indeed, “history has made us all South Africans.”
Hamba kahle, Shenge.
Hamba kahle mfoka Mathole, isizukulwana sikaMnyamana.
Duduzekani bantwana baKwaPhindangene nesizwe sonke sakwaButhelezi. Akusiyena uZulu kuphela olahlekelwe. Izwe lonke liyakhala.
Hamba kahle, Nkosi yakwa Buthelezi.