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WITH IFP leader Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi celebrating his 90th birthday next month, those close to him say his leadership is still needed in the country’s political arena.
Buthelezi’s political awakening can be traced back to the 1930s when he was active in student politics.
He later joined the ANC Youth League alongside former president Nelson Mandela. Anton Lembede was the president of the youth league at the time.
Mandela became the league’s first secretary-general.
With the blessings of the ANC’s longest serving president, Oliver Tambo, Buthelezi left the ANC and formed the IFP in 1975.
Buthelezi has been IFP president since its formation.
Celebrations have begun weeks before his actual birthday on August 27.
Congratulatory messages have been flowing in for the leader of the Buthelezi clan.
Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the National Assembly, described him as a leader who spoke sense when other MPs veered out of line.
“He is one of the MPs who rescues our Parliament when chaos erupts. He is full of respect and he respects everybody regardless of who they are. That is the kind of leadership we need in this country.”
Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement, said Buthelezi has played a father figure role in local politics and in Parliament.
“We say happy birthday to the old man; may he see many more years to come,” he said.
Holomisa lauded Buthelezi for his unwavering support for democracy and nurturing young members of Parliament including him.
The veteran politician recently lambasted former president Kgalema Motlanthe over the proposed repeal of the Ingonyama Trust.
Festivities are lined up for Buthelezi, culminating in the main celebration at Ulundi Regional Sports Complex on August 27.
His son, Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi, said the festivities for Buthelezi were the family’s way of saying thank you to him.