Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the once-feared Zulu nationalist and historic leader of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) which presided over South Africa's deadliest violence ahead of the first all-race elections, died aged 95, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.
"I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi ... Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, and the Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party." Ramaphosa said in a statement on Saturday.
Born of royal blood on August 27, 1928, Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi was to some the embodiment of the Zulu spirit: proud and feisty. To others, he bordered on a warlord.
He led the party from its inception, a reign marked by bloody territorial battles with ANC supporters in black townships during the 1980s and 1990s that left thousands dead.
As premier of the "independent" homeland of KwaZulu, a political creation of the apartheid government, Buthelezi was often regarded as an ally of the racist regime.
Violence between Inkatha supporters and rival liberation groups escalated in the mid-1980s. By 1990 more than 5,000 people had been killed in clashes.
In 1991, Mandela and Buthelezi held talks and called for an end to the bloodshed.
In September 1998, while then-president Mandela was out of the country and Buthelezi was acting president, he authorized an ill-fated military invasion of Lesotho.
Buthelezi aged with his gutsy demeanour right until his last days, fiercely protecting the Zulu monarchy.
Debilitated and barely able to walk, the once-feared leader stood hunched back and small, a shadow of his former self, peering at the crowd over his glasses perched on his nose, as he attended the Zulu annual reed dance in September 2022.