Prince Gideon Zulu ‘had major personal following’

Tributes and messages of condolence streamed in on Wednesday afternoon after former KwaZulu-Natal social welfare minister Prince Gideon Zulu (71) died on Tuesday evening following a long illness.

Earlier, the deputy speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Lydia Johnson, led a multiparty delegation to KwaDlamahlahla Royal Palace in Nongoma to pay respects to the Zulu royal family.

”On behalf of the entire legislature I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the royal family, and the IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] for their loss,” the legislature’s chief executive, Nerusha Naidoo, said.

Meanwhile, United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa hailed Zulu as a ”fierce warrior … who showed humility and warmth”.

”Gideon Zulu will be remembered as a person who respected his culture, a person who would not be shy to wear his traditional garb and lead his subjects in traditional dances.”

The United Independent Front (UIF) also expressed its condolences to the Zulu royal house.

”The UIF is saddened by Zulu’s death and we convey our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” said the president of the UIF, Malizole Diko.

Provincial IFP leader Lionel Mtshali said Zulu knew the meaning of selfless service, loyalty and pride in his cultural heritage.

”The prince had a major personal following. To many in the Zulu nation, he symbolised its grand history of which he kept a meticulous record as an accomplished historian,” said Mtshali.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele and the provincial Cabinet expressed shock at the news of Zulu’s death. ”Although we knew that he had been unwell, we understood that he was recuperating and would soon join all of us at the legislature to work for the development of all of our people.”

A statement issued by the KwaZulu-Natal government called Zulu ”one of the most-experienced and long-serving members of the provincial legislature. He was a man of culture and politics; of great political courage, cultural dignity and traditional responsibility.”

Zulu was instrumental in forging and entrenching peace and stability in the province of KwaZulu-Natal following years of political violence, the statement said.

”He was also a man of principle who stood by what he believed in. We are convinced that, because of his proven passion for our culture, history and heritage, he would have played a significant role in the government’s campaign to restore the dignity of our people.”

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi told the Mail & Guardian Online that he is deeply saddened by Zulu’s death.

”I am bereaved for his family and I’m saddened by his passing away. I am saddened for my party — that we have lost someone who has been dedicated to us for some time,” he said.

Before the 1994 democratic elections Zulu — who was born on January 1 1934 — served as the deputy minister of agriculture and later of welfare in the KwaZulu government.

He was also an uncle to Buthelezi.

”His loyalty to Buthelezi remained unwavering even when other members of the Zulu royal family began to distance themselves from the IFP leader in the mid-1990s,” The Mercury reported on Wednesday.

”When on a public platform, Zulu always ensured that he invoked warrior pride among his Zulu audience, and this would often see regiments, clad in traditional Zulu garb, jumping up from their seats armed with shields and assegais [spears] in mock battle formations,” the newspaper said.

Last year, the KwaZulu-Natal parliamentary legal services found that Zulu contravened rules of the legislature by failing to attend sittings without obtaining the approval of the speaker. His failing health was given as a reason for his absences.

Zulu’s son Prince Mazwi Zulu died in an alleged ambush and attack in 2003 while he was travelling with his mother and a driver between Ulundi and Melmoth in January. His mother and the driver, though wounded in the incident, survived the attack.

Funeral arrangements were not yet finalised on Wednesday afternoon.

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