Buthelezi recalls fond memories of late nights with Winnie and Madiba

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has shared fond memories of his relationship with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the Mandela family – a story not widely known by the public, he says.

On Tuesday, Buthelezi responded to Madikizela-Mandela's death. She died in Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday, following a long illness. She was 81.

"I feel privileged to have known the late great Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and to have been close to the family," the veteran IFP leader wrote on his party's website on Tuesday.

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"This closeness is evidenced in her own book, 491 Days, in which she writes about the ANC's instruction to me to fight the apartheid system from within. As she said, '...that is what people do not know'.

"Our friendship itself is not well-known. Yet I remember the great hospitality she and Madiba extended to me when I used to visit their home in Vilakazi Street, Orlando.

"Mrs Madikizela-Mandela would prepare mouthwatering meals, and the three of us would talk politics, sports, family and music until late into the night."

Former president Nelson Mandela and IFP leader Man
Former president Nelson Mandela and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi share a laugh in 1996 at Genadendal, the President's official residence in Cape Town. (Oryx Media Archive/Gallo)

'Terrible loss'

When Madiba had later been incarcerated, Buthelezi and Madiba would correspond. Messages would also be sent between Buthelezi, Madikizela-Mandela and one of her daughters.

"There were several painful moments too. I recall, for instance, when some leaders of the UDF disowned her. I was the only one who stood by her at the time."

Buthelezi said her death was a "terrible loss", not just for her family, but for the entire country.

She was honoured by the nation not just for her marriage to Madiba, but as a freedom fighter in her own right, who had suffered to the point of being jailed and banished.

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"With these memories fresh in my mind, I am saddened by her sudden passing. She and her family made an exceptional contribution to freedom in South Africa.

"May this great South African rest in eternal peace. She will be missed."

Tributes have been pouring in for the late struggle and liberation leader and President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national period of mourning until April 14.

Madikizela-Mandela's funeral will be held in Orlando, Soweto on April 14.

She will be buried at a cemetery in Fourways.

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