Prime Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, King Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, King Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma

Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a name that most South Africans are very familiar with. As founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Buthelezi’s name is often in the newspapers, but what some South African’s may not be aware of is that in addition to acting as a political leader in mainstream politics, Buthelezi is also considered to be Prime Minister to King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Buthelezi was born on 27 August 1928 into the Zulu royal family, with his mother being the daughter of King Dinuzulu, and granddaughter of King Cetshwayo. As the eldest son, Buthelezi was first in line to the chieftainship, a role he took up in 1953 when he returned home to become chief of the Buthelezi clan. Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s grandfather, Mnyamana Buthelezi, was Prime Minister to King Cetshwayo, and it is through this lineage that Buthelezi claims the title of Prime Minister, but it is a title that has been challenged on many an occasion, with several authors pointing out that there exists a long line of Zulu kings served by prime ministers with no link to the Buthelezi clan. Over the years there have also been altercations between King Goodwill Zwelithini and Buthelezi: in terms of traditional Zulu hierarchy Zwelithini stands above Buthelezi, and there is also the fact that the majority of the Zulus are loyal to the king; but in terms of the KZN Constitution, the Zulu king comes under the control of the traditional prime minister – the resulting confusion laying the ground for some heated debates on Zulu hierarchy!

It’s an interesting topic and one that deserves more delving into. If the subject of traditional African leadership interests you then you can read more about in Sandra Düsing’s Traditional Leadership and Democratisation in Southern Africa: A Comparative Study of Botswana, Namibia, and Southern Africa, available through Amazon.

Image courtesy of

Leave a Comment