High society turned out in full force for IFP leader and veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s lavish 90th birthday celebration gala dinner at the Durban International Convention Centre on Friday night.
Buthelezi’s family spared no expenses for the 800 guests who included billionaire businessman and philanthropist Nicky Oppenheimer and his wife Orcillia Lasch‚ self-made millionaire Richard Maponya and former presidents FW de Klerk and Jacob Zuma.
Other high-profile guests who sat at the main table with the nonagenarian politician included former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda‚ CEO of Cullinan Holdings Michael Tollman‚ former first ladies Graça Machel and Zanele Mbeki‚ former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and Zenani Mandela-Dlamini.
The political elite included Energy Minister Jeff Radebe‚ Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize‚ Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa‚ KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu‚ former Mpumalanga Premier Matthews Phosa‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane‚ UDM leader Bantu Holomisa‚ Freedom Front Plus leader Corne Mulder and Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso of Lesotho.
Instead‚ the Zulu monarch sent a huge royal family delegation which included his children.
The Sunday Times has reliably learnt that the gala dinner cost about R1.5m.
Buthelezi‚ who was all smiles throughout the evening‚ waltzed into the venue alongside Maponya to the sound of a performance by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lyk Temming.
He wore a black and gold suite believed to have cost more than R90‚000 which took five workers from different parts of India to make. Wahab Master came from Behal in India to make Buthelezi’s suit which took five months to complete.
The designer of the suit Janak Parekh said Buthelezi was the first person in the whole of Africa to wear a suit made in gold and that he had specifically requested it.
Last week Buthelezi celebrated 66 years of marriage to his wife Irene who could not attend the gala dinner because of ill health.
The programme directors were storyteller‚ poet and playwright Gcina Mhophe and IFP chief whip Narend Singh. The tables were draped in gold with an Afro-centric decor which included gold plates‚ forks‚ knives and spoons and a horn.
Buthelezi’s son Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi‚ who was the chairperson of the legacy celebrations committee which put together the birthday celebrations‚ told the guests that the family felt as early as Buthelezi’s last birthday that they need to celebrate his life.
“The genesis for doing this was why is it that we celebrate people we love‚ treasure and believe they have made an impact in our lives only after their demise. Why not when they are in the room with us like tonight uShenge is with us in the room‚” he said.
“To your children you can be the biggest gift in the world but you don’t cut it if you are not a good father. If one were to look at our father only through the tinted political glasses then we have missed the measure of the man.”
He said the family also felt that Buthelezi’s legacy needed to be celebrated as a whole and preserved.
“To this end about three years ago we opened the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Museum and Documentation Centre in Ulundi because we believed while we can enjoy this warmth there ought to be something that always perpetuates his legacy because many years after we all gone generations will be interested to know who was this man.
“We believe he has made a strong effort to live according to the way he wanted to live in terms of both the family and the public life. We are very impressed as a family about how he has managed to balance both the political and private life because he has given it his best.”
He left the audience in stitches when he spoke about how when Buthelezi had sjamboked them as children he would say “the sjambok was hungry. It’s not my fault.”
Zuzifa described his father as a very “straight-forward and brutally frank” person.
“If I was a quarter of a man than him I would say I have done very well. We can’t keep up with his energy.”
Zuzifa also revealed that when Buthelezi was in Cape Town he washed the dishes after the people who cooked for him had made him food.
Buthelezi’s granddaughter Latoya Nontokozo Buthelezi‚ known by her stage name Toya Delazy‚ performed her grandfather’s favourite tune Pump It On‚ Love is in the Air and Ondaba (gossipers) because Buthelezi does not like gossipers.
She had nothing but praise for her grandfather from whom she said she learnt to respect everybody from a young age.
“The only religion for the world is respect. So let’s respect each other. I love uMntwana‚” she said.
King Zwelithini’s son Prince Misuzulu described Buthelezi as “everything to us. A father and God.”
“I can’t explain how happy I am that he has reached this milestone. I wish God could keep him for many more years. We need him as a family and Zulu nation. We have been blessed to have him‚” he said.
Phosa also had some good words about Buthelezi.
“It’s a blessing that Chief Buthelezi has lived to 90. It’s some we all aspire for that one day we could live up to 90 and beyond. I want to take the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday and a longer life. As we we sit now if you take his role historically there are many things that people are saying. But we ignore the positive things.”
Buthelezi was also treated to a performances by Natalie Rungan‚ opera singers Bongani Tembe and Linda Bukhosini and other singers.
The guests were treated to Halal food which included a plated starter of mushroom and Feta Money Bag in a light Creamy Nap Sauce‚ amadumbe and leek potato soup with bazil foam‚ finished with vegetable and a parmesan bruschetta served with a crisp garden salad.
The main course for non vegetarians was a duo of rolled lamb accompanied by stewed dried fruits and chicken breast stuffed with sun dried tomatoes‚ peppadew and butternut on a bed of beetroot puree accompanied by a roasted duchess potato rosette and baby vegetables.
The vegetarian option was grilled brinjal‚ mozarella and tomato stack on butternut puree served on creamy gorgonzola cheese sauce finished with fresh garden vegetables.
The platted dessert was duo of dark and light mousse served with Africa Tuille‚ citrus ice cream served in a global sphere accompanied by exotic berry and vanilla bean coulis.
Alcohol also flowed freely with wines such as Bayede The Prince Sauvignon Blanc‚ KWV Chardonnay‚ Bayede The Prince Pinotage‚ Beyerskloof Pinotage and Bayede The Prince Merlot on hand for thirsty throats.
The guests also helped themselves to various beverages at the bar outside the venue.