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.