Mangosuthu Buthelezi, traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation, has died at the age of 95.
One of the leading figures of South African politics over the last 50 years, he was leader of the Zulu homeland under apartheid.
He went on to join Nelson Mandela’s cabinet, serving as minister for home affairs for a decade.
President Cyril Ramaphosa led tributes, describing Chief Buthelezi as a “formidable leader”.
He said he had “played a significant role in our country’s history for seven decades”.
The president added: “Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been an outstanding leader in the political and cultural life of our nation, including the ebbs and flows of our liberation struggle, the transition which secured our freedom in 1994 and our democratic dispensation.”
He said Chief Buthelezi died in the early hours of Saturday, two weeks after celebrating his birthday.
Chief Buthelezi was hereditary chief of the Zulus, South Africa’s largest ethnic group.
He was born into the Zulu royal family – his mother was Princess Magogo kaDinzulu, the sister of the Zulu king. Chief Buthelezi played the role of his own great-grandfather, the Zulu King Cetshwayo, in the 1964 film Zulu.
He was prime minister of KwaZulu, the Zulu homeland, and in 1975 founded the Inkatha Freedom Party, a Zulu political and cultural movement. He stepped down as party leader in 2019 after 44 years at its helm.
Chief Buthelezi became a fierce critic of the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1980s, denouncing its support for armed opposition to the apartheid authorities and its backing for international sanctions.
But he found common cause with the ANC in the struggle against apartheid and campaigned for the release of Mr Mandela, later joining his government of national unity in 1994.