Africa-Press – South-Africa. Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s first democratic era premier (1994-1997) and former SA ambassador to Egypt, Dr Frank Mdlalose, will be buried today in Madadeni township, Newcastle in northern KZN.
Mdlalose, 89, succumbed to Covid-19 related complications on Saturday and in his honour, President Cyril Ramaphosa granted him a provincial funeral – category 2 which entails the lowering of national flags on the day of his burial.
The eulogy of the revered Mdlalose who was seen by some in the ANC as a “moderate”, will be delivered by current KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala.
Mdlalose’s passing brought to public attention his role in stabilising KwaZulu-Natal after it was ravaged by political violence from the late 80s to the mid-90s.
While he started his political career as a young activist of the ANC in the 60s, Mdlalose went on to be a founding member of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) when it was formed in 1975.
He did that with the blessing of ANC leaders of that time who instructed Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi to leave the banned ANC and form a political party that would mobilise under the guise of cultural unity.
When the IFP had to send negotiators in the run-up to the 1994 elections, Mdlalose, a medical doctor, was one of them. Later, after 1994, the IFP won the province of KwaZulu-Natal and made him premier.
Because the interim constitution at the time demanded that all political parties with significant seats in the national assembly and provincial legislatures be included in the Cabinet, Mdlalose had to accommodate two ANC MECs and one of them was former president Jacob Zuma, who was given the economic development department.
On the sidelines with Zuma, Mdlalose quelled the sporadic political violence in the province, and at the same time, he was credited for giving an ear to everyone, irrespective of their political affiliation.
Early this week, after visiting Mdlalose’s family, Zikalala, who then was a young ANC activist based in violence-torn Ndwedwe outside Durban, remembered those traits of Mdlalose this way: “We would like to thank the president for granting and confirming our (provincial government) request to honour him (Mdlalose) with a state funeral. We are truly grateful to the president for that. We cannot do enough to honour Mr Mdlalose.”
Zikalala added that the former premier was a person who had the best interests of the province at heart.
“We thought it important to respect him with a send-off that is dignified for the role he played, firstly, in the development of the province, but in particular in working towards achieving peace in KwaZulu-Natal. Around 1992-93, he worked with former president Jacob Zuma under the banner of the Peace and Reconstruction Foundation, working to ensure stability in the whole of the province.
“We commend him for that work, but also we commend him for the manner in which he led the first Cabinet which saw all parties working together, coming together (to) ensure that they built government from scratch and that they reached out to service the communities,” Zikalala said.
While he had a bitter fallout with the IFP, which once accused him of letting the province slip into the hands of the ANC, his former party also remembered him in a fond way.
In a statement, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder and President Emeritus of the IFP, said Mdlalose was an outstanding servant of South Africa. As one of the first members of the IFP, he quickly showed his leadership qualities and his ability to ’ignite a vision in our people’.
“During the constitutional negotiations, he became one of the IFP’s main negotiators, and was our country’s champion for federalism and the creation of provinces. When South Africa achieved democracy in 1994, and the electorate placed KwaZulu-Natal under the governance of the IFP, we appointed Dr Mdlalose as the first Premier of the Province. We were proud when the national Government appointed Dr Mdlalose as South Africa’s Ambassador to Egypt. Again, he served with distinction,” Buthelezi said.