Africa-Press – South-Africa. Newcastle – In a sombre state-sponsored send-off, KwaZulu-Natal’s first democratic premier and former South African ambassador to Egypt, Dr Frank Mdlalose, was praised on Thursday for being a political moderate in a sea of warlords and dictators.
This happened on Thursday at Madadeni township in Newcastle, where Mdlalose was buried in a ceremony according to Anglican church rites.
Delivering his eulogy, current KZN premier, Sihle Zikalala lamented that Mdlalose had died at a time when the province was in mourning following King Goodwill Zwelithini’s demise.
Zikalala said he was in awe of the humility and simplicity shown by Mdlalose throughout his life, saying that while he was once a premier, ambassador and rubbed shoulders with the who’s who of the political world, he was humble and stayed with his people in the township.
Zikalala praised Mdlalose for laying the foundation for political tolerance in a province where about 20 000 people were killed merely because of differing political opinions. He said Mdlalose’s political maturity was first seen when his cabinet operated without hindrance despite having MECs from the ANC, which at the time (1994-1997) was the provincial opposition.
“We want to commend him for the role he played in building peace in KwaZulu-Natal… This township (Madadeni) did not experience the violence like other townships. It is because of the leadership of people like Dr Mdlalose … Others (politicians) at that time, when they were leaders they became warlords and wanted to impose their views on others.
“But he allowed Newcastle and Madadeni to remain peaceful and for people to be democratic and enjoy their own political activism, irrespective of the parties they wanted to belong to. This is one area in the district which had all political parties. If you come to Newcastle, you will see a political party that you think had collapsed a decade ago, because it is an area that was so democratic, allowing all views to prosper.”
This was in apparent reference to the fact that during the political violence of KZN from the late ’80s to the ’90s, some IFP and ANC leaders turned their townships into their strongholds, assassinating those with dissenting voices and affiliated to opposing political parties – thus being known as warlords.
Zikalala said that like all black South Africans of the time, Mdlalose felt the brunt of racism. Zikalala recalled a story of how the late former premier was once detained because apartheid police felt that the “nice car” he was driving was stolen. When he told them he was a doctor and could afford it, they did not believe him. A white doctor had to be called to attest that Mdlalose was indeed a doctor.
Paying tribute through a speech read by IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who founded the party with Mdlalose (with blessings from ANC leaders of the ’70s) said he was grateful to have worked with the former premier.
“It is an honour to have served our country alongside a leader of his calibre, and to have maintained a friendship with him long after our political work together ended. We remained close, exchanging correspondence regularly, and in fact saw one another just six months ago,” Buthelezi said.
Mdlalose, 89, died on Saturday, leaving his wife, three children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.