His Royal Highness Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi,

Please accept my best wishes and many happy returns on the occasion of your 90th birthday.

Today you join the rarefied and prestigious ranks of the ‘nonagenarians’, who have the privilege of entering their tenth decade. As you know, Psalm 90:10 declares that: ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten’. To have exceeded this mark by twenty years, serves as a testament to your profound fortitude, resilience and grit.

Birthdays, particularly those of such magnitude as this, offer us brief pause to reflect on the vast scope of our lives. As you engage in such reflection, I hope that this day gives you cause to reflect on the role you have played in shaping the contours of South African history, and in particular the remarkable attainment of our democracy, and role you have played as a noteworthy public face of the Zulu nation.

Furthermore, I am extraordinarily encouraged by your recent statements about the necessary reconciliation between the IFP and ANC, which will undoubtedly go a long way in healing the historical rifts between the two parties – as you seek peace within these twilight years.

Congratulations on your significant achievement, which occurs against the backdrop of having endured and overcoming tumultuous political times. The attainment of such longevity is ever-more noteworthy when viewed in this light, as lives took on a fragile and fleeting character in such an oppressive age.

As you enter this new decade and imminent retirement, I hope you are bestowed the gift of respite from the many years of service and the relaxation that you so keenly deserve. On this seminal occasion of your life, as the nation collectively celebrates your 90th birthday, I wish that God grants you the privilege of many more years with us.


Former President Kgalema Motlanthe